covid-19-and-the-crumbling-world-order

Context: COVID-19 will fundamentally transform the world as we know it: the world order, its balance of power, traditional conceptions of national security, and the future of globalisation.

Possible after Effects of COVID-19 crisis:

Crumbling world order

  • Reason for failure of global governance
    • The global institutional framework is unrepresentative, a pawn in the hands of the great powers, cash-strapped, and its agenda is focused on high-table security issues. 
  • Manifestation
    • UN’s significance: The United Nations Security Council took so long to meet (that too inconclusively) to discuss the pandemic is a ringing testimony to the UN’s insignificance.
    • Ineffective regional initiatives:India’s proactiveness to resurrect a practically dormant Institution like SAARC,was short lived and didn’t bring any dividends. 
    • The EU was clueless when the virus spread like wildfire in Europe. Its member states turned inward for solutions: self-help, not regional coordination.

More powerful China

  • Reports indicate that China has now managed the outbreak of COVID-19, and its industrial production is recovering even as that of every other country is taking a hit. 
  • China appeared to use its manufacturing power to its geopolitical advantage. Beijing has offered medical aid and expertise to those in need; 
  • This will aid Beijing’s claims to global leadership, push Huawei 5G trials as a side bargain, and showcase how the Belt and Road Initiative is the future of global connectivity. 

Weakened economic globalisation

  • Economists are warning of a global recession.
  • The COVID-19 shock will further feed states’ protectionist tendencies fueled by hypernationalism. 

State intervention in economic decisions

  • More powerful state: The state has returned, with more power, legitimacy and surveillance technologies. 
  • Return of the ‘Licence Raj’ : The ability of big corporations to dictate the production, stocks, supply chains and backup plans will be limited by increased state intervention to avoid unpredictable supply sources, avoid geopolitically sensitive zones, and national demands for emergency reserves. 
  • But the more important question is whether the state has any incentive to take on big capital. Consider, for instance, that the first response of many Western states was to protect their capital markets rather than be concerned about public health.

New-age racism

  • Globally, societies could become more self-seeking and inward-looking leading to further pushback against liberal policies regarding migration and refugees. 
  • More stringent imposition of phytosanitary measures by advanced states on products emanating from the less developed countries might become the new normal. 

 

The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Agreement (WTO)

The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures sets out the basic rules for food safety and animal and plant health standards. 

  • It allows countries to set their own standards. 
  • But it also says regulations must be based on science
  • They should be applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health. 
  • And they should not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between countries where identical or similar conditions prevail. 

It can also be understood a solution to the following Problem

Problem: How does a country ensure that its consumers are being supplied with food that is safe to eat , "safe" by the standards a country considers appropriate? And at the same time, how can a country ensure that strict health and safety regulations are not being used as an excuse for protecting domestic producers? 

Source: WTO

 

  • Within India: ‘Social distancing’ may produce undesirable social practices. E.g. gated communities have discriminated against those in COVID-19 quarantine. Puritan claims based on birth and class and the associated declarations about hygiene could become sharper. 

Way forward: The answer to global pandemics is political globalisation.

  • A new global institution: The global institutional architecture of the 1940s cannot help humanity face the challenges of the 2020s. 
  • A new social contract between states and the international system can save our future.
    • State-led models of globalisation and economic development would be preferred over (big) corporates-led globalisation. 
    • It is to be seen if it will enable some positive controls over the inherent deficiencies of globalisation.

Image Source: WEF