Looking to an American Future for a Global Response to COVID-19

As a long-term advocate of multilateralism, I am inspired by the amazing outreach from multiple American institutions and individuals to engage in global collaboration on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been an embarrassment to be an American in the past four years of a flawed Presidency, but the readiness of Americans to circumvent its barriers in order to participate with others in such initiatives as the Access to COVID—19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) and especially the new COVAX Facility for global vaccine distribution is truly phenomenal.

In order to build on that spontaneous outpouring of American expertise and compassion, the new administration in Washington should join in this effort. The US needs to return to its leadership role in global health matters, but this requires an appreciation for how the pandemic has transformed the issues and the actors. Thus, special attention should be directed to (1) supporting the new multilateral frameworks that are enabled by and often inspired by a multitude of different kinds of stakeholders, (2) expanding the global approach to the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and other tools as they become available, and (3) engaging in a constructive dialogue on the pricing and availability issues in this and future pandemics. Continue reading “Looking to an American Future for a Global Response to COVID-19”

Why the US Should Support Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to Head the World Trade Organization

In the current selection process for a new director-general at the World Trade Organization, the United States has vetoed an otherwise consensus-supported candidate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. I believe it is a mistake for the US to block her selection to this post. It is obvious to me that Ms. Okonjo-Iweala is the far more well qualified candidate and the best choice for leading the WTO in the challenging times we have today.

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Reflections on RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away at a time when her loss to the US Supreme Court — and to America – promises to wreak havoc on the American political scene. Rest in peace, dear “notorious” RBG. And deepest condolences to her family, friends, colleagues,  law clerks and admirers. She is someone who reached out to and embraced a wide audience. “Fight for the things that you care about,” she said.  “But do it in a way,” she emphasized, “that will lead others to join you.”  I am among those who benefited and learned from this commitment  of hers to both action and inclusiveness.

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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”

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”

A Political Lens for COVID-19 Multilateralism: EU Leading a Global Response

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.  

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The Political Lens on the Prospects for a Transformative Global Coronavirus Response with Multiple Stakeholders

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 on the Prospects for a Transformative Global Coronavirus Response with Multiple Stakeholders”

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”

Working WITH the World Health Organization and the International Health Regulations

“As dangerous as it sounds.” These are the words that Bill Gates used to describe the blustering, thoughtless announcement by President Donald Trump to suspend US contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a growing global pandemic. In this commentary, I look at two key issues that are swirling in the unfolding debate about what the WHO did and did not do – on travel restrictions, for one, but on a freedom of information flow more generally, for another. Although the WHO is being criticized for its actions on these two issues, I believe that they call for more engagement with the WHO, not less. The commentary starts with a personal assessment of the WHO’s strengths and weaknesses and of the important revisions to the WHO’s International Health Regulations in 2005.  It then focuses on why the sensitive areas of managing travel and information flows justify more rather than less involvement with the WHO. Thank you, Bill Gates! Continue reading “Working WITH the World Health Organization and the International Health Regulations”

Early Reflections on Covid-19, the New March Madness

In the Northern Hemisphere, March is a pivotal month for the onslaught of “spring fever”. And for those of us who have been known to embrace the herd mentality of the season-ending collegiate basketball tournament in the US, it is also known as the month of “March Madness”. In this year of 2020, it seems tragically appropriate that, in this turbulent month, we have experienced yet another kind of “March Madness”. And that is the fearsome disease that we have come to know as “Covid-19”. As we come to the end of this crazy month, here are some reflections on why the Covid-19 pandemic will forever be associated in my mind with the madness of this pivotal month of March. Continue reading “Early Reflections on Covid-19, the New March Madness”