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Context: Collective leadership at global level amid COVID-19.
The world is three months into the catastrophic war declared by an invisible, almost invincible virus that is rapidly gobbling up human lives, regardless of citizenship and race, and contemptuously ravaging economies across continents. There is as yet no comprehensive, concerted plan of action by world leaders to combat the pandemic. The pandemic has exposed the total void in collective leadership at the global level.
On March 26, 2020, the leaders of the Group of 20 nations came together for an ‘extraordinary virtual G20 Summit’ chaired by the King of Saudi Arabia Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to discuss the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the global economy.
This brings us to the questions of global leadership in fight against COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we will explain the below:
- What is G20?
- What the outcome is from recently held ‘Extraordinary Virtual G20 Summit?
- What are the developments in the global polity that have contributed to the indifference towards collective global action?
- What are the possible measures that can be implemented under collective action of G20?
What is G20?
- The Group of 20 is an organization of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 individual countries and the European Union.
- In addition to the United States, those countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey. Collectively, its members represent more than 80 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.
- Established in 1999 after a series of major international debt crises, the G20 aims to unite world leaders around shared economic, political and health challenges. It is a creation of the more select Group of 7, an informal bloc of industrialized democracies.
- In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, the G20 was elevated to include the leaders of member countries. The first G20 Leaders’ Summit took place in Washington D.C. in November 2008. Consequently, the G20 agenda expanded beyond macro-financial issues, to include socio-economic and development issues.
- The G-20’s primary mandate is to prevent future international financial crises and shape the global economic agenda. The finance ministers and central bank governors of the G-20 countries meet twice a year and at the same time as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
What the outcome is from recently held ‘Extraordinary Virtual G20 Summit?
- G20 countries committed to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy to counter the social and economic impact of COVID-19.
- Leaders also agreed to contribute to the WHO led COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund on a voluntary basis.
- G20 Leaders agreed to take all necessary measures to contain the pandemic and protect people. They also supported strengthening of the WHO’s mandate in the fight against pandemics, including delivery of medical supplies, diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines and vaccines.
- India underscored the need to put human beings at the centre of vision of global prosperity and cooperation. The need of hour is to freely and openly share the benefits of medical research and development, develop adaptive, responsive and humane health care systems, and promote new crisis management protocols and procedures for an interconnected global village.
- India asked to strengthen and reform intergovernmental organisations like WHO and work together to reduce economic hardships resulting from COVID-19 particularly for the economically weak.
What are the developments in the global polity that have contributed to the indifference towards collective global action?
There are two developments in the global polity in the last few years have contributed to the indifference towards collective global action.
- Right-Wing Nationalism: There is swing towards right-wing nationalism, as a guiding political ideology, in large swathes of the world, particularly in the U.S. This ideology posits ‘global good’ being in conflict with and inimical to national interests. The dramatic announcement by U.S. President Trump, in June 2017, that the U.S. will cease involvement from the Paris Accord on climate change, preparatory to full withdrawal after the mandatory period, on the ground that the accord will ‘undermine U.S. economic interest’ is a classic demonstration of narrow nationalism trumping global interests.
- Decline of multilateral institutions:
- The United Nations was the outcome of the shared vision of the world leaders after World War II that collective action is the only way forward to prevent the occurrence of another war. That institution has failed to live up to its expectations to maintain peace among nations.
- WHO, which has as its objective ‘to be the directing and coordinating authority among member countries in health emergencies’, has proven to be too lethargic in reacting to pandemics.
What are the possible measures that can be implemented under collective action of G20?
- Tackling shortages of drugs, medical equipment and protective gear: Some nations have succeeded in bringing the pandemic under control, such as China, Japan or South Korea, They might have the capability to step up production at short notice to meet the increasing demand from other countries which are behind the curve. This involves urgent development of an information exchange on global production capacity, present and potential, demand and supply.
- Seamless logistics for essential goods: There is need to ensure seamless logistics for the supply chain for essential goods and services to function efficiently. This would need an associated accord to eliminate all kinds of tariff and non tariff barriers.
- Information exchange: There is a need to instantaneous exchange authenticated information on what clinical solutions have succeeded and what has not.
- Cross-country collaboration on laboratory trials: There is an urgent need to have cross-country collaboration on laboratory trials and clinical validation for vaccines and anti-viral drugs. WHO has moved on the issue, but the best way to ensure speedy research is to pool global resources.
- Movement of trained health professionals: There is a need to facilitate easy movement of trained health professionals across the world to train others and augment resources wherever there are shortages.
- Ensuring Food supplies: It is the time to anticipate food shortages occurring sooner or later, in some part of the world, as a consequence of the national shutdowns. Saving lives from the Coronavirus as well as malnutrition and starvation.
It is encouraging to learn that the G20 leaders have agreed to inject $5-trillion into the world economy to partially counter the devastating economic impact of the pandemic. Every foot soldier knows that winning a war would require the right strategy, rapid mobilisation of relevant resources and, most importantly, timely action. The world must come together with collective leadership before it’s too late for humanity.