Westphalian order will survive coronavirus disorderEconomy 28 March 2020
Incidence of events that draws noteworthy attention to global discourse is scarce. All the media outlets, public, social networks, and even gossips fluctuate towards the freshly securitized issue – Coronavirus outbreak. Originated (and cured) from PR China, this quite obscure disease has occupied global affairs imposing severe changes into our daily routines. It is shyly boosting national sovereignty as an inevitable contemporary problem solver. Could this sui generis “enemy” be a turning point global transformation? Does this situation have capacity to be a re-shaping factor of future order once pandemic is put under control?
Do we actually know how the virus originated?
No! And we will never find out. Nor we need to strive towards that goal, as such action of hunting the cause would inspire conspiracy-based scenarios rather than rational analyses based on evidence. Instead of focusing to assess the consequences and adapting responses to be more efficient, this search for hidden reasons behind the pandemic would be an irrational waste of resources.
Hence, it unnecessarily ignites global focus in wrong direction. Coronavirus outbreak is at its peak these days in Europe. The southern EU Member States are dominantly affected by the disease, with Italy being a leader in dark statistical accounts. It holds the record number of deaths, followed by Spain with most infected so far.
An alarming signal which classified this epidemic situation in Europe as horrific, became viral as of the moment when hundreds of people started dying on a daily basis in Italy, going beyond the statistics reported by China’s authorities a few weeks earlier. Even the world’s political leaders and famous athletes were infected, showing that none of us is immune.
Some notes on how pandemic has changed our lives
A non-questionable argument is now more than justified – the 4th industrial revolution has already taken over all our major fields of life. What used to be described with various euphemisms such as the “near future” or an “elusive alternative”, is now brought into the current reality: digital life is not an additional asset anymore, but a Holy Grail of our existence.
The global society experienced complete “internetisation” of businesses, private life, education, and made even public institutions to adopt new forms of operating. What specifically shapes current life under the crisis is the stunning account of jobs that could be done remotely. In support of this thesis, some predictions claiming that 75% of current job posts will cease to exist slightly earlier than the projected 2030 are accountable. Global business order is still operative despite hundreds of millions of people carrying their working duties remotely, which surprisingly demystified myth on “huge crash” of the global economic system during the pandemic.
The second attribute of the Covid19 period is an artificially established/imposed societal laboratory during the crisis. No one could ever argue that an unknown virus spread could cause the world to become paralyzed. It made billions of people isolated within their homes, while everyday activities are reduced to a minimum. UNESCO reported that more than half of the total population of pupils are on a distance learning regime. These reductions are followed by a globally minimized (public) transportation and migratory flows, which complements the third attribute of this crisis – allowing our planet to take a breath.
Such a luxury would have been hardly achieved in almost all other circumstances. Epidemic crisis of global scale has demonstrated many environmentally friendly outcomes – less air pollution, cleaner water, and a more healthy way of life in general. Traditionally most polluted areas in China were registered as the cleanest ever since the measurement is recorded. Some of the busiest airline companies that operate long haul transport in Eurasia and Southern hemisphere (Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad), have along with their hub airports, completely aborted all operations, except cargo shipping.
Consequences are disturbing – thousands of events are postponed or cancelled including the Olympic Games as a symbol of mankind’s strength and unity. Despite slightly demonstrated awareness by the global public, the extent to which the repercussions of the crisis will influence economies worldwide will be immeasurable.
The fourth feature that this crisis imposed on a global scale is related to emotions and empathy, on both personal and interstate level. If not forever, it will doubtless impact the way on how we will personally perceive social distancing and will teach us to harmonize and transform our usual habits in interpersonal relations. What makes this issue a more arguable, is a systemic empathy which definitely failed this time. Though some individual actions through which countries delivered aid to each other, coordination of a global aid allocation was clearly mission impossible. Even the WHO did not sustain itself as a valid and reliable actor. What sounded as promising pacifying and benevolent potential of “Coronavirus diplomacy” has vanished faster than it would have been expected for a situation like this.
Lastly, this crisis clearly demonstrates that globally, people are (in most cases) disciplined when an unexpected and sudden crisis arises. It shows zero tolerance towards the fake news and all forms of misinformation and promotes recognized experts, scientists, and technologic achievements as front runners of the process.
Is Covid19 evolving into a tipping point for a new order?
In a historical continuum there always existed specific orders at a certain period. These settings are intersected by specific phenomena or events which deliberately shut down the previous, and always inaugurated new eras. How intense should that breaking point need to be, in order to qualify as a tipping point for a new global order, is an endless discussion. One could argue that last global order crossroads occurred after the 9/11 attacks, but we witnessed similar major events before – World War II, Cuban Missile Crisis, Berlin Wall fall, followed by pertinent events such as interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world economic crisis in 2008, and the Arab Spring (2011/12) which prolonged into a Syrian conflict escalation.
Is the Covid19 crisis conveying all the necessary attributes to reshape the future occurrences and potentially restructure the global order? It is not. On the contrary, it speeds up the decline in an ongoing intergovernmentalism of global affairs and makes most of the ongoing integration processes obsolete by intensifying the roles of national states. From what it has been constructed as dominant public discourse and initially perceived as a conspiracy matter, the Coronavirus settings have increased anxiety over future world’s outlook.
The perception of a new common mankind’s invisible enemy is an immediate outcome and is fruitfully engaged in the omni-polar world order full of divisions. It thus could, to some extent ease global divisions, but expectations of role in expelling the recurrent conflicts from global settings – are utopian. Therefore, the crisis once again demonstrated that the Westphalian era is a more sustainable mechanism in regulating societal affairs rather than any other tested in practice. Sovereign countries are yet truly dominant actors that successfully kept the power and implemented it to unforeseen situations, leaving very limited space for other non-state actors or international organizations. But this victory of national sovereignty over the other actors in crisis management is pyrrhic, as international organizations and NGOs naturally do not possess a monopoly over the resources; they are rather more proactive and learning actors than the inert national states are.