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Global Leadership in Post-Coronavirus Era
Material posted: Publication date: 08-04-2020

Beyond doubt, the coronavirus pandemic can be characterized as a historic event that challenges the fundamental principles of contemporary world order. The thing is, the consequences of such a threat are still hard to imagine. The current pandemic is not only about global health crisis, but about appearance of an inevitable impulse leading to qualitative changes in global politics, economy and social sphere. Without exaggeration, we may say that the modern system of international relations passes the phase of war - an atypical one. Deeply divided international community needs efficient, far-sighted visionary leadership more than ever. Preserving the society’s confidence in governments is not a choice, but rather a necessity and a pledge of safeguarding globalization processes and international cooperation.

Before coronavirus, people around the globe had still held out much hope that their governments are able to foresee potential risks and threats and have much needed skills to prevent them. The break of the pandemic, however, has proved otherwise. The recent developments clearly demonstrate that in a post-coronavirus era, most state institutions will be seen as failed, inefficient and extremely vulnerable. The world after Covid-19 would not ever be the same.

Though policy-makers do their best to fight coronavirus, they focus mostly on their own countries. But the 2020 pandemic we witness doesn’t recognise state borders. It is truly global. What is more, it can be stated that the threat coronavirus poses to health and lives of people worldwide, is temporary and even fades in comparison with the political and economic aftermath that would impact the future generations. For that very reason, no country, be it a developed or developing one, would be able to totally overcome this crisis in the long run. Because of this, world leaders must develop solutions to the most acute current problems, while mixing these measures with the process of working out a joint, global vision of future. If policy-makers underestimate the importance of either national or global level of fighting the virus, all the nations are predoomed to face the worst consequences.

Nevertheless, at the current stage, while analyzing the steps governments take in order to tackle the pandemic, we can assume that there is every likelihood that coronavirus is set to lead us to a completely different world, seemingly less free and less open. In other words, it would lead us to a new system of global leadership and international relations - a system where more countries tend to worship nationalism and protectionism at the expense of both national interests and interests of their partners and international cooperation in general. It is highly unlikely that the world would be able to revert to the principle of mutually beneficial partnerships.

Another dangerous outcome for global leadership and word order would undoubtedly be the increase in the number of so-called failed states, that would not be able to bear the burden of the pandemic due to their structural collapse. What is more, even the most developed and prosperous countries would have firsthand knowledge of harmful pandemic implications related to economic stagnation, interrupted supply chains, new surges of migration, lack of «international» will to address global challenges.

Still, it is manifestly obvious that the only leaders in the «post-coronavirus» space would be the countries which would realize the vital importance of the following facts before it is too late.

Firstly, there exists an urgent need to develop the resilience of both national and international structures in the face of such a threat. As it has turned out, not all the states are able to guarantee security (and it is not only about healthcare) to their citizens against the backdrop of the pandemic. Besides, global international institutions (in particular the UN, that is being perceived by default as an international arbitrator for all countries in the face of the threat) has demonstrated poor capacity to resist the pandemic, in addition to inability to consolidate nations and work out a collective action plan.

Secondly, it is up to all the states to create a joint vision or a strategy that would allow to heal the wounds of world economy after coronavirus. Global leaders have already learned lessons of the financial crisis in 2008. But a «post-coronavirus» economic crisis is set to proceed on a larger scale, in more complexed conditions. For this reason, governments should prepare for it now, starting with their national economies in the first place.

And the last but the least, countries must give it one hundred and ten percent to preserve the fundamentals of a liberal and democratic global leadership. Historically, the concept of a government was mostly associated with the idea of a walled and isolated fortress, where powerful rulers - sometimes generous, at times despotic - have the last word and are always ready to protect their territory from external enemies. The Age of Enlightenment has put an end to such a narrow-minded concept of leadership. The finest minds of this era have put forward a new theory. According to it, the main objective of a legitimate government should be the good of common people and addressing their fundamental needs related to security, order, prosperity, justice. The 2020 pandemic, unfortunately, has brought the international society back to the concept of an isolated fortress. That is a catastrophe for the world that is highly dependent on globalization connections. Consequently, now the main challenge for global leaders if to preserve the principles of the Age of Enlightenment. Focusing solely on national problems while ignoring the global needs would irreparably harm the theory of social contract and lead to complete mistrust towards governments and international structures.

We live in times of change. We witness truly fundamental alterations of world order. Coronavirus pandemic is becoming a historic threat, which would sooner or later make global leaders to develop an ability to manage crises, while at the same time work out plans on world future. Standstill of policy-makers in this situation can cause tragic consequences.

Anastasia Ilyukhina

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