The concept of a system of Global Governance with smooth multilateral negotiations between global institutions and world leaders representing informed citizens that engage effectively with transnational players from the private sector and civil society, is a concept that distils our greatest ideals for humanity and inclusive democracy.
However, in reality, international leaders disagree on actions to address global challenges and these disparate decisions often do not intersect at the crucial points of peace, justice, and a safe and secure future for humanity and the natural environment.
Our world is rapidly globalizing with technology, information, economies and societies in constant flow where geographical borders and political boundaries are not only blurred but porous.
As the era of globalization presses against the sovereignty of the nation State, its ability to withstand counteracting forces of the 21st century is weakening, and includes in its overboiling melting pot, the accelerated momentum of deregulated economies and cryptocurrency commerce, 5G technologies, big data driven multinational companies, the mass movement of peoples, widening inequalities, and climate change.
With national political authority declining as a result, the world witnesses a growing brand of nationalism that places further pressure on the ideals and actions of global governance. The superpowers of yesteryear and the onslaught of their colonial legacies, the rise of developing nations and the resistance from those who have been most affected, are placing strain on the idea of a “society of nations” or a nation of societies.
Globalisation, economics and information technology have successfully grown beyond the authority of national governments, however, our current system of global governance on which we all still depend, does still allow for political innovation, democratic consultation and opportunity. To reimagine an international sense of political purpose that has the capacity to work within the same scale of 21st century forces, our purpose must serve humanity and the most vulnerable.
With the advent of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic affecting every facet of human life, the international community finds itself at a crossroads in our human development. Today’s global crises of disease and climate change, actively increase already disproportionate levels of poverty and affect at-risk populations the most.
Programme Director, a system of global governance that works for all life on Earth is a defining challenge of our time, this is an opportunity to decide which values are important to us.
If we want a global partnership that offers sound governance, then all countries need to recognise that ending poverty, inequality and other deprivations, go hand-in-hand with intersecting and integrated strategies that improve peace, health, education, hunger, justice, economic growth, the urgency of climate change and the preservation of our natural heritage.
To institutionalise governance at a global level, means that governments deal with the most universal issues, however, COVID has challenged the manner in which we conduct our lives in real and practical ways. More options are now needed to better manage the world’s resources for the good of all humanity. Scientists predict that this is not the last pandemic and so we continue to witness the age-old struggle between microbes and human beings. This time, our questions lie in the linkages between the effect of climate change and the transmission of the coronavirus and other diseases.
While we do not yet have direct evidence that climate change influences the spread of COVID-19, we do know that global warming and human encroachment on wildlife habitats means that animals are running out of space, and less space means more interspecies contact, which leads to increased spread of disease in the animal world.
As we increase the opportunity for pathogens to spread in the natural world, we as human beings are equally coming into more contact with wildlife, and scientists warn that this continued disturbance of wildlife through human activities in conjunction with climate change, could be increasing the risk of diseases passing from animals to humans, and vice versa. So, climate change is changing how we relate to other species on Earth and this has a direct impact on our health and our risk for infections and pandemics.
Infectious agents, viruses, bacteria, and parasites survive and reproduce within a range of optimal climatic conditions.
Many of the root causes of climate change are a major point for concern as these also increase the risk of pandemic outbreaks. We see this in the mass deforestation of natural habitats, where trees, the “lungs of the Earth”, are destroyed for slash-and-burn agricultural purposes, urban sprawl, and mining. The compound effect of deforestation and other human activity therefore adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, so much so that scientists describe how deforestation adds more atmospheric CO2 than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads.
Programme Director, when taking into account that vulnerable populations are forced to live in substandard conditions, polluted environments, and unprotected to the elements, we observe how poverty and inequality exacerbates the suffering and struggle of disease and extreme climatic events.
Due to existing unequal gender roles and responsibilities, rural women are often responsible for gathering and producing food, collecting water and sourcing fuel for heating and cooking. With climate change, these tasks are becoming more difficult. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods have a greater impact on the poor and vulnerable with women comprising 70% of the world’s poor.
The assault of climate-related catastrophes is not the only disaster affecting women and girls the most. Women are likely to be the hardest hit by the outbreak of disease as the majority of primary care givers at home and in the healthcare workforce, are women. With compounded adverse challenges of poverty, access to treatment and gender inequality, the world sees women suffer disproportionately the most from pandemics such as the Coronavirus.
Evidence shows that these gender inequities exacerbate the outbreak of disease and that medical responses do not incorporate gender analysis therefore further exacerbating inequities. The response of global governance bodies to the Coronavirus outbreak has the chance to change the way we understand and treat disease by integrating gender analysis into the knowledge of how socially-constructed roles and identities affect vulnerability to an outbreak.
Asking and answering important questions of the effect of gender inequality in the midst of the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak will improve the effectiveness of the response, promote gender equity, and save lives. Not asking such questions now may bear a great cost— a cost that will primarily be carried by women.
Programme Director, we have many reasons to take climate change as an urgent imperative to global governance in order to improve our health, reducing risks for infectious disease and preserve our life on Earth.
The consequences of climate change are still being explored, studied and understood. However, the changes we now notice in infectious disease transmission patterns and the spill-over of disease into human society are part of these consequences and therefore learning more about these complex relationships is an imperative to help us predict the impact of future pandemics.
With this in mind, we must look at global governance within the context of knowledge sharing, dialogue, exchange of science and information while not forgetting the obligations that we have to restore the balance in nature and responsibly reduce human impact.
Sustainability is key to our future.
In a post COVID world, pushed by the instinct to survive, and manage and contain harmful microbes, could this new and drastic context serve as an inspiration and a platform for us to innovate new ways to manage the world more humanely?
The threat is real and growing and so there is an urgency to place climate change as an imperative within the system of global governance.
As the world community of nations gather at this crossroad for humanity, we hope that world leaders choose the path of collaboration, partnership and exchange of knowledge to safeguard our existence by protecting the natural world and sustaining all forms of life on Earth.