The Platform

Market in Kenya. (Evandro Sudré)

To defeat COVID, the global community must stand under one banner: global cooperation.

The unprecedented pandemic is a powerful reminder of how the international community is heavily interconnected and vulnerable. No country, no matter how powerful or prosperous, can overcome this crisis.

The pandemic has created political, economic, social, and cultural shifts that have changed the global landscape. While these shifts are worrying, it also presents opportunities for countries to navigate through these challenges.

Nowadays, we see rising digital engagements on various online platforms. Recent high-level meetings of the G20, ASEAN, and ASEAN Plus Three, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement, depict the increasing global dependency on online platforms as a means to communicate and coordinate during the pandemic. While technology has indeed assisted societies in communicating with one another, it also poses some salient challenges. First, it has created a new divide. In other words, countries that are economically more advanced with digital ecosystems will certainly be at an advantage compared to those that don’t have this luxury.

Increasing digital utilization leads to cybersecurity challenges. With more than half a million Zoom accounts that are sold on the dark web, digital privacy and consumer protection are at risk. According to Interpol, these cyber threats include malicious domains, malware, and ransomware. The recent debate over a U.S.-drafted procedural note to allow members of the UN Security Council to vote virtually might be the culmination of those standpoints between the benefits of digital engagement and the threats it might pose.

Further, there are concerns about whether the pandemic will exacerbate violent extremisms, xenophobia, and nationalism. The “blame game” on the origins of the virus between the two most powerful economies, illustrates how this pandemic is also becoming a dangerously politicized agenda. Additionally, there are similar trends present in other regions.

In the Middle East, some countries are blaming each other for the increase of coronavirus cases and for spreading the virus. If these tensions are not settled amicably, this region could fall into deeper political sectarian conflicts. These political skirmishes and distrust undermine the much-needed global cooperation to combat COVID-19, putting many communities around the world at great risk.

The coronavirus outbreak has tested the leadership of many countries. In the face of COVID-19, some leaders opted for draconian measures, such as “nation-wide lockdowns,” to curb the spread of the virus. Also, some of the countries in the Middle East exploited the global health crisis to track down protesters and foreign journalists. This is why democratic nations must set the example by proving that democracies are better equipped to mitigate and address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Notwithstanding the social costs, according to a paper published by the World Institute for Development Economics Research, the economic impact of COVID-19 could increase global poverty for the first time in three decades, pushing more than half a billion people into poverty. Developing and least developed countries are most at risk. For instance, sub-Saharan Africa is facing devastating impacts. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank project that for the first time in 25 years, the region will go into a recession. Experts estimate that these people will live on less than $1.90 a day.

This study shows that gains of the 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly on no poverty and zero hunger, could be under threat. COVID-19 could reverse a decade of global progress to reduce poverty. More so, addressing poverty while injecting stimulus packages into the economy and implementing social safety nets have been essential to recovering the economies of many countries and bolstering bilateral trade and investments.

In addressing these challenges, the international community needs to establish a united front with a forward-looking and collaborative approach.

Foremost, the international community needs to create a safer digital ecosystem for information sharing. Strengthening cyber risk management measures is required to effectively counter, prevent, and mitigate threats to critical information infrastructures. A legal debate over a much-needed international legal regime and application of international law to cyberspace must also be revived.

Further, promoting a culture of peace and tolerance is highly needed. There should be no space for divisive politics given the urgency of collaboration to combat the virus. Also, there needs to be greater political coordination to better manage the global health crisis and to collectively prepare for future pandemics at the regional and global levels. Democratic nations must show their resolve through democratic-led processes that promote multilateralism-based actions to mitigate such an outbreak. Recent G20, ASEAN, and NAM Summits have underscored the urgency of joint collaboration to tackle the virus. The shared commitments under these ongoing tracks will become a testament to the effectiveness of multilateralism in addressing global issues.

The pandemic has depicted how international cooperation can go a long way in fulfilling the needs of a country and the greater global population. Indonesia and South Korea are working together in the joint production of personal protection equipment, ventilators, and masks. Another example is the bilateral cooperation between the UAE and Indonesia. Indonesia has provided medical supplies to the UAE while the UAE has purchased Indonesian agricultural and SME products. To address the health crisis, cooperation is essential to increasing the national capacities of developing countries, as well as in attaining medicines and medical supplies.

In short, with the changing global landscape, how well countries navigate through these challenges through strengthening international cooperation will eventually determine the extent of success in defeating the pandemic and preventing economic collapse. The global community must stand under one banner: global cooperation.

Purna Cita Nugraha is Deputy Director II for Middle East Affairs, and Directorate of Middle East Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia. He holds a Doctoral degree in cyberlaw and is a member of the Indonesia Telematics Society. He was previously posted in the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations, New York.

Andi Sparringa is Head of Section at the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia. He has a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University and was an Edward E. Masters Fellow (USINDO). He is the Country Director of the Center for Asia Leadership Indonesia. He is also a member of SSEAYP International Indonesia. He was previously posted at the Embassy of Indonesia to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the EU where he was the spokesperson of the Embassy on sustainable palm oil.