A decade marked for accelerated action and delivery towards sustainable development has been disrupted by a global health threat that has severely impacted the Arab region. The focus now is on urgent action to save lives and repair livelihoods. This crisis is a stark reminder of why an efficient and effective public sector is the first line of defence in addressing systemic risks. This perilous pandemic is spreading through the Arab region at a time when economies are already battered by conflict and mounting fiscal pressures. To mitigate the mounting threat of COVID-19, people across the region must work together to limit transmissions and fatalities by thinking of and protecting others, especially the most vulnerable. The virus knows no borders, and has severely affected the lives and livelihoods of people from all social and economic backgrounds. This regional emergency response is not about bailing out countries, industries or financial institutions – it is about saving thousands of lives. Human welfare and social solidarity must be at the core of any recovery initiative to eradicate this contagion, and allow Governments to resume their efforts towards a secure, just and prosperous world for all.