Is Multilateralism coming to an end sooner than expected? Guest post by Julie Litsase | ayeyouth.com
The increasing interconnectedness and the cliche of a "global village" has brought with it the malaise of cross-border challenges. This compelling reality has been brought out in sharp relief by the advent of Covid-19, which has engulfed the world with its devastating impact.
Even before the advent of Covid-19, global leaders have been taking cognizance of the unprecedented rise and changes in the contours of the global challenges and have rallied for a more dedicated and collaborated approach. Their efforts so far led to the birth of international organizations of governance, embedded with it the spirits of internationalism and solidarity, to create a more integrated and inclusive world.
But over the past decades, the world has taken a contrary direction. Various forces are in cahoots such as the resurgence of strong identity politics and nationalist leaders, an assertion of parochial interest, and a fostering of competition among states rather than embracing collaboration.
Nationalism Vs Multilateralism
There has been a common perception among the global liberals and the likes to attribute the crisis of multilateralism to the increasing influence of strong leaders with an inclination towards populist agendas, who fan nationalist interest and local interests against those of a "global elite", which dovetails into increasing protectionist tendencies.
US President Donald Trump with his populist agenda of "America First" and his unilateral action of pulling out of international agreements like the Paris Agreement and crippling of the WTO Appellate Body.
However, such rhetorics are deeply misguided, and putting the sole onus on the above factor would eclipse the pre-existing ailments which have been debilitating the multilateral order.
There always existed the smothering exasperation with the gains of globalization, which the citizens of many countries feel, has been selective. They feel the gains of the developed world have been at the cost of the developing and developing world.
There is also the case of increasing yet inconspicuous assertiveness towards China.
While the US has established itself as the bulwark and bastion of Globalization and Multilateralism, it has done so at its convenience and national interest. It has undermined international laws that are against their national interest.
Global Response to the COVID19 Pandemic
As the world is currently reeling under its biggest crisis, the need for a united global front to fight against the virus has never been felt like before.
People expected the pandemic would promote global cooperation. But instead of providing leadership and promoting cooperation, the US and China have been engaged in major feuds.
First, the trade war in 2019, and now the blame game as to the origin of the virus.
The pandemic is the first global challenge that has witnessed the absence of US leadership.
International Organisations such as the European Union, for its part, clearly have a strong multilateral bend but it is weakened by internal divisions. The division between North-South over economics and the East-West over values seem likely to widen.
The most worrying trend has been the growing skepticism with the legitimacy and the potency of esteemed international organizations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO). The US has accused it of being "China Centric" and threatened to cut down it's funding.
"This is what we did with every other country, like Spain, and had nothing to do with China specifically", Dr. Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor to the WHO Director-General.
However, these ups and downs to the legitimacy of International Organisations are not new.
There has always been the push for an overhaul of the existing global governance architecture, which according to most less-developed nations feels are not representative and sensitive to their needs.
The most obvious impact of these developments will be the end of globalization as we know it. Indeed, a shift from a "global village" to a form of "gated globalization" based on political and economic familiarity seems inevitable.
Most disturbingly, the international community's ability and willingness to tackle collective challenges through global efforts will be irredeemably harmed. Unless there is a dedicated collective approach in identifying the ailments and bring in more effective methods to resuscitate the multilateral system.
The post-pandemic era may herald the onset of what Ian Bremmer calls a "G-Zero" World - one that is at once multipolar, leaderless, and likely to be besieged by renewed geopolitical conflict.
This article is written by our Guest Writer, Julie Litsase - Researcher, Peace Channel Organization, India.
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