The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world community into crisis mode. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, it has become apparent that governments worldwide were unprepared to address the health crisis and the attending economic, social and political fallout. When the COVID-19 pandemic becomes a memory, the post-pandemic world must devote all efforts and resources to put in place a system that enhances the resiliency of the world to address global crises based on international solidarity and social justice. We owe this to our next generations.
But why did this pandemic crisis occur? Was it not foreseeable? Experts have shown that such a pandemic health crisis was indeed predictable, as we were reminded during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak that likewise caught the world by surprise. The present situation is not unlike the cyclical economic collapses that the world has experienced, from the 1929 crash and the great depression, to the break-down of the Asian financial markets in the 1990s and the 2007-08 economic meltdown that struck the world. The adverse socio-economic impact of pandemics and financial crises has affected many lives -- invariably the lives of the most vulnerable.
There are many more global crises to come that will throw the world on its knees. The COVID-19 is a telling reminder of the existing flaws of the current international multilateral framework. One pertinent example is global warming. The adverse impact of climate change and environmental degradation is likely to yield an ecological catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. For decades, the lack of vision and the inability to muster sufficient political unity to put in place a global framework on climate change mitigation and adaptation has undermined the collective efforts of societies to achieve a sustainable future for all. It remains a paradox that pollution and fossil fuel emittance remain at a historical low owing to contingency measures introduced by governments to come to terms with the COVID-19 pandemic. How is it that international cooperation to address global warming is unlikely to yield the same results?
The COVID-19 pandemic has likewise exposed a divide between, and within, societies in accessing quality education as schooling around the world has suddenly come to a halt. Crises- and disaster-resilient societies have been in a more advantageous position as they possess the financial and technical means to adapt their education systems to the new reality. In developed societies, with access to the recent state of the art technology, digital learning has witnessed a new era as online teaching and homeschooling have become the new norms of learning.
But for developing countries and rural communities around the world, school closure adversely impacts the ability of students and pupils to access education as remote learning is not an option. Economically and socially disadvantaged societies do not have the financial means to acquire technological devices to foster online teaching. Lack of Internet and online streaming access likewise impede communities from accessing education. The contextualized needs of developing and rural societies are hardly taken into consideration in global contingency plans aimed at addressing the COVID-19 outbreak.
Another troubling divide is evident with regard to access to healthcare. Developing societies often face health system that is underfunded, fragile and which lacks life-saving equipment. A lack of shortage of face masks and other protective equipment impedes the ability of developing societies to prevent an escalation of the pandemic. Patent licensing policies and technology transfer, relying on global manufacturers, likewise restricts the ability of societies to undertake pre-emptive health and hygienic measures for the purpose of disease containment. International cooperation among states, and other related actors, is of vital importance to ensure enhanced access to health technologies in developing countries and that emergency and contingency planning respond to the specific needs of affected societies.
Global crises call for multilateral leadership and new ideals. If we want to survive the next pandemics, decision-makers must commit to build collaborative and inclusive international platforms where no one is left behind. The post-COVID-19 world must not return to the manifestly unjust “business as usual.” We must demand a new deal, so as to build a world of cooperation, not exploitation, and where there will be an equitable distribution of the world’s natural resources and a recasting of budget priorities toward the realization of fundamental human rights.