COVID Diplomacy & International Cooperation

Leah Bakoulis, 89 Scotland

This month marks a year since many European nations went into lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and in the past year, nearly every part of public and private life has altered as a result. Diplomacy has changed in this time; and the future of foreign affairs seems uncertain. With many countries turning inwards toward themselves, it is concerning to see a lack of multilateral cooperation, especially in a time when the world needs it most. Instead of individual countries only focusing on themselves, countries should be working together to meet the challenges facing us all today.

In March of 2020, there was a scrabble across the globe of people living, working, and studying away from their home countries to return home. The scenes of chaotic airports and embassies overwhelmed trying to help citizens return to their home countries was a preface to the future of closed borders and international relations defined by self-preservation. Another result of the pandemic was the cancellation of important conferences such as the 2020 G7 summit and the United Nations Climate Change Conference. This shift in diplomacy is an unfortunate pivot away from the cooperation that many states have been working toward in the past decade.

In the face of unprecedented challenges, we should be working closer together rather than pushing one and other away. As vaccines are being rolled out around the world, it is crucial that we ensure widespread, equitable access. Not only is this the moral action to take; but it is clear that the world will not be safe from the pandemic until the vast majority of people have a vaccine. COVAX, an initiative of the World Health Organization and The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, aims to ensure that vaccines are distributed to poorer nations. COVAX has pledged to deliver 20% of vaccines required by every country in need as soon as they are available; however some are calling for more ambitious action to meet the needs of these countries. The pandemic is just that, reaching across the world and leaving little untouched, and our response should match it.

Although the challenges presented by the pandemic are unprecedented in many ways, it is certainly not the first time global challenges called for collaborative solutions. The EU and its predecessors were founded in the shadow of the Cold War on the principle of European cooperation. The United States aided in the reconstruction effort in Europe after the Second World War, as European countries restructured politically and economically for lasting peace.

The spirit of international cooperation must be revived to meet the challenges of today. In addition to health care demands, we are facing the dangers of climate change. The irreversible damage to the planet causes grave environmental concerns, and is also leading to a rise in displaced and migrant populations across the globe. We are running out of time to reduce carbon emissions and waste. Nations acting alone will never be able to effectively prevent further disaster. The issues facing us today, from vaccinations to climate change, are best faced together.

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