Reviving global institutions

Thursday, 2020-05-14 17:25:09
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The role of global institutions, including the World Health Organisation, has shown signs of declining in recent years. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – In recent years as nationalism has “ascended the throne”, the role of global institutions seems to have shown signs of declining. The current COVID-19 crisis has further revealed the weakening of many international organisations, as these are being required to conduct drastic reforms to ensure coordination among nations in tackling global issues.

The world has witnessed the descent of global multilateral institutions in recent years, especially since the outbreak of the pandemic. National and global responses to recent global matters have become somewhat slowed, lackluster and fragmented. Regarding COVID-19, many experts said that the losses caused by the disease could have been significantly minimised compared to the current figures. However, the sad thing is that although the key apparatus for issuing a global response on health was there, for many reasons, this apparatus has been not effective enough to “leapfrog” towards preventing the pandemic from breaking out on a global scale. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been suffering a financial shortage for decades because the United States and other countries have allocated their resources to other issues and ignored the constant warnings about the urgent need to strengthen the WHO’s power. The WHO has recently become the focus of debate between the US, China and some other countries in relation to its role.

Meanwhile, another global institution, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which plays a significant role in leading the world economy, is now under pressure to reform to clearly demonstrate its inherent weighted voice in international trade issues. Many important WTO members, including the US, China, Russia and Australia, have all called for reform of the organisation.

In addition, some national linkage models in continents, including the European Union (EU), have shown limitations in promoting regional coordination. Since 2016, Europe has witnessed a “historic divorce” as the United Kingdom decided to leave the EU. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many moments when EU member states had the attitude of “oneself comes first”, while neither sharing medical supplies nor deploying a joint anti-epidemic plan.

Explaining the cause of weakening global institutions, The Economist, a London-based weekly, ran an article in which it stated that in recent years, nationalist movements throughout the world have been given the opportunity to “attack the legitimacy of multilateral institutions”. The Economist said the US’ recent withdrawal from multilateral institutions and non-coordination with other countries on some global issues, has made multilateral institutions somewhat “shaken”.

The world is witnessing tremendous fluctuations due to the impact of the pandemic. At the present time, no one can accurately predict the evolution and effects of COVID-19, but there is a common perception among countries that the disease has broken out on a global scale, becoming an important factor affecting relations between nations and threatening to change the international order and situation. The trend of globalisation will not be reversed, but is facing numerous difficulties, and there will be strong adjustments. In the near future, when countries successfully push back the disease, all will need effective global institutions to lead economic revitalisation, assist future planning and to become prepared to cope with “common enemies” such as natural disasters and epidemics. In August 1944, when the victory in the Second World War was near, representatives of countries in the anti-fascist coalition met to discuss the establishment of an international organisation to maintain peace and security. A year later, delegates from 50 countries signed the UN Charter in San Francisco, US. The agreement has provided a framework for the formation of global institutions and the future of international relations for decades.

From the aforementioned experience, it can be seen that even in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, countries around the world not only need to join hands to combat the disease but also have to make immediate preparations for reform and reconstruction of global institutions, aiming to ensure the maintenance of peace, security and development for humanity in the coming decades.