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What Next?

What Next?

Thursday, 16 April, 2020 - 11:15
Amr Moussa
Amr Moussa is a former Arab League Secretary General and former Foreign Minister of Egypt

I mean: What happens after the coronavirus storm or, the pandemic, ends? The virus had put the whole world up against an enemy that is attacking everyone without a single consideration for borders or laws and without discriminating between those who are strong in every sense of the word and those who have all the attributes of weakness. This has led to the emergence of two different opinions. One is held by those who believe that democracy is the basis for a good and sensible governance under which nations prosper. They say: addressing major crises like the corona pandemic should not undermine democracy, basic freedoms and the market economy and that upholding democratic principles, policies, laws and administration of affairs is the cornerstone for states and societies to adequately deal with this dangerous challenge. What is meant here is clear: Democracy ought not to become a victim of corona.

Others hold a different opinion: Confronting major crises demands some degree of centralization and coercion, and perhaps involves reviving dormant legislation or passing new ones, all of which could give the state the ability to control the course of events. This includes laws, sovereign and administrative decrees that limit freedom and direct the economy. This second opinion has been predominant but with a view of it being temporary, ending when everything is back to normal and democratic systems frameworks that had been in place would be reinstalled. Since the 30s, American history in particular, has been loaded with examples of this sort in the context of confronting major wars or economic collapses.

As for countries and societies ruled by dictatorships, these opinions and reflections are all irrelevant, what matters is that in confronting the pandemic, there were no differences between democracies and other systems of rule. What matters is the competency with which they confront the pandemic and how successful they are. After that, we will read and hear many different opinions and approaches. The first decision to be taken, however, will have to do with restoring life to normalcy and eliminating the restrictions that were imposed, especially in terms of social distancing. There will be a celebratory feeling when the illness subsides, and this makes me, and others, fear that we will return to normal life without any changes. This would be the first failure which will then be followed by the bigger failure, with the US returning to its elections and its noise.

China will return to its Belt and Road Initiative and Europe to its internal disputes and its attempt to fix its manifest self between the member states of the EU. Russia will return to its narrow-minded disagreements with the US and their competition over some influence in the European continent. The decades-long talk about reforming the United Nations, increasing its membership and other problems that cannot be squeezed into this article, will also return. More importantly, the push and pull and exchange of accusations and tensions between the US and China will also return. A cold war has indeed begun between the two great countries, and corona came to aggravate it and add fuel to the fire, which in my opinion will continue beyond the pandemic.

My point is that in my opinion, after the pandemic the world will witness the following:

A tension in US-China relations.

A divide in the Western alliance

A disturbance in US-Russian relations

Attempts to reform the multi-component system, including the specialized agencies that compose it, and a review of the performance and mechanisms of these agencies, including the World Health Organization.

A revision of several details related to globalization, particularly matters relating to the world economy, trade and industry, the elements of which are distributed across different centers around the world, especially in China. In addition to the West confronting the fact that China has become the largest producer in the world and attempting to limit that. We can expect large changes in that regard, including, at least, a reallocation of factories that produce strategic commodities outside of China, to a wider map, and in accordance with more comprehensive economic and geo-strategic needs.

The most important change that coronavirus will cause will be related to the degree of trust in investing in public health, medications, hospitals, physicians and healthcare workers, in addition to ensuring a degree of transparency in its work. There will be large new investments in this domain, and developing countries need to consider this and study how they could potentially benefit from it.

Based on the aforementioned, and so that we do not miss the opportunity that the pandemic has provided and highlighted the need for, i.e., real change in how we administer life in the 21st century, I would like to propose the following:

Calls for change need an agreement on a new notion of real threats to international peace. The definition that was based on the events of the Second World War and its outcomes has become inadequate and not comprehensive enough. Consequently, the Charter of the United Nations requires revision.

The Corona pandemic has threatened international peace and stability in an obvious way. Based on this, pandemics in our era need to be officially considered a threat to international security and peace, in addition to climate change and population explosion, conflicts between civilizations, and calls for hatred and division of all forms that lead to increased tensions within and between societies.

I was glad to see the Security Council convene to find a “collective solution” for the coronavirus last week, 9 April, but unfortunately and as usual, it failed to reach a serious level of confrontation due to disagreements between the great countries and their interests, despite the Secretary-General of the UN affirming that the coronavirus and its implications pose a threat to international security and peace, i.e., it is well within the scope of the council. Besides, unfortunately, the General Assembly of the United Nations also failed.

In my opinion, the matter warrants a mobilization of public opinion (think tanks, research centers, non-governmental organizations, universities, unions and parties) at an international level, to put pressure and demand these amendments of the Charter of the United Nations and to expand the scope of the Security Council to include them. Also, to stipulate the proposed amendments to reformulate the “purposes of the United Nations” to include as its number one priority, public health affairs, in addition to international security and development.

In this, I see that efforts to highlight the suggestion that demands that the General Assembly of the United Nations calls for a comprehensive conference such as that in San Francisco which established the Charter of the United Nations, to look into these amendments to the Charter and to approve them. By the way, it is worth considering not to extend the “right to veto” to health, climate and population affairs.

On the other hand, as we rehabilitate the multi-polar system to confront the new challenges to international peace and stability, we must debate the state, consequences and behaviors of globalization, especially hardcore globalization that undermines the stability and prosperity of many developing nations and societies, and those of other states as well.

The dangerous economic conditions that we are likely to face in different parts of the world because of the decline, or rather, paralysis, of many parts of the global economy as a result of coronavirus, demand serious reconsideration of the whole economic system driven by the Bretton Woods Agreement reached after the Second World War. Here, calling for a new Bretton Woods may be required for this end; it has indeed been called for by several thinkers from across the world.

In conclusion: If there is a consensus, and so it seems, that things after coronavirus will not be as they were before, formulating the future is all of our responsibility, not only of major states, especially after all of the mismanagement that we have witnessed on their part, even their bad intentions and the self-centered manner with which they confronted the pandemic. The world will not trust these states to lead the international course after the pandemic.

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