The weakening: Global governance and cooperation

Can we all get along and cooperate? That is an increasingly pertinent question around the world.

The weakening: Global governance and cooperation Photo: Unsplash

It’s hard to find a country that has not faced a health crisis and economic downturn because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Both have challenged global governance and reduced nations’ attention to international cooperation. In this essay, I attempt to answer an important question: what factors explain the weakening of existing global governance and cooperation?

The first factor is that every country has focused its attention on tackling health crises; closing borders; and mitigating economic downturns and social impacts. Social distancing and lockdowns have stopped schools, tourism, global travel, trade and productions.

Our global economy is slowing and potentially entering into a deep recession. Based on the “World Economic Outlook Update, June 2020,” the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that global growth will decline to 4.9 percent in 2020. The IMF also counts that cumulative losses of global GDP between 2020 and 2021 will be $12 trillion. The IMF projects that the global economy will enter into its deepest and worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s (Gopinath, 2020). According to the IMF, the GDPs of 160 countries will decline in 2020 (Mada, 2020). Additionally, the International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts 2.7 billion people globally are unable to work.

Most countries have resorted to economic stimulus to save their own economies and avoid long crises. They have also rolled out social safety nets for their own citizens. Consequently, every country has paid more attention to its own domestic situation, compared to utilizing the work of global governance.

I argue that the British exit from the European Union (EU) and the American presidential election in 2016, have increased nationalism and populist politics in the Western hemisphere. Covid-19 has fueled the rise of nationalism and populist politics around the world. Most countries hope that global governance can work effectively and develop an international solidarity to respond to Covid-19, and to provide medical supplies and give access for future vaccines.

However, most developed countries attempt to protect medical patents and treatments, and secure domestic supply for their own people. In fact, global governance, international cooperation – such as the World Health Organization and the international community cannot guarantee access for developing and less-developed countries to get vaccines (Kompas, 2020). Now, there is a global competition among nations to secure future vaccines for Covid-19 for their own citizen. It is known as vaccine nationalism (UN News, 2020). This situation has weakened global governance and cooperation.

For example, the EU is a solid regional organization with established medical systems. However, EU member states have failed to cooperate effectively in responding to Covid-19. Spain and Italy have requested the EU’s assistance to stop the spread of Covid-19 in their countries and treat their citizens. In late July, for example, Spain and Italy were ranked ninth and 14th in total infections, globally. That said, positive cases have increased in most European countries during that period, also. So the EU cannot help Spain and Italy fight the pandemic, and the region became an epicenter.

The next-most important factor affecting the weakening of global governance and cooperation is dysfunction: in international cooperation and economic protection in the middle of pandemic Covid-19. Every country attempts to be a self-sufficient nation for fulfillment of health kits; essential medical supplies; pharmacies; laboratory diagnosis; treatment of cases; containment strategies; and creation of drugs and vaccines for Covid-19.

Every nation would like to improve its own agricultural production, and to produce its own food for its citizens. For the sake of state survival, every country would like to deal with its political, social and economic fallout. It does not want to be a failed state in the middle of a pandemic.

Therefore, international cooperation cannot synergize all efforts among all countries in fighting Covid-19. Global supply chains as a foundation of international trade have faced barriers everywhere, such as countries closing their borders, improvement of trade in goods/services restrictions, and the rise of protectionist domestic policies around the world. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development predicts that global trade fell 27 percent in the second quarter of 2020 since the decline in demand and supply of various economic products, such as the export of automobiles, spare parts and oil (Inman, 2020).

Finally, competition among major powers has continued in several areas, such as trade war between the United States and China, escalating tensions between China and the US at the World Health Organization and the growing rivalry between major powers in the South China Sea.

All in all, globalization is dying. Global governance is dysfunctional, is declining and is at a crossroads. This situation creates uncertainty, globally. Countries have paid less attention to multilateral cooperation. They focus more on selective bilateral and flexible regional cooperation when pursuing their own national interests, and competing for the sake of their own survival. This shapes international cooperation and changes global governance within and after the pandemic.

Beginda Pakpahan is the author of “Indonesia, Asean & Uncertainty of International Relations,” and “From Brexit, Trade War, to Globalism vs Nationalism,” and a global political and economic analyst at the University of Indonesia.

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