Personal Lamentations on Vaccine Nationalism

Vaccine Nationalism appears in multiple forms, it seems.  And it is unlikely that popular support for a global perspective will ever expand to counter any of it. At least not for the current pandemic. Here is a personal story – but one that is accompanied by a note about the global context – and a lamentation.  It’s all about a new bargain – a regional one, not necessarily a global one – for another 1 billion doses of vaccines (good news) – not for just anybody in need but for certain groups of people in need; not for now but for a year and a half or more from now; not for the sake of humanitarian concern but for the sake of shared national interests. Some might speculate that it’s all about US versus China, while others might insist that it isn’t. But it also has repercussions for global concerns spilling over into economic recovery from the pandemic, climate change, gender equality and even the future of global technology trends. Continue reading “Personal Lamentations on Vaccine Nationalism”

IWD 2021: Happenings and Gender in the Pandemic

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, unsurprisingly, is “Women Leading the Fight against COVID-19”. Well, it seems to have been a bit of a tradition to honor accomplished women on this day, and we can all agree that women are very much involved in leading the fight against COVID-19, right? So where are they? The accomplished women, that is. In the sciences? Physicians? Well, there is at least one we know about, Ôzlem Tûreci, co-founder of BioNTech, right? And in the political world? What ever happened to Deborah Birx? And yes, there was a flurry of publicity early on that countries with women as head of state or government were doing better than their male counterparts – Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand or Angela Merkel in Germany.  But I would rather we had a focus this year on the women “happeners” in the fight against COVID-19, and I don’t mean something as “patronizing” as praising women in the traditional ways that emphasize their gentle and selfless nature or their beauty or their unquestioning endurance. Continue reading “IWD 2021: Happenings and Gender in the Pandemic”

Shared Reflections on Dr. Ngozi’s Third Way and the Opportunities for a New Direction at the WTO

Congratulations once again to Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria for her appointment as the WTO’s 7th Director-General of the World Trade Organization. How thrilling it was a couple of weeks ago to know that the barriers to her appointment had come down. In anticipation of the beginning of her tenure on the first of March, I would like to focus here on one of the reasons her leadership of the WTO is so important – her clear grasp of the pandemic crisis and of what the WTO can do to make a significant difference in fighting its global consequences. I am convinced that the WTO is an ideal forum to mobilize a global response to shift the world away from the vaccine nationalism that has proven so difficult to resist. This may not be the only  issue on a very full agenda of WTO reform challenges, but it is excellent timing for a person with Dr. Ngozi’s qualifications to arrive on the scene with this as the most immediate crisis for her to manage. Continue reading “Shared Reflections on Dr. Ngozi’s Third Way and the Opportunities for a New Direction at the WTO”

Great News for the WTO – and for the Multilateralism of Today

Good news keeps coming on the US return to multilateralism: The selection of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization has finally been cleared for official approval by the WTO General Council (which is now scheduled for 15 February 2021). Just a week ago, two different but coordinated announcements were issued. One came from the Korean government announcing the withdrawal of their candidate, Yoo Myung-hee; the other came from the Biden administration announcing that the US would join the rest of the consensus of the WTO members in support of the Nigerian candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. This was a truly diplomatic way to clear the way for the one without embarrassing the other.

I am personally pleased to congratulate Ms. Okonjo-Iweala on her impending success, and I congratulate Ms. Yoo Myung-hee and the other candidates for the gracious manner in which they welcomed the outcome. What a contrast to the domestic scene in the US!  Above and beyond this contrast, however, I would like to focus this note more broadly on what Ms. Okonjo-Iweala’s leadership means for the WTO – and for the changing world of multilateralism. Continue reading “Great News for the WTO – and for the Multilateralism of Today”

Further Reflections on the US Return to Global Health

Following the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on 20 January 2021, we have been treated to a lively first 10 days – announcing new directions on COVID-19, climate, racial equity, the economy, health care, immigration, and restoring America’s global standing.  While all these initiatives are very welcome, my focus here has been on the Biden Administration’s top domestic priority of controlling the pandemic – but from my usual global and multi-stakeholder perspective. And the good news on that score is that the US has returned to linking that domestic priority to active engagement in global health.  I shared my preliminary reflections on this good news last week (21 January 2021 and available here), and I have appreciated the lively reader comments and questions. Here is an update at the 10-day mark for the unfolding of the Biden Administration’s busy agenda on pandemic and health issues, along with my responses to the points raised by readers about the nature of US engagement globally and the prospects for a global response to the pandemic. Continue reading “Further Reflections on the US Return to Global Health”

So Far, So Good on the US at the WHO and at the COVAX Facility

The good news of the “day after”, above and beyond the happy sensation of savoring the smooth flow of democracy in action, was the carry-through on seeing the adults back in the room on multilateralism in global health and the pandemic. What do I mean? Well, the day that I am referring to is 20 January 2021, the day that was filled with pomp and ceremony (but no crowds) for the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the United States government. On the day itself,  President Biden signed over a dozen executive orders to put things back in place, as it were. And on the “day after”, we witnessed the follow-through on a new national strategy on the COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness. Here are some preliminary reflections on the good news, with the caveat that the journey is not yet over. Continue reading “So Far, So Good on the US at the WHO and at the COVAX Facility”

Gender 2021: Post-Pandemic? Post-Beijing?

As we come to the end of 2020, we are taking some time to recall those things that we didn’t get to celebrate together. Fair enough. It isn’t that I thought of gender when I sat down to do an end-of-year reflection of this awful 2020. Rather, I just happened to be sitting down to write down my thoughts on gender on this penultimate day of 2020 and thought to myself: I should prepare an outline of what my main points might be. And oh yes, one of those main points is that this year of 2020 was the 25-year anniversary of the Beijing Platform and Declaration on the Rights of Women. Major events and visible displays of the anniversary had been planned for Mexico in April and then France in May, but then the whole process leading up to these events was abruptly suspended, and the main events were postponed until 2021. Continue reading “Gender 2021: Post-Pandemic? Post-Beijing?”

Christmas Décor 2020

Living with the pandemic continues to define our lives in a uniquely isolated setting. We love Villa Ndio, but we also love sharing it with family and friends. For the Christmas holidays, we had accumulated holiday decor over the years that we minimized using in recent years. We had spent many a Christmas here with children growing up and grandparents nearby.  But the past few years took us away to visit our grown children elsewhere for most of the holiday time – thereby leaving the Christmas decorations stored away in the grenier.  This year, however, we’ve been bringing all the decor out of their boxes as a sort of mental health gambit. Continue reading “Christmas Décor 2020”

Looking to US Action in Support of the Global Pandemic Response

When President-elect Biden takes office on January 20, 2021, quick action is expected from the new administration on global health issues. This action should take into account the following three ways that the global health arena has changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Supporting the new multilateral frameworks that are being enabled by and often inspired by a multitude of different kinds of stakeholders, especially non-state actors;
  2. Expanding the global approach for an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and other tools as they become available; and
  3. Engaging in a broadened dialogue on how collaboration and innovation need to be adapted to changed circumstances in the related areas of intellectual property and trade.

This commentary starts with a brief summary of these three points, followed by an in-depth analysis of each point. Continue reading “Looking to US Action in Support of the Global Pandemic Response”