Context: As the UN prepares for its 75th anniversary, there is the need to discuss traditional and new challenges faced by the world today in wake of the Coronavirus crisis.

The climate crisis: The pandemic has not been bad for the environment. 

  • Reduction in carbon emissions: 
    • In 2020, the drop in carbon emissions is projected to be about 8 percent down on last year. 
    • This will put us on track to where we should be, if we are to reach the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 C. 


Cyberspace: A digital saviour during the corona crisis. 

  • The need of virtual communications amid COVID-19 pandemic has been key to enhanced virtual lives for millions by increase of the avenues for working from home, video chat connectivity and online delivery of goods. 
  • However, a surge in cybercrime and cyber fraud is anticipated
  • The logic being that cyberspace use has expanded without commensurate growth in security features. 
  • Hence, the challenge is lurking in the shadows and a breakout cannot be discounted.

Accentuation of geopolitical tensions during the corona crisis:

  • The US-China relationship was already deteriorating, the blame game over the virus has exacerbated it. 
  • The assertive China in matters relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, South China Sea and the India-China border has added to the inflammable state of geopolitics. 
  • Poor state of global governance mechanisms: Rarely has the world seen such paucity of international cooperation since World War II.
  • The challenge signifies a rise in geopolitical tensions.

The paucity of global trust: 

  • Globally, at one time, more than 70 per cent of the world’s ports of entry — air, sea and land — restricted travel. 
  • According to a Global Trade Alert study, nearly 90 governments blocked the export of medical supplies while 29 restricted food exports.
  • Sudden rivalries: For example, the Nordic region. Norway opened its borders to the rest from the region bar Sweden, because of its infection rate.
  • Lack of trust is also impacting diversified supply chains. The corona crisis is driving a shift from efficiency to self-sufficiency. 
  • Japan is paying companies to relocate factories from China.
  • French President has pledged “full independence” for France in crucial medical supplies by year-end.
  • Indian Prime Minister has called for self reliance and being vocal for local in India. 
  • Divided EU: When faced with corona crisis shortages, almost all EU states responded at the national level. 
  • Hence, the countries are preparing for individually forging recoveries when the crisis passes. 
  • This challenge is here to stay.

The role of India in shaping the world order:

These threats beyond borders are best addressed by multilateral bodies. However, the UN system has been missing in action, except at the fringes. It is in deep trouble.

  • India at the backseat: For 75 years and counting, India’s role in the UN system has been confined to the category of “ruler takers”. 
  • Way ahead for India:
    • The need for India is to envisage the new order and it’s own role in it as well as who our partners in this venture are to be.
    • If India wants to be “rule shapers” rather than being “rule takers”, then there is the need to start working in partnership at blueprints for change. It is never too early to plan for the future.
    • Need to come to the front seat: Challenges that transcend borders are of cardinal importance to India’s well being. It is therefore time to conceptualise pathways to address them in concrete terms.