The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of the world order. Governments have sought to limit the spread of the virus through lockdowns and travel restrictions, which have stalled economies and created a global recession. Poorer countries, lacking the resources and resilience to mitigate the pandemic, will be hit hardest. Like climate change, COVID-19 will exacerbate global inequalities.That parallel offers valuable lessons.
As the COVID-19 pandemic drives the global economy into recession, the temptation to pursue aggressive monetary easing is growing. Already, the United States (US) Federal Reserve (Fed) has pushed interest rates near zero and committed to pump trillions of dollars into the economy. The European Central Bank (ECB) has also ramped up bond purchases, though Germany’s constitutional court is mounting some resistance.
Every year, some nine million people worldwide – equivalent to the population of Austria – die of hunger or hunger-related diseases. That is tragic enough, but COVID-19’s disruption of food supply chains risks doubling this number in 2020.This is the hidden cost of the coronavirus pandemic, and it will fall on the poorest and most vulnerable.
I had been captive in Afghanistan for about two weeks when the government of my home country, Canada, contacted those attempting to negotiate my release. They told negotiators to get me on the phone the next day, when the United States (US) military would be flying a drone over where they thought I was being held, in order to determine my whereabouts.The negotiators were unable to secure that concession.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought economies around the world to a standstill. Huge swaths of manufacturing have been idled, and sectors such as aviation and tourism are largely shuttered. Amid all the economic ruin, some have pointed to a supposed silver lining: cleaner air.
The blame game has begun. The number of COVID-19 victims is still unknown, but there is a stream of hate and misinformation pervading timelines. The damage of disinformation and the virus itself to families and communities is equal to our failure to ensure that science, not rhetoric, shapes policy.Studies show that it is more common for viruses to be transmitted from animals to humans. Some erroneously say this is due to innocuous human errors.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” George Santayana famously quipped in 1905. It is a phrase that has been repeated for over a century, but rarely heeded. As COVID-19 decimates the global economy, our understanding of history could be the difference between a V- or U-shaped recession and a W-shaped one, in which incipient recovery is followed by successive relapses.As recently as March, V-shaped recoveries in individual economies seemed plausible.
“This is not a discrete one-off episode,” Wellcome Trust head Jeremy Farrar has warned. “This is now an endemic human infection.”COVID-19, as Farrar suggests, knows no boundaries, geographic, political, or otherwise. Nor must our efforts to defeat it.
Running parallel to the global battle against the coronavirus pandemic is a tug of war between two competing narratives about how the world ought to be governed. Although addressing the pandemic is more urgent, which narrative prevails will have equally far-reaching consequences.The first narrative is straightforward: a global health crisis has further demonstrated the need for multilateralism and exposed the fallacy of go-it-alone nationalism or isolationism.
South Korea experienced one of the world’s largest initial outbreaks of COVID-19 outside China. But, unlike the United States (US) and many European countries, we have been able to contain and drastically reduce the spread of the virus, at least so far – and without imposing a nationwide lockdown.
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest global challenges in generations. Governments and monetary authorities are correctly using every policy lever at their disposal to prevent a grave public-health emergency from becoming an even deeper economic, political, and social crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic, much like a major war, is a defining moment for the world – one that demands major reforms of international institutions. The World Health Organization (WHO), whose credibility has taken a severe beating of late, is a good place to start.The WHO is the only institution that can provide global health leadership. But, at a time when such leadership is urgently needed, the body has failed miserably.