THE ravages and devastation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic to every country in the world save none have been over huge. The sadness and pessimism that go with this public health catastrophe, however, are not enough to fully dampen the human spirit.
Some measure of hope and optimism, therefore, was evident in the speeches and remarks made by several leaders of nation-states at the United Nations General Assembly when the UN celebrated its 75th anniversary last September 21.
The activities highlighted the theme of global unity with this call — “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism.”
Multilateralism was once called “internationalism” where the former is a more particularized reframing of the latter emphasizing the aspect of close cooperation of multiple states in close and binding cooperative relations to achieve a set of common goal or goals. The current outbreak and crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic occasions this timely reiteration of the call for “multilateralism.”
‘Peoples of the world now realize that one single virus in one continent can spread across the globe and affect tens of millions of peoples…’
President Duterte, after citing specific instances of global collective challenges to mankind starting with the pandemic and the need for supporting the World Health Organization, the problems of global migration, climate change, and humanitarian challenges such as refugee asylum, stressed the Philippines’ commitment to multilateralism to face these crises.
On many occasions in the past, Duterte had vilified the United Nations and some of its agencies. But this time, the President is all praises for the UN, calling it “humanity’s essential organization.” But it is only as effective as we make it, he hastened to add. This elicited favorable response from other world leaders in the teleconference, all reiterating their calls and commitment to multilateralism.
China’s participation was noteworthy as President Xi Jinping reiterated his nation’s pledge of supporting the WHO with $2 billion additional funds for its COVID-19 response operations and its promise of assisting poorer nations with a vaccine that will be a “global public good.”
On the need for global cooperation, Xi said: “The history of development of human society is a history of our struggles against all challenges and difficulties and our victories over them… Humankind can no longer afford to ignore the repeated warnings of Nature and go down the beaten path of extracting resources without investing in conservation, pursuing development at the expense of protection…”
Closely awaited was expectedly the message of US President Donald Trump, who also reaffirmed his country’s commitment to international cooperation and assistance to poorer nations.
Peoples of the world now realize that one single virus in one continent can spread across the globe and affect tens of millions of peoples, and not local or national containment alone can work without the rest of the world acting in concert.
Pandemics are just one of the hundreds of global challenges that mankind must face as one species. Climate change is universally recognized as another, then there’s global poverty and even more daunting perils such as an asteroid threatening to smash on Earth, creating global catastrophes. Multilateral efforts towards mitigating all these is no longer a choice but an imperative.