The next catastrophe that can befall our world will be another pandemic and not a nuclear explosion. The Coronavirus pandemic has paralyzed Nations, killed hundreds of thousands of people, and destroyed the world’s businesses and the economy.
Since the SARS epidemic (2002), we have been attacked by Swine Flu H1N1 (2009), MERS (2012), Ebola (2014), and now Covid19 (2019). The WHO has played a stellar role in the control of epidemics across the world. A deadly new virus strain is attacking the world every few years. It is clear that any one of the new viruses may turn out to be truly deadly for the human race.
Pandemics can achieve such a high level of boundary-less scale, that they wield immense power of destruction. Added to this, when the Nation-States respond to the pandemic in an individualized manner, the collective thrust of the global response gets weakened significantly.
Eradicating pandemics can be achieved only through global solidarity on healthcare between the Nation States.
There is no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic, however temporarily, has today brought the world closer together, than at any other time in the recent past. The main reason is that in this crisis, all Nation States and all humans have a common enemy – the virus. In this crisis, there is greater cooperation to share information, medical data, testing kits, PPE, and participate in the race to discover a drug and a vaccine. Human beings have come closer together with the realization that a tiny virus can spell the destruction of our world, and that all of the world’s intelligence and resources combined are helpless against it. We live in a world where the interdependence of Nation States is paramount.
Among scientists and intelligentsia today, there is a consensus that global solidarity and cooperation, as against nationalism, is the way to rid the world of this pandemic. Any action against this principle is being denounced by people of all Nations as despicable.
Unfortunately, the path to global solidarity is blocked by extreme forms of Nationalism.
‘Extreme Nationalism’ prevents Nation-States from cooperating, hinders sharing information, and collectively crafting ways to eradicate pandemics. In short, it is the primary detriment to global solidarity.
The allegiances of National political leaders are National in character, and so are their electoral promises. They are leaders of their own Nations, which are competing for the same resource pie as other Nations. Naturally, they have an inward focus, as opposed to co-operation with other Nations. Hence, co-operation with other Nations is seen by many National leaders as working at cross purposes to Nationalism.
Except for the European Union (EU), there is no example of Nation States cooperating with each other, from day to day on a broad range of issues. In spite of the Union, in the EU, from its initial response to the Coronavirus pandemic, like closing borders, procuring PPE and testing kits, etc., we know that the actions of Nation States were based on ‘every Nation-State for itself’. It was not a cooperative or coordinated EU response.
In spite of the UN Secretary General’s best efforts, the Nation States of the world have not been successful in releasing a single common UNSC resolution on the Coronavirus.
Unfortunately, of late, Nationalism has been on the rise, encouraged by the US Government with the Trump administration driving US companies to bring manufacturing back to the US from foreign countries. Bilateral trade negotiations progress hand in hand with tariff wars with China. This is a radical departure from multi-lateral trade agreements supported by the WTO.
The US has unilaterally walked out of the Iran Nuclear Treaty and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty which has been in force since the Cold War. These steps taken by the US are a move towards extreme Nationalism and a move away from global solidarity.
This has weakened the global Organizations built painstakingly over the past several decades. Eventually, National trade interests will be protected by all countries and tariff barriers will spring up. Nation-States will use their purchasing power to achieve political ends. These changes are likely to speed up further in many countries across the world.
The management of the Coronavirus pandemic by the US leadership speaks poorly of the country’s overall competency. The No 1 country of the world has been ill-prepared to handle the pandemic. At this crucial time, President Trump has announced a halt of the US funds to the WHO. This is in addition to stopping the processing of Green cards for ninety days. These decisions are seen by the global community in poor light.
While the US is unwittingly struggling in its traditional global leadership position, China is trying to project itself as a worthy global player. By its management of the Coronavirus pandemic, followed by quickly and efficiently restricting it to Wuhan/ Hubei province, winning the war against the virus in Wuhan and later selling Testing kits and PPE to other countries in need, China wants to prove to the world, that it knows what it is doing and that it is in control of the situation.
Therefore, at this time, it appears that both global solidarity and global leadership are compromised. This environment is however conducive for discussions on building higher levels of global solidarity.
The UN was formed on 24 October 1945 based on “the principle of sovereign equality of all nations” and for “collective security”. Franklin D Roosevelt said that an “International Organization was the best means to prevent future wars”. The UN has been the primary mechanism thereafter for the maintenance of world peace and security.
In the light of the deadly pandemic, it is time again to rejuvenate the United Nations, WHO, and other global agencies. Their Charters should be redrafted to include the “protection from pandemics” as an additional mandate. In case of a veto in the UNSC, India should take the lead and use the UNGA Resolution 377A “Uniting for peace” to obtain a special session of the UNGA to pass the ‘Protection from Pandemics Resolution’.
The WHO should place “Protection from Pandemics” above its other six global priorities.
Adequate funding for the Multi-lateral Organizations and under-developed Nations States, by the developed Nation States, will hopefully be ensured, when the Nation States realize that the entire human race is inextricably connected to the global network of infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses which respects no Organizational or Nation-State borders.
Mass production of vaccines and medicines across the globe at affordable prices, accessible by all countries, will be a core determinant of implementation success.
The survival of the human race from pandemics will depend on the actions taken by the UN Organizations, and the level of global solidarity. Global solidarity is by no means a foregone conclusion.
The great lesson that the killer Pandemic can teach us is that when it comes to combating Pandemics, global solidarity should prevail over extreme Nationalism.
About the Author :
Rajagopal Tampi is MD of VALUEMOVES Computing Private Limited. Views expressed are personal. Please leave your comments on the Author’s Blog www.planetnation.org or you may email the author at Rajagopal.firstname.lastname@example.org.