Covid-19: Another blow to globalization

Covid-19: Another blow to globalization

As an epidemic now growing exponentially, Covid-19 will sure have global health, economic and geopolitical consequences. In less than three months, it has spread to 120 countries and every continent (except Antarctica), infecting around 140,000 people, killing at least 5,000 of them.

The worst has yet to come, experts suggest, warning that the next two months may feature the peak of the epidemic amid further risks to particularly overpopulated Europe and North America.

Covid-19 has speedily and unquestionably proven that neither national governments nor international organizations are prepared for an effective and imminent response to a global deadly outbreak. Except for a few countries like Singapore, many governments failed to contain the spread of the virus – Iran and Italy being the worst examples.

Along with national responses to the outbreak, the performances of international organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global medical organizations, as well as the European Union, have also been subjected to tight scrutiny.

Critics of the WHO accuse the organization of being reluctant to declare the outbreak a pandemic and failing to force the Chinese government to be more open and cooperative to facilitate a global examination of the situation in the early days of the epidemic. There is proof that China was not that transparent during the very critical stages of the outbreak, but at the time, the WHO chose to praise Beijing’s effective and quick response.

The ineffectiveness of the WHO is not an individual case; it reflects today’s United Nations, even as the world needs a strong and able international institution to tackle global problems.

Fighting a pandemic is both a global and national challenge, and many governments have simply no capacity and infrastructure to do so.
Having said that, it is not on the U.N. that it has become ineffective. If it cannot function properly today, it’s because of the pressure and interventions of prominent world powers. How can, for example, the U.N. fight climate change when the world’s leading economies do not abide by globally compromised agreements?

If all the countries start to say “America First,” “Russia First,” “Germany First” and so on, humanity will sooner or later come to a bad end, either through a pandemic, a disaster due to global warming or a world war.

There’s a similar trend at a rather smaller level in Europe. The EU has failed and is still failing to issue a common response to the Covid-19, even though the entire continent has been infected. “The EU has proven once again that it is a slow-motion animal,” a senior EU diplomat said recently in describing how slow the decision-making process in Brussels was.

It’s perhaps very normal for national governments to prioritize their citizens in such extraordinary times, but what’s not normal was observing how EU countries were ready to turn their backs on each other, close their borders and suspend almost all interactions between each other. It was China that sent experts and medical supplies to Italy and Spain to assist these two severely coronavirus-hit countries.

Already in reverse due to growing protectionism and populism worldwide, globalization will likely suffer more from the pandemic. The world is losing its already limited capacity to respond to global economic, social, environmental and medical challenges amid concerns that it will lead to a less livable planet.

Time and the scale of the casualties will show whether Covid-19 will teach us a lesson about the future of the world.