Vulnerability generates a greater capacity to respond to different kinds of threats — whether it's the floods in the Netherlands, Napoleon's grip and Hitler's threat a century later in the case of Switzerland, or the possibility of nuclear warheads 30 minutes away from Iran as in the case of Israel.
They tend to be more experimental and willing to try new things at the individual, business, and government levels, as they are forced to adapt to new circumstances.
They also seem to foster closer social ties. Trust is tested more often in places where relationships are tighter.
Finally, they are well-connected with the world. With changes happening in a more globalized context, those sensitive to the international community often have a considerably greater advantage.
Responding to Covid-19. So far, in terms of key indicators such as deaths per capita and unemployment rates, smaller countries have, on average, fared better in the crisis. Breiding points out that the pandemic has shown the countries’ willingness to experiment, as seen in the variety of policy responses — like Singapore’s quick and aggressive testing and tracing efforts. Though it’s too early to deliver a verdict, the creativity exhibited by these countries in a crisis is very instructive.
Reshaping the new world. With challenges becoming more global, Breiding looks to increasing the influence these small countries have on policies, for instance by co-founding the initiative “S8 Nations”.
“Many of our biggest problems are common. Shared solutions are therefore an obligation,” says Breiding. “This is not a Wuhan, New York or Geneva virus, but a global virus. The same goes for global warming, immigration, data, and even the way we are informed.”
He remains optimistic about the role that small nations can play:
“None of these nations is perfect, but each of them offers us lessons in one way or another. The purpose of this book is to encourage people to look beyond their borders and discover these benefits for themselves.”