The current pandemic COVID-19 poses a major global health crisis that is bound to have overwhelming and unprecedented socio-political, economic crises in a world that has in the recent decades become increasingly interconnected and inter-dependent by the virtue of globalisation. The threat of the pandemic goes beyond mere healthcare issues and it has the potential to completely transform the way in which the world operated in the pre-COVID era. While the global supply chains and economic interactions have taken a back-seat, the need to focus on national and regional strategic requirements has gained precedence. As the virus spreads to lower-income countries with weaker health-care systems, the humanitarian scale of this tragedy is set to worsen. The looming challenges and uncertainty of the crisis have to be tackled effectively in order to not jeopardise the future and the governments are under great pressure to make decisions that will alter the future of the country and its global interaction and standing. The spread of the pandemic has the world in a grip and realising the gravity of the situation, the present article seeks to find the silver lining of the crisis in a manner that the leaders need to grasp the budding opportunities that these potential challenges present in order to proactively build a more equitable, flourishing and sustainable world.
As is evident from the present circumstances and ever-growing cases of violence and terrorist activities all over the world, the post-COVID period will potentially present a hugely alienated, divided, conflict-laden and xenophobic world. With the governments being unable to control the pandemic, the discourse might just get focussed on antagonistic nationalism, as is evident in cases like China and the United States, for instance. This might evidently result in failure at international cooperation to find a solution to the global crisis – global supply chains and trade might get disrupted hobbling the states’ individual capacities, including even the richest countries, exposing them to difficulties and leading to fear, anger and seething people’s frustration and unrest. Financial crises are just around the corner and the beggar-thy-neighbour policies will intensify the impacts of the crisis in the absence of international cooperation. As socio-political and economic issues arise at home, the jingoistic leaders might try to focus the attention on other countries, fuelling conflict and war, exacerbating the possibilities of a closed world with deeply embedded rivalries and divisions.
Post-pandemic cooperation and scientific research to fight the common enemy that is the coronavirus, fashioning a world that can blend in the political plurality of the different states and reconstruction of the global economy are the foremost tasks that global leaders need to focus on at the moment. Effective global leadership needs to build up international solidarity by rebuilding and structuring security at home and, as its essential indispensable correlate, cooperation abroad. The deep ambiguity regarding the virus and its future trajectory, at present and in the future will only magnify the need for leadership at the global level that focuses on the implications if we adopt a myopic approach and the need to find solutions to the extraordinary challenges that the crisis has brought to the fore. Bigger economies like the US, China, and the European countries need to invest in the poorer parts of the world, for the global economic network to flourish and become more equitable.
While global cooperation has its own inadequacies and the COVID-19 caught the world off-guard, international networks can play a significant role in reducing inequalities and securing benefits for the states facing a concentrated disadvantage. With the myriad challenges looming large on the horizon, regional cooperation can have a huge role to play in systemic crisis management in the years to come. As national leaders become crisis managers, imposing nationwide lockdowns and curtailing the movement of people and goods and the supranational cooperation becoming a far-fetched dream at present, regional cooperation stands an opportunity in building a more resilient, shock-absorbing, revitalised and forward-looking world system based on cohesion and solidarity.
In terms of the global perspective, regional cooperation organisations like the European Union (EU), African Union, SAARC among others have a varied list of flaws and incompetencies, for instance, lack of trust of member states, mottled aspirations and an absence of solidarity, the present COVID-19 scenario does seem to offer budding opportunities for regional cooperation. It, however, potentially forms the heart of the post-crisis world due to its ability to give voice to the numerous countries in the bipolar international system dominated by the US and China that we are confronted within contemporary times. Governments are bound to benefit from regional collaboration in managing the crisis by facilitating exchanges and building a network based on trust while developing a roadmap for identifying and shielding the high-risk groups like the minorities and the poor. The promising motivations regional cooperation offers at such a time is beyond doubt in order to create a more sustainable, equitable world, focussing on issues pertaining to specific regions.
The pandemic has prompted a need to re-assess the trends of globalisation that the world partakes and while the current statistics show a clear rollback of the gains globalisation made in the last few decades, the crisis presents the world with an opportunity to rework our approaches towards international flows post-COVID-19 while simultaneously developing a buoyant and viable world. It has been a significant pointer towards and a leveller making it amply clear that no state or individual has the potential to remain impervious. Even though all will not be equally impacted, the chain is as strong as its weakest link, thus, the need is to develop solutions and provide cushion to the most vulnerable through the regional and global inter-connectedness. In a world based on geopolitical considerations and acting on realism, the need is to develop a system based on transparency and solidarity as the case might show, the great powers like China failed to timely take action and lead the world becoming increasingly fractious causing grave harm.
At present, while the world is ravaged with a health hazard that is here to stay, this is the most significant opportunity to recognize the prospects of a truly digital society globally, helping in sharing sporadic information, innovations and technologies between communities and governments. Multilateral action will form the backbone of an altered world as no single country’s ‘flattening of the curve’ can be beneficial unless the world is successful in flattening it, as the risk of COVID infections can only be wiped out globally by collective risk-assessment and action. Additionally, the worst inequalities are getting entrenched and our global social and health fabric is deteriorating by the day with the have-nots faring worse. Thus, the pandemic is a clear pointer and an opportunity to make a shared investment wherein universal healthcare is the foremost public right, and haves and have-nots are equally entitled to it. Education and healthcare are to be accorded with significant leeway in order to grapple with the setback the coronavirus has inflicted on the world. With reports of skyrocketing social-psychological effects of the pandemic, ranging from mental breakdowns, depression, domestic conflicts, education stress due to inability to cope up, to racism and misogyny; it is increasingly evident how these will have ramifications that will outlive the COVID-19. The need is to come together globally, fostering an environment of free mental health assistance, public and family safety and welfare programmes and initiatives, and a more viable and fraternal approach towards our fellow earthlings.
However, while the contemporary crisis carries its risks and challenges, so is it accompanied by opportunities. The post-COVID world will only emerge stronger, sustainable, and resilient if we are able to effectively mitigate the risks and seize the opportunities that are still blurry. Thus, it is pertinently clear that the post-pandemic socio-politico-economic landscape will be completely altered and it is upon the leadership to adopt a far-sighted and pragmatic approach to reshape and re-align the global scenario.