Arun Teja Polcumpally
Doctoral Research Fellow
Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA)
Haryana, India

We have been watching TV shows and movies like “The Walking Dead,” “Resident Evil,” and many such over the decade. Yet, we never witnessed a remote omnicidal situation in real life. Today, every TV program aired during the COVID crisis says, ‘Be safe- we shall fight this virus together!’ Everyone is fighting against the same enemy.Does it mean that we finally reach the point where people become earth citizens, and eventually, there would emerge some global institutions of governance? Some opine this pandemic might affect the globalization because of the crash of Global Supply Chains (Du, Agelos, Mustapha, & Shipotylo, 2020). Further, these integrated supply chains are also the nodes of the virus spread (Nayyar, 2020). Such sensitivity makes the world skeptical about the global movements of people. As if this is not enough, Al Jazeera reports that the post-pandemic world would be more divided based on the economy (Al Jazeera, 2020)and would strengthen the nationalistic sentiments.

On the other side, regional inter-governmental organizations are fighting this pandemic together. African Union decided to provide technical and strategic assistance; MERCOSUR invested $16 million in education and research on biotechnology; SAARC has setup voluntary emergency funds amounting to $18.5 million, and European Union (EU) decided to provide fiscal and monetary help to its member states (Kalinina, 2020).

Even though the fears of economic downfall are real, it appears that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a situation that asks for the active role of global institutions (Sharma, 2020). Governments all over the world are engaged in only a single battle against a common enemy. In order to put an end to this pandemic, a vaccine is necessary. But it would take at least 12 – 18 months to make one and thankfully, some say it might be out earlier (Spinney, 2020), because of the technological advancements.  Israel has already claimed to separate the antibodies (Bedi, 2020)from the COVID infections cells. The Italian firm, Takis, also claimed to have developed a vaccine (Indian Express, 2020) that neutralizes the virus in human cells. However, these vaccines can be mass-produced only after the human trials and appropriate approvals from the regulatory agencies.  

It is vital to notice that all these pharma companies are not working individually. They have agreements with numerous other private companies located in different parts of the world. For example, Serum has signed an agreement with British firm AstraZeneca, to supply Oxford University’s potential drug. It assures that it would provide almost 400 million potential vaccine doses by the end of 2020 (Pilla, 2020). The combined strength of research institutions, academics, and pharmaceutical companies has become the beacon of light. Never the less, there are still state-centric approaches that drag the globalization behind.

If there is something states across the world should learn from this crisis period, it is to strengthen cooperation but not go back to state-centric- realist attitudes.  Fighting this pandemic requires more globally active organizations, sharing the available knowledge. Apart from WHO providing guidelines and advisories to its member nations, emphasis on anticipatory governance appears to become a desideratum soon. It is because the world could tackle the uncertainties if the knowledge is shared. We need to step up the usage of innovative technology in fighting the uncertainties.

Among the emerging economies, India will be an influential player due to its contributions to pharmaceutical research. It is also not far behind in AI research. Even though it has bilateral agreements on the joint development of vaccines with Australia (PTI, 2020), the UK, Israel (Sibal, 2020), and proposed development with the US (Haider, 2020), all of them are privately developed.

SAARC, at least has set a good precedent for regional organizations in fighting this pandemic. Setting up the emergency fund with voluntary contributions from any country has already bagged $18.5 million. India has also sent Rapid Response Teams (RRTs), consisting of doctors, to expand to Maldives and Nepal. It is willing to extend this to all the SAARC nations (Mishra, 2020). As the crisis allowed bringing SAARC back onto the tracks after four years, its effectiveness would be on building regional research institutes and technology development centers. The future, which is led by emerging technologies such as nanotechnologies, genetic engineering, AI, Blockchain, 3D- Printing, this region together has a substantial meaning than as individual countries. If regional cooperation fails, India would be least affected, but the other nations would be left far behind. Way before in 1985, Alwin Toffler, in his book ‘The Power Shift,’ has established that the knowledge drives the 21st century.

All these might be some recalcitrant thoughts during the pandemic lockdown. Albeit we don’t have something like Avengers saving the world, this is a call for global governance systems or what Arvind Subramanian calls a ‘committee to save the world.’ Hyper globalization might be far away but, globally interconnected systems have to emerge to fight these pandemics (Subramaniam, 2020). Regional or global institutional developments scaled to code laws to avoid potential risks and uncertainties in the future should not be considered hostile conditions for national security but as a new normalization. Best minds should move across the globe to find a universal solution. Be it to fight modern warfare like biological, psychological, or establish sustainable development paths for emerging technologies. In the coming months, the looming questions would be the on situation of remittance flows, to which countries travel should be open, the fate of overseas education, foreign direct investments (FDIs), the future of Travel economy, the extent of normalization of the virtual world in the society, etc. Answers to these questions would bring out a new normalization to the post-pandemic world. A global task force was always a dream of liberal school of thought. During these times, it is hoped that global institutions emerge much more robust and democraticFinally, it is important to understand that if states pursue unilateral measures, they might lose their global influence and most probably slash their current developments and growth rate. Even the considered hegemons of 21st century might lose their status. Italian scholar Antonio Gramsci established that a hegemon can survive if it preserves the existing world order (Lears, 1985). Robert Cox, pointed out that all the previous hegemons are the ones which upheld the world order and assimilated needs of other countries with theirs as the tradeoff for the stability (Cox, 1981). Today, United States’ president Trump’s rhetoric of ‘make America great again,’ Brexit, Putin’s extended chances for the presidency, Xi Jinping’s probable life time presidency point out the move away from globalization towards either regionalism or world run purely on the realist perspective. In addition to the latter, these countries have considered drastic measures isolating from each other which would bring severe recession. World Trade Organization reports that the trade slump will be greater than that of 2008 crisis and the pessimistic trends are being noted in the overall trade (World Trade Organization, 2020). Does that mean that there would be a change in the global order? UN general secretary, in his address to the forum of small states, emphasized that the world needs to brush aside the xenophobia, nationalism, and such sentiments which weaken the multilateralism (United Nations Press Release, 2020). One way to strengthen the multilateralism during the pandemic is for the countries to come together to work on the vaccine or therapy under the aegis of UN, undertake trans-national anticipatory researches, regional technology co-operations for the starters. Well, such measures would be a difficult task amid the state-centric policies being churned across the world, but it’s not wrong to hope for a globalized world. 


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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Jindal Centre for the Global South or its members.

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