The Political Lens on COVID-19: Time for Vaccine Multilateralism

The prospects of “vaccine nationalism” are an alarming development for COVID-19.  They are aggravated by the looming US-China divide but also by the lack of global leadership from the US for any alternative to it.  These aggravations are hurting the potential for the emergence of “vaccine multilateralism”, whether through the World Health Organization (WHO), the G-20 or some other global forum.   But one can still identify some countervailing signs from an initiative known as the ACT-Accelerator initiative and its vaccine development pillar.  More public awareness needs to be mobilized in support of this initiative – and in support of vaccine multilateralism generally. The message has to be – and can be – that “We’re only safe if we’re all safe”. Continue reading “The Political Lens on COVID-19: Time for Vaccine Multilateralism”

Shared Reflections on Racism: A New/Old Conversation

The conversation has begun. It’s not over, and one could also argue that it isn’t really a beginning, either. But one can’t really ignore how the tragic death of George Floyd has altered everything. My own reflections on racism in America and in France are, at least, a new beginning for me.  They express a personal dilemma of dissatisfaction with  homogeneity – the French call it “universalism” – and yet a greater awareness these days of not knowing what should take its place.  It has now become a new and expanding conversation – with friends and family, whose sharing of their own personal experiences and recommendations are included here.

The comments are clustered in three categories – Hagen family members who have shared specific recollections of Minnesota life and culture;  Doggett family members who have drawn on their own experiences, many of them global, to share insights and ideas; and close friends from multiple backgrounds who have also shared their perspectives and hopes for the future.  At the end are a few personal follow-up remarks but only to keep this conversation going. Here are the selections in the order that they appear:

Hagens Building on Minnesota Experiences
  • Deborah Smith
  • Elizabeth Hagen Smith
  • Janet Hagen
  • Camille Rogers
Doggetts Building on Global Experiences
  • Kristina Doggett Hagen
  • Niko Doggett
  • Barbara Maria Doggett
  • Tony Doggett
  • Elizabeth Davis
  • Gina Doggett
  • Jeanie Smith
  • Carol Doggett Smith
Friends: Experiences and Perspectives
  • Ken Jones, WHF 79-80
  • Lou Ruch, NC Fambly
  • Barbara Ruby, NC Fambly
  • Paul Sweeney, WHF 79-80
  • Judy Mercado, WHF 79-80
  • Daniel Warner, Geneva Network
  • Jay Reich, WHF 79-80

Continue reading “Shared Reflections on Racism: A New/Old Conversation”

Rest in Peace, John Lewis

It was an impromptu afternoon in April. The US Representative John Lewis and the French President Emmanuel Macron caught everyone by surprise as they showed up unannounced at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, walking leisurely together and chatting over the inscriptions on the walls there. That was in 2018, when the two had instantly warmed to each other on the occasion of President Macron’s address to a joint session of Congress. The spontaneity in their new friendship had led the President to ask Representative Lewis for a tour of the Memorial on that warm springtime afternoon. No wonder, then, that President Macron was so personal in expressing his condolences over the passing of this civil rights icon on July 17. As I reflect on my own memories of John Lewis’ legacy, I am heartened by this connection to President Macron. Continue reading “Rest in Peace, John Lewis”

Personal Reflections on Racial Justice in France (and Europe)

I am an American expat living in France. I have been inspired by the wave of protests against racism and racist violence in the US and its spread around the world. In many of the protests outside the US, the support for Black Lives Matter is being linked to concerns about racism in their own countries. One can even say that racism is a global problem. The American  experience with racism, however, gives us a focus on discrimination and inequality that is different from what people experience elsewhere. Nowhere is this more strikingly different than here in France. Continue reading “Personal Reflections on Racial Justice in France (and Europe)”

A Political Lens on Multilateralism without the US and China on COVID-19

This ongoing series of commentaries has been focussing a political lens on how COVID-19 is stimulating the multi-stakeholder dimensions of a changing world order.   Emphasis in this series is on three themes: (1) the extent to which global efforts are or are not bringing all key actors together, (2) the apparently deliberate absence of any momentum to create new institutions; and (3) the transformative implications of a growing array of different kinds of stakeholders for any future institution-building.  In the past couple of months, there has been useful momentum on all three themes. Here are some reflections on recent developments at the World Health Assembly and the Coronavirus Global Response initiative.  However, even as we look forward to yet another milestone event on 27 June 2020, the “final” pledging summit for COVID-19 with a uniquely multi-stakeholder appeal, one must also speak up about the harmfulness of a disintegrating US-China relationship for truly inclusive multi-stakeholder collaboration.  

Continue reading “A Political Lens on Multilateralism without the US and China on COVID-19”

Personal Reflections on Racism in America

The televised recycling of the shocking murder of George Floyd confronts us with the challenge of personal responsibility. As American expats living in France, we are grieving this horrifying example of racism in the culture of our home country. The grief draws us to so many other tragedies like it – in isolation but not in inaction. We are working it out in our own minds what to do. In my case, the grief is heightened by my personal knowledge about the place where George Floyd was murdered: Minneapolis. Continue reading “Personal Reflections on Racism in America”

Further Musings on Post-Lockdown Living: The Daily Routine in Phase 3 of the First Wave

Moving from Phase 1 into Phase 2 and now into Phase 3 of the easing of French lockdown restrictions, we are wondering how our lives have changed. Not much, actually. And that is even though we are encouraged by the downward trends for the virus in France and the kudos for a successful process of easing out of lockdown here. We are awaiting THE vaccine, which means that not much has changed in our daily lifestyles. Of course, external events have changed dramatically. Separate musings have been posted  with personal reflections, one on racism in America and another on racism in France (and Europe). Here is the more humdrum one, as a parallel record to keep track of the impact of the pandemic on the daily lifestyle. Continue reading “Further Musings on Post-Lockdown Living: The Daily Routine in Phase 3 of the First Wave”

Living with COVID-19, the New March Madness: Reflections on Coming to the End of Lock-down Living, First Wave

The “containment” for the stay-at-home lockdown in France officially began on 17 March 2020, but we had already embraced it from 10 March. I have called it the New March Madness because it finally sank in as we entered the month of March. This used to be the time of “March Madness” , the collegiate basketball tournaments that would carry players and fans to a fevered height  every March. An early warning signal that the pandemic was invisibly sweeping across the world was the abrupt decision in late February to cancel these collegiate tournaments. But it took more time than we should have required to absorb the all-encompassing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. To me, it was a gradual but shocking awakening to a forecast that had often been mentioned but easily ignored for lack of a date certain. So it became my “new” March Madness.

Two months have now gone by in this isolating state, and we are about to ease into a new phase of “decontainment” starting Monday, 11 May. The worries loom large about what this means, even if it is clear that the “decontainment” will occur in stages over the next several weeks and possibly even months. There could yet be a second wave or even a third wave of contagion to force us back into “containment”, but right now that is only a reminder from the authorities. Continue reading “Living with COVID-19, the New March Madness: Reflections on Coming to the End of Lock-down Living, First Wave”

The Political Lens for a Global Coronavirus Response

The need for a political lens on COVID-19 is a continuing theme of my commentaries these days. In this commentary, the political lens is applied to three aspects of recent efforts to mobilize a global response to the pandemic. The commentary starts first with an assessment of  the progress that is being made on the continuing challenge to get all the key actors together. This is followed, secondly, with an analysis of the unusual approach that is being taken to avoid forming any new entity to administer the global coordination. And third, it concludes with some reflections on the transformative implications of the unusual mix of different stakeholders that are actually getting together. My conclusion is that good things are happening on this issue. There is room for optimism that a collaborative approach will prevail against the “unilateralist” tendencies of the US (and even a few others). Perhaps it will even be transformative.  Continue reading “The Political Lens for a Global Coronavirus Response”

COVID-19 Needs a Political Lens as Well as a Scientific One

On tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and taking heart with the latest observations from Bill Gates, I can appreciate his point that it is « not timely » to engage in a blame game.  The pandemic is still not under control. We are in the midst of so much – saving lives, staying healthy, easing back into productive activities, avoiding a second or third wave, finding a vaccine or a cure, helping those who are in dire straits to have access (both to health care and to livelihoods generally), halting the looming famine where the pandemic has just taken off. So much needs to be done! We are advised that our attention – and our resources – are urgently needed to be focused in this time of crisis through what Mr. Gates describes as a “scientific” lens”, and not a “political” lens. Here is some contrary advice. We need both! Continue reading “COVID-19 Needs a Political Lens as Well as a Scientific One”