Coronavirus: World needs decisive leadership
As mankind grapples with what could arguably be the worst health crisis in modern times, three things urgently required to fight this pandemic are missing. The first is a single-shot vaccine that can prevent infections and save lives. The second, more important because it can support the world’s hunt for a vaccine, is global leadership. The third — decisive steps to deal with the aftermath of the outbreak and prevent a collapse of the global economy — is also proving elusive. A collective effort of the nations to collaborate and to pool resources, manpower and technology is sadly absent in this war against Covid-19. In order to collaborate, you need effective leadership. On March 26, leaders of G20 — a club of rich and powerful nations accounting for 90 per cent of the world’s GDP, founded with the sole objective of dealing with global crises and coming up with solutions — interacted via videoconferencing. The meeting sadly ended without any firm commitments. The leaders simply listed individual efforts of the countries and left it to the finance and health ministers to discuss the pandemic. In 2008, when Lehman Brothers triggered a global financial crisis, G20 leaders gathered in Washington and agreed to cooperate on monetary policy and boost economic growth. One can argue that today’s pandemic, which has killed over 51,000 worldwide, is a different monster — both in terms of scale and intensity.
Unlike the Lehman crisis and Ebola, the coronavirus outbreak is crippling health care systems in the West, forcing powerful economies to their knees and posing a serious threat to the world order. From Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson, Emannuel Macron to Vladimir Putin, the leaders of powerful nations appear stressed if not helpless as they deal with the outbreak in their own countries. As the virus continues to kill people at an alarming speed in Italy, France, United States, Spain and United Kingdom, these leaders are unable to look beyond their own borders. While it is tempting to write an obituary of multilateralism at this moment when nations shut borders and lock down territories, a different kind of global collaboration is taking place. For example, scientists across the world are discovering new ways to cut bureaucratic red tape and share pandemic data, technology and treatment protocols. Peer to peer collaborations are taking place through Facebook, emails, and web pages to find a vaccine. In the absence of global leadership, the role of agencies like World Health Organisation and United Nations becomes all the more critical.