By Tamara Segura Sánchez - International Relations Student
The world is more interconnected every day. Going from one country to another has never been easier. Yet, the first time the news showed the new variant of coronavirus spreading in Wuhan, most people saw it as an issue that wasn’t of their concern. Now, more than a year later, with more than 2 million people dead and an approximated 400 million jobs destroyed (Mendoza, 2021), the path taken by the international actors has been more leaned to conflict and selfishness than to cooperation and solidarity. As this pattern has been present from the beginning (through critics) until the present (vaccine's distribution), it probably would be the current path in the future.
Many countries have centered their energy looking for who’s guilty or trying to show how other countries manage the pandemic worse than they do. United States’ ex-president Donald Trump encouraged xenophobia by referring to the coronavirus as the "Chinese virus." For Boaventura de Sousa, the reason is that in the current conjunction, the United States needs to neutralize China's leadership in four areas: cellphone manufacturing, fifth-generation telecommunication, electronic automobiles, and renewable energy (Méndez, 2020).
Salvador's president criticized Costa Rica´s management. For Bukele, the country reports a decrease in active cases since he performs few daily tests, which is why he classified the Ministry of Health results as a "false impression" (Soto, 2020). Critics and xenophobic comments didn’t bring any solution. Instead, they accentuated cracks presents because of power fights or different political ideologies. As the pandemic evolved, so did the motives of conflict.
Therefore, the conflict that has emerged is related to the vaccine's distribution. Eduard Soler, Senior Researcher at CIDOB, remembered that technology has always been "a central element for the positioning of political actors, and this is no exception" (Belenguer, 2021). Amnesty International warns that rich countries, which represent only 16% of the world's population, have bought more than half of the world's vaccine supply while millions of people have no hope of survival (DiarioResponable, 2021). The vaccine's distribution is a clear reflection of the still present inequality worldwide, where a small percentage of the population has the most rate of privileges.
As the conflict sights taken have been mentioned, it’s also important to mention the ones made towards cooperation. The World Bank has pledged to allocate $ 160 billion in financing to 100 countries through June 2021 to address the immediate emergency, yet extreme poverty (earning less than $ 1.90 a day) continues to grow. The advanced economies of the G20 have already pledged to suspend debt payments from the most impoverished nations until the end of the year, and there is growing support for extending that moratorium in 2021. Nevertheless, Malpass (World Bank president) said it would not be enough, as the recession means those countries already struggling to provide respite for their citizens will not be in a better position to meet the payments (Swissinfo, 2020). These economic measures, that are looking to help the countries who need it the most, aren't enough to make up for the pandemic collateral effects. As long as powerful countries continue to accumulate most of the resources, inequality will still be enormous; because these countries do not represent the highest percentage of the world's population and still they have more resources.
Although poverty has increased and lives have been lost, some leaders are still focusing on who “will win” the race (who has the best vaccine, who returns to “normal” faster). Political power seems to be more important than cooperation. At first, conflict was through critics, then it was through vaccines. Pandemic hasn't ended, the vaccination process is still going and there would be a long way before collateral damage will be repaired. Even in this hard situation for everyone, we will probably continue to see it as a division without solutions, instead of one of serious cooperation and human’s wealth prioritization.
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Belenguer, L. (2021, February 24). The world is divided by the COVID vaccine: the fight for the “liquid gold” and dominate the supply. 20 Minutos.
DiarioResponsable. (2021, March 21). Global cooperation would be the only effective vaccine. https://diarioresponsable.com/noticias/30872-la-cooperacionglobal-sera-la-unica-vacuna-efectiva
Méndez Coto, M. (2020, June 8). The cracks generated by COVID29 and International Relations. https://www.revistas.una.ac.cr/index.php/ri/article/view/13948/19423
Mendoza Escamilla, V. (2021, March 11). The world lost 400 million jobs and recovery would be uneven: ILO. Forbes Mexico. https://www.forbes.com.mx/economiamundo-perdio-400-millones-empleos-oit/
Soto Sibaja, J. (2020, May 5). Salvadorian President questions results of COVID-19 in Costa Rica. Monumental. https://www.monumental.co.cr/2020/05/05/presidente-deel-salvador-pone-en-duda-resultados-sobre-covid19-en-costa-rica/
Swissinfo. (2020, August 20). Covid-19 can push 100 million people into extreme poverty, says WB president. https://www.swissinfo.ch/spa/covid-19-puede-empujar-a-100-millones-de-personas-a-la-pobreza-extrema--dice-presidente-del-bm/45981898