Massive outbreak of contagious diseases such as SARS to H1N1 and from Ebola to COVID –19 have always been a global concern. The transmission of globetrotting viruses has accelerated due to higher levels of globalization, escalating into worldwide public health catastrophe. While the novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc around the world, all countries should assimilate, avoiding their stark differences with a view to reinforce human community with a shared future. An Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development1 marshalled by the United Nations called for a multilateral response that is required to attack the virus as well as to restore the global economy on a path to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In order to provide authentic rapid information at regular intervals and digital technologies for citizens to cope with the sanitary emergency, UNESCO has created a “resource center of selected responses to COVID-19”2 to promote free flow of ideas by words and images. The COVID – 19 pandemic is much more than a health crisis that will have jeopardizing consequences on people’s livelihoods and employment as millions will lose incomes and fail to access resources essential for day-to-day well-being. In an effort to analyse the direct public health and indirect immediate humanitarian ramification, a “Global Humanitarian Response Plan”3 has been initiated by the joint efforts of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, including the United Nations and other international organizations.
Countries at different stages of national and subnational outbreaks have been able to reduce transmission by maintaining physical distancing measures and movement restrictions, circumscribing contact between people. At the same time, developing countries are confronted with the pressure of economic fallout along with weakening state capacity which makes it significantly harder for them to enact any effective stimulus. The World Economic Forum forewarns that the countries in Africa face a “COVID-19 Time Bomb” even though the region hasn’t experienced many cases so far. Underdeveloped nations are also facing massive shortages of medical gears like personal protective equipment and as a result, the United
1Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2020, available at https://developmentfinance.un.org/fsdr2020 (last visited on April 27, 2020).
2UNESCO’s support to media in developing countries, available at https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-support- media-developing-countries-face-coronavirus-challenge (last visited on April 27, 2020).
3United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Global Humanitarian Response Plan COVID -19, April – December 2020.
Nations has started hiring charter planes to airlift millions of face masks, gloves, gowns, and other supplies in its new project called “Solidarity Flights”4. Also, the World Bank Group is prepared to give assistance up to $160 billion that will support countries to counter health consequences and bolster their economic recovery.
On the contrary, countries are also vulnerable as they face the challenge to enforce physical distancing rules and other measures necessary to flatten the contagion curve. For instance, the Americans have failed to pay heed to the calls by public health officials to avoid close social contact. Despite being a developed nation, the citizens are often abetted by local and state government officials who have been disinclined to order businesses to shutter and civilians to shelter in place. If wealthy single countries cannot hasten to save their own people, there will be no prospect of projecting help to countries with a fraction of the resources. On the contrary, New Zealand, a small island nation, has drawn admiration from all over the world as its lockdown measures have been paired with isolation, quarantines, contact tracing, and extensive testing for anyone who is suspected of being exposed. However, it will be an arduous task to replicate elsewhere, especially in African countries where the population is dispersed and the cost of maintaining such a strategy is higher than most of the economies willing to withstand5.
Besides, acknowledging the South Korean experience of large-scale testing to identify and isolate the infected, it is not feasible for individual states to test at a larger scale as it surpasses their testing kits and lab resources. Besides, owing to the social distancing measures effectuated throughout the world, manufacturing, freight, shipping etc., have plummeted because many companies have been shut down since workers around the world have either became diseased or have not been allowed to return to work. The UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs has assessed that the adverse effects of protracted economic restrictions in developed countries will soon spill over to developing countries by means of trade and investment channels6. The International Labour Organization remarked that around 2 billion informal workers are at risk as they are compelled to work in hazardous environments and often live in
4UN solidarity flight departs Addis Ababa carrying vital medical supplies, available at https://www.who.int/news- room/detail/14-04-2020-first-un-solidarity-flight-departs-addis-ababa-carrying-vital-covid-19-medical-supplies- to-all-african-nations (last visited on April 29, 2020).
5 New Zealand’s Coronavirus Elimination Strategy, available at https://time.com/5824042/new-zealand- coronavirus-elimination/ (last visited on April 28, 2020).
6Global Economy could shrink by 1% in 2020 due to COVID-19, available at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/business/global-economy-could-shrink-by-almost-1- in-2020-due-to-covid-19-pandemic-united-nations/articleshow/74943235.cms?from=mdr (last visited on April 30, 2020).
cramped accommodation with limited accessibility to sanitation. In spite of everything, India’s COVID diplomacy turns out to be a reliable and responsible global power as it dispatches rescue medicines to more than a dozen countries, making humanity the foremost priority in the decision making.
Contemplating beyond the immediate impact of COVID-19, a “Rapid Response Facility” has been launched by the United Nations Development Programme to furnish resources to prevent the economic collapse of developing countries. Correspondingly, the unprecedented crisis has united the SAARC countries as they approve international travel bans, establishing emergency funds, implemented strict lockdowns, and precluded all religious gatherings, demonstrating a new spirit of collaboration to tackle the pandemic7. Analogously, the UN member nations have adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as the tenure of the millennium development goals ended in 2015. With a shared vision of peace and prosperity, SDGs have become the cornerstone of governance at all levels. As the crisis unfolds and deepens, international cooperation becomes indispensable for a just, peaceful, and inclusive society via the building of effective and accountable institutions at all phases8. The premier multilateral bodies should accelerate the World Health Organization’s efforts to steer assistance along with following the G20 commitments in hope of getting ahead of the crisis in vulnerable and conflict-affected states. Humanity anticipates a common voice and global leadership to supress the virus, to build resilience to reduce its secondary risks and eventually to reinstate from the fallout. As United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres righty states, “And we can only do it if we do it together, if we do in a coordinated way, if we do it with intense solidarity and cooperation, and that is the raison d’etre of the United Nations itself”.
7SAARC countries unite to combat COVID-19, available at https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/coronavirus-saarc-countries-unite-to-combat-covid-19 infections/article31397086.ece (last visited on April 28, 2020).
8Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies, available at https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/peace-justice/ (last visited on April 29, 2020).
Written By – Simran Khurana