Coronavirus and the World Order

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 23 Mar 2020

Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra – TRANSCEND Media Service

17 Mar 2020 – Coronavirus is posing a global health risk. The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. Beyond the health crisis, and the economic costs, the political implications of the pandemic are far-reaching.

International relations experts are yet to explore fully its impact on the world order. Liberals would emphasize on cooperation and they would point at the attempts of international organizations including the United Nations and World Health Organizations and cooperation between countries to prevent the virus from spreading worldwide as liberal attempts. The constructivists would argue the centralized political culture of China would tolerate no criticism of the establishment in handling the spread of the virus and direct the blame towards the outside power. On the other hand, the democratic culture of the United States would generate heated debate across party lines and the highest political leadership would be subject to criticism. For the realists, countries would aim at securing the border and minimizing damage to the national interest. They would do so by imposing travel restrictions, tightening border control, and isolation. All the perspectives do not necessarily run in isolation. Some policies of a state can be considered realists and some policies can be considered liberal.

The coronavirus politics and practice have emerged as a setback to diplomacy. G-7 foreign ministers’ meeting was scheduled to be held in Pittsburgh later this month. The US State Department recently decided to hold the meeting virtually. International meetings and conferences at various locations, including in Orlando, have been canceled. The United Nations canceled many of its events. Countries have tightened their borders. All the affected countries around the world have also imposed some form of travel restrictions and tightened their borders. Even though it may appear necessary, the emerging trend reflects some kind of isolationism. Remaining secure inside the national territory, without worrying what is happening outside, has become the trend. But the virus seems to run in the opposite direction. Despite all restrictions and impositions, the virus is spreading. The contagious power of the virus defies the power of sovereign states and their militaries. The virus has spread over all continents.

The past three decades, particularly after the end of the Cold War announcing the end of ideological rivalry, witnessed an intense debate on global governance and human security. With the rise of international terrorism, pandemics and global warming, which transcended national borders, the momentum gained for international cooperation to address these issues. In universities, academic programs were created on global governance and human security to study these issues. The recent developments involving coronavirus, however, run counter to the visions of global governance and human security.

The politics involving coronavirus has indicated that the ideas and visions of global governance have taken a back seat. With the aggressive emphasis on national security and border protection, the vision of a globalized world seems a distant dream. It appears the Kantian vision of ‘perpetual peace’, in which nations would prefer a trade to war, democracy and republicanism to authoritarianism would be difficult to realize at least for decades. The recent politics of coronavirus corroborates such pessimism.

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Dr. Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Central Florida. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, director of the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Non-Violence, Human Rights and World Peace at Hindu University of America in Florida, and a fellow at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development, University of Massachusetts Boston. He is an Indian commentator and his areas of interest include conflict transformation and peacebuilding in South and Central Asia. His edited book, Conflict and Peace in Eurasia, was published by Routledge in 2013; Conflict Management in Kashmir: State-People Relations and Peace, was published by the Cambridge University Press in 2018. His forthcoming coedited book is Gandhi and the World.


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 Mar 2020.

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