The COVID – 19 pandemic, has brought to the fore the vulnerability of all the governing systems across the World. The most timely alert has been sounded by the UN secretary general in his address on 18july 2020, where he says that COVID is a shining spot light on the health infra structure inequality. He further adds “Global political and economic system is not delivering on the critical global public goods: Public Heath- Climate Change -Sustainable Development – Peace”. No doubt this pandemic has left the world economy in tatters. Restoring global mobility is the key to reboot the shattered world economy which will be possible only if we find a cure to this pandemic. Piecemeal, country specific solutions will not work. All the countries will have to unite together to deal with this pandemic and find a proper solution in form of cure or Vaccine, instead of playing blame games for geopolitical and economic considerations.
In the meanwhile the advice of the UN Secretary General should be made the template on which the entire world should work on with mutual support from all the countries. Let us explore how the world community can work on these four crucial public goods and take a call forward in the better interest of our mankind. On the delivery of the first important common good; Public Heath Infrastructure, we need to first explore the ways and means to improve it. The complete inadequacy of the Health infrastructure is evident for all of us to see during this pandemic and it continues to remain so. In our country we do not have sufficient hospital beds, doctors and nurses ,health care centres, medical colleges, para medical colleges, blood banks and vaccines of urgent needs. Our medical care centres are urban centric and ill equipped with a very weak digital health platform. If we translate the facts into health statistics per thousand of population it will be a pathetic show.
This can be attributed to our dismal 1.28 percent of GDP spent on health infra against 17.7 percent spent by USA, 10 percent by Britain, 8.5 percent by South Africa and WHO prescribed 5 percent. The health infrastructure of our country as well as third world specially needs radical reform. Time has come for us to wake up and upscale our spending on comprehensive health infrastructure in graduated manner to 5 percent by 2025 and 10 percent by 2030 to be in line with part of the MDG30 requirements. The developed world need to hand hold and help the money starved third world countries to improve the heath infra.
On the delivery of the second and third important common good: Climate Change and Sustainable Development there are some facts which need to be highlighted here. Climate change is also attributed to mutation of viruses as alleged by many environmentalists. If the world does not abide by the Paris Agreement to avoid dangers of the climate change by limiting global warming between 2degree c and 1.5 degree c it may have to face many more new forms of Viruses. Hence developing sustainable low carbon pathways to the future and accelerating reduction of global greenhouse gas emission should be priority of the world. It is estimated that world will have to spend one percent of its GDP while our country needs to commit 2.5 trillion dollars for this effort from 2015 to 2030.We spend 120 billion dollar per year on it which is 2.5 percent of GDP which is not adequate. Whether our country or the world economy can sustain this requirement after taking a very devastating hit due to Covid is a million dollar question? Hence mustering finance for climate change corrections, will continue to linger as a lurking problem for the entire world. The only way to deal with this issue is for the world economies to do a major course correction of the economic model with single devoted focus on Millennium Development Goals2030 as template for economic development by all the countries. The seventeen point MDG30 goals should be the manifesto of contention of all the political parties irrespective of the government systems. Democratic governments should be elected by the public on the basis of manifesto which assures compliance of these goals while the World body should assist and monitor compliance by all the governments. This will go a long way in making our world a better place to live.
On the issue of delivering the last important common good: Peace, UN secretary General has rightly pointed out that the world has failed in delivering common good in the form of peace to the society. Terrorism and Right wing activity across the world have been the major disrupters of peace. Both need to be tackled in a comprehensive manner.
On the issue of the sudden surge of the right wing disruptions across the world, if one googles and checks the number of hate sites and contents, it would be most shocking to know about thousands of such websites spewing venom on others in terms of colour, caste, race and religion. Hence if we need to deliver peace to the world all such websites need to be banned and inter faith, caste and creed dialogue encouraged to avoid propagation of hate into the world community. German Chancellor rightly pointed out recently that “freedom of expression stops once it offends other religion, caste and creed”. Hence the best way to deal with this hate phenomenon is to improve the quality of education which encourages positive outlook on life.
A society which pursues art and architecture in a passionate manner will always be happy and may not end as negative society. Peace will prosper there. All the countries which top the happiness index are an example. Hence carrying out systematic and scientific campaign on the positives of all cultures, with cross cultural interactions and discussions and encouraging fine arts in an aggressive manner will be the best alternative to deal with hate mongering in the society.
On the issue of terrorism which is failing many countries on delivering the common good: peace, one need to remember the quote of Abraham Lincoln. “Violence is the voice of the unheard”. It is also a known fact that One’s freedom struggle can be antinational activity for others. Hence to deal with this problem there is a need for the world to do a comprehensive, dispassionate and scientific analysis of facts, causes, reasons and factors at the ground level to deal with this problem at social, economic, psychological, political and administrative level. Perhaps the following three stage definition on conflict can throw alight on how to deal with both the right-wing and terrorists problem it in an effective way to deliver peace.
“Conflict is latently embedded in the society which dichotomies or polarizes itself into in-groups and out groups or enemies or allies or us and them; with completely incongruous identity , needs, values, goals, principles , desires, norms, perception, feelings , emotions : wherein there is extreme unequal sharing of power, with lack of social ,economic and cultural space leading to frustrations “.
“Conflict is inevitable in the society , if the increase in socio cultural space between the groups leads to snapping of communications with mutual or unilateral ignorance of each other’s feelings and emotions; when the values and goals of the those groups become incompatible to the extent to undermine each other’s goal; when unequal sharing of power, resources, social , cultural, and political space leads to the formation of collective mood which mobilises into antagonistic groups; when elites spearheads those causes of the affected group for their own personal ends and when the needs of the affected group is undermined or frustrated by the institution or a dominant group”.
“The conflict in the above society will be very severe and acute, if the socialisation of the polarised group takes place in a violent environment in which one the affected group thinks violence is the only effective and beneficial way to achieve their ends and becomes aggressive ethnic victimisation; when one group tries to violently subjugate the other group leading to ethnic victimisation with inability to mourn their loss which makes them suffer from egotism and chosen trauma; when state is unable to resolve the conflict between the groups , encourages exclusionary and discriminatory ideology, cultural discrimination cultural discriminations and reinforces historic animosity with complete insensitivity to the feeling and emotions of either one of the group; a weak state led by insensitive leader with failing economy causing wide economic and social disparity among the groups in the society with an antagonistic neighbouring state, which behaves like an enemy”. Thus proper dispassionate, neutral analysis and understanding of the above three stages of conflict by the world communities will go long way to control the disruptors of peace and delivery peace to the world
.Even though we may take all efforts to do course correction after the pandemic, the world community will be failing the man kind if Industrial scale production of Biological Weapons are not monitored and banned. This aspect one day may cause doom to the mankind as the horrific consequences are never highlighted nor brought to the fore. The international community has also not done enough to stop weaponsation of germs and viruses. It is a known fact that human beings are the cruellest species on earth capable of any type of illogical damage to mankind. Two world wars with a casualty of more than 106 million deaths is one such example and hence the issue of countries weaponing germs and viruses and leakage thereof from their facilities need to be first looked into to safe guard humanity against any man made calamity.
Churchill rightly said ´´if you want to plan for the future you need to know the past “. Revisiting ancient history till world war1, throws light on how use of germs and viruses graduated into weapon to impact armies and people of the enemies. From the period of antiquity till 20th century there are many documented incident in which virus and germs like, Tularaemia, bubonic plague, Plague, and small pox along with septic soil and poison were liberally used by armies of repute to wipe out enemies, natives and aborigines resisting them.
However advances in microbiology in the 20th century inter war period brought into fray many new germs and virus into the bio war arena on an industrial scale for the first time into this world. Germany took lead and made germ warfare as part of its philosophy and ventured into anti agricultural biological warfare. During the First World War, anthrax and glandes were used to infect live stock of allied forces and livestock in USA and destructive fungus to destroy wheat crop in Argentina and Germany .Hence immediately after First World War International effort to curb use of virus as weapons started with the Geneva Protocol. This protocol which prohibits use of Chemical and Biological weapons in international conflicts was signed on 17June 1925 and enforced from 8Feb 1928. But this protocol did not cover production, storage and transfer. It does not deter countries using the weapon on non-ratifying parties, utilise no first use option, use within the state and further research, development and stockpiling.
However the loop holes in the protocol did not work as expected during the inter war period and was effectively misused by developed countries. Industrial production of weaponised Tularaemia, Anthrax, Brucellosis, botulism, Anthrax, brucellosis, Plague, Small pox and typhoid went ahead undeterred by developed world .The first serious attempt plug the loop holes and supplement the Geneva protocol, was made by Britain. It brought in the multilateral disarmament treaty banning production of entire category of weapons on 10 April 1972 commonly known as Biological and toxic Weapon Convention BWC1972 ratified in 1975. This was signed 182 countries excluding ten member countries which includes Israel, Egypt, North Korea and south Sudan. It will not be out of place to mention here that this convention did not have an internationally binding inspection, verification and enforcement protocol.
Hence attempts made by the member countries in their five yearly quinquennial conferences from 1980 till 2016 were without consensus. The 2011 meeting came out with protocol for inspection as well as enforcement mechanism which was rejected by USA on the grounds that it did not suit their national interest. This was followed by one more attempt in 2016 when the nonaligned countries rejected it on the grounds of missed opportunity. Thus the effort of international community to come with internationally binding verification, inspection and punishment protocol for bioweapons still remains elusive as on date which.
Lack of effective protocol has allowed countries to openly weaponised viruses with insecure labs prone for leakages irrespective of the country which is in the business. Collaboration of USA with China by funding their banned research on altering pathogens FLU,MERS and SARS to Wuhan Lab, France executing and making functional turn key Wuhan lab in china , participation of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other developed countries carrying out collaborative research on bat virus are some of the facts which stare at us calling for attention. .
It will not be out of place to point out that during the entire period, the developed world continued with their bioweapons programme undeterred by any international agency. However in contrast the progress on chemical weapons control went ahead with the support of the international community staring with CWC 1993. By 1997 this attempt ended with destruction of 97 percent chemical weapons held by many countries and with the 1998 Rome declaration making use of chemical weapon a war crime in the international conflicts.
The stark contrast in dealing with the chemical weapon on one side and biological weapon on the other side by the developed nations should be a matter of concern for the entire world. Time has come for the international community to wake up and come out with a proper solution to put an end to the bio weapon. There can no better chance to do it other than, in the member countries meeting due in 2021 on BWC. If the world community does not take this issue seriously, all efforts to deliver common good to the world in the form of public heath-climate change -sustainable development – peace will be futile. World needs to wake up to this danger which may one day destroy the mankind. Repositioning MDG30 along with an effective internationally binding protocol for verification, inspection and punishment for bioweapon labs across the world is the requirement of the day for the entire world.
Dr K. Saleem Ali IPS (rtd). Former Member NDMA, DGP Tripura and Special director CBI.