Updated: Jun 2, 2020
May 4, 2020 by Kate O'Connor
When faced with a health concern of this magnitude, the global community turns to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. They have been under criticism for their weak leadership along with how they have handled the pandemic. International cooperation has been retreating instead of advancing which has led many governments to fight the disease on their own. While countries are sharing information, they are also isolating themselves and closing their borders in an attempt to keep new cases out. Almost every country has closed their borders and are placing strict self-isolation regulations on citizens who reenter the country. Other countries, such as China, are even discouraging their own citizens from coming home. Furthermore, supply chains all over the world have been disrupted as countries ship out less exports causing countries to look internally in order to help cope with their changing economies. For example, the pharmaceutical industry has taken a huge hit internationally as most of their active ingredients are manufactured in China. Some fear that even after COVID-19, the isolationist and protectionist policies will continue as countries operate out of fear and keep their borders closed.
On the other hand, as time passes and new information concerning the virus comes to light, perhaps countries will begin to increase contact. Many health experts have stated that in order to fight a global pandemic it is important that every country in the world is equipped with the best information and tools possible. It is vital that no country gets left behind in order to fully eradicate the virus. More developed countries could step up and support developing countries. Maybe there will even be a movement towards more involved international public health systems. The world could potentially become more connected as countries see the benefits in cooperating when facing global challenges.
Additionally, it remains uncertain if COVID-19 will affect the established ‘world order’. For the last century America has seen itself as the leading country in the world but China has slowly been challenging this status. As the virus started in China, they have had a distinct advantage in fighting this ‘war’. They have now emerged as the leaders who are helping other countries control the pandemic. Some predict that China will monopolize on this opportunity to establish their dominance as a global player while the USA is having to come to terms with how COVID-19 is emphasizing issues already present within their country such as an underdeveloped health care system, increased political polarization and rising racial and socioeconomic tensions. The pandemic is only serving to heighten and expose these preexisting challenges.
While the future remains uncertain in so many regards, it is clear that the pandemic will continue to affect everyone for years to come. While it is easy to act out of fear, it is important now more than ever that we continue to act out of compassion and empathy. Only then can we find a way to move forward as a global community.
Kate O'Connor ('20) is a Managing Editor at SPR.