As the world struggles to tackle a historic pandemic, decisions by governments across the world to fight COVID-19 will form our future and the shape of things in the post-coronavirus era.
“The pandemic has shown that in order to have a functioning political and economic system, we need to think about creating a welfare state that takes care of the social classes in need,” said Birgul Demirtas, a political scientist at the Istanbul-based Turkish-German University.
Demirtas cited a 2019 report by U.K.-based charity Oxfam saying that the 26 richest people in the world own as much as the poorest 50%.
“We need to rethink equal distribution of the economic gains nationally as well as globally,” she said. “High-quality and accessible healthcare service for all people are not a luxury, but a basic requirement for public health, as we have been witnessing in these coronavirus days.”
According to multiple reports, black and Latino communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic in the U.S., which confirmed nearly 400,000 cases and 22,539 deaths as of Wednesday.
In Louisiana alone, a state of 4.6 million in the U.S. Deep South, blacks make up a highly disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths.
Despite making up around 32% of the state’s population, African Americans have accounted for more than 70% of the deaths caused by the virus, according to state data.
This may be a microcosm for the virus disproportionately impacting the poorer — already facing more health challenges — and those less able to stay at home in many countries because they need to keep bringing in money.
‘Security and power called into question’
Demirtas believes that in the post-coronavirus era, “the traditional conceptualizations of ‘security’ and ‘power’ will be more questioned.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that there are, and will be, new kinds of challenges stemming from the increasing inequalities and destruction of the ecosystem,” she added.
“These challenges cannot be solved through military means. Therefore, states need to rethink their security policies and instruments,” she added.
According to Demirtas, the wave of globalization in the 1990s exacerbated inequality both within and among states.
“Neoliberal policies led to a decrease in social welfare policies, which ended up mainly harming the middle and lower classes all over the world including in European states,” she added.
Last week, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger penned an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal called The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order.
“The reality is the world will never be the same after the coronavirus,” wrote Kissinger.
Similarly, at a press conference announcing new measures to fight coronavirus, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “It is clear that nothing will be the same after the coronavirus epidemic.”
“The era of those who set up a false welfare system” by exploiting other countries and people is now closing, Erdogan added.
Millions of people are confined to their homes worldwide as governments have locked down entire cities to stem the spread of the virus, which has so far infected more than 1.48 million people globally.
The death toll has crossed 88,500 as scientists grapple to find a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease which first emerged in Wuhan, China, last December.
‘Leaders continued to invest in military’
According to Demirtas, although the world order has changed and new challenges have emerged in recent decades, many nation-state leaders have continued to perceive security risks and threats through the prism of traditional approaches.
“They have continued to invest in military systems without recognizing new types of threats,” she explained.
“In addition, the global economic system and its national variants have encouraged individuals to consume as much as possible without thinking about the environment and future generations,” she lamented.
Demirtas said that although “sustainable development” has become a trendy, much-talked-about concept, in fact, few countries have actually carried the idea out, with most merely paying it lip service.