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”
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 World Health Organization (WHO) to enable a form of “vaccine multilateralism”. 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”
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.
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”
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 is urgently needed to be focused in this time of crisis through what Mr. Gates describes as a “scientific” lens”, and not a “political” lens. Our resources, too. Continue reading “COVID-19 Needs a Political Lens as Well as a Scientific One”
“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 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. Thank you, Bill Gates! Continue reading “Travel and Information Flows: Working WITH the World Health Organization”
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”
Warm greetings to all for a fulfilling and inclusive 2020 and the beginning of a new decade. As this past eventful decade and its closing year of 2019 come to an end, we are all hopeful that 2020 will be a turning point for more than the beginning of a new decade. We are talking about a turning point in politics, of course, but also a more fundamental turning point in the political will to make a difference in support of human rights, healthy and sustainable livelihoods, freedom, dignity, and a clean and safe environment for generations to come.
Among the initiatives that were officially “launched” at the 2019 Paris Peace Forum was something called an “Observatory of Civic Space” at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It was illuminating to learn that the OECD had been selected by an unusual group of sponsors – or that the OECD had itself solicited this unusual group of sponsors – for such an observatory. Continue reading “Snippet on Civic Space from the 2019 Paris Peace Forum”
Borders are what you deal with when you have to show a passport to someone to go from one place to another. So what is it about having borders in a “borderless” world? I was attracted to this event at the 2019 Paris Peace Forum with the simplistic assumption that it would be about how to manage borders to facilitate human migration, trade and capital flows. Much to my surprise, the event had been organized to promote the role of borders to keep people apart, and not to manage borders to bring people together! Well, this proves to be a far more fundamental principle of what borders are about than I had put any thought into. So I learned something here. Continue reading “More Snippets from the Paris Peace Forum: Borders in a ‘Borderless’ World”