In recent history, a number of major events have brought on significant societal changes — for example, September 11, the 2007–2008 financial crisis and the invention of the internet. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest to have such a broad impact across all aspects of our society and economy. While we have not yet reached the end of the pandemic, it is important to reflect on the lasting impacts, and to set the course for a post-COVID-19 world.
While many of our greatest concerns — global cooperation, globalization, faith in public action and in science, social cohesion, and the trade-off between civil liberties and personal privacy — predated the crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to address these issues. To begin the conversations on the lasting impact that the outbreak is sure to have, CIGI has published Global Cooperation after COVID-19, an opinion series offering analysis of the post-pandemic world.
ROHINTON MEDHORA: So here we are, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 9/11, the financial crisis of 2007/8, the invention of the smartphone and the internet have all been used as analogies of game-changing events. Each one, of course, has its own features — this one does too — but the common line in each case is that these are transformative for the way society is structured, for the way the economy works and, in many instances, for the way politics is done as well.
While nominally a health crisis, its impacts go much beyond the science.
SUSAN ETLINGER: As COVID escalates, and as we need to better understand the way that it spreads, we also need to be really careful that in trying to solve one problem we’re not creating an entirely new set of problems that will plague us for years to come.
ROHINTON MEDHORA: Every application of technology has both a good side to it and potentially a negative side to it.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF: If you are going to use a contact-tracing app in order to identify people who have come into contact with someone who is infected, it’s important to build an architecture and a set of rules that minimize the ability to use that data for other purposes.
BESSMA MOMANI: So, to give them this very potent tool of surveillance knowing where they are at all times is very dangerous for civil liberties, very dangerous for freedom of speech, and I think it erodes much of the already thin public trust that many of these communities have in government services.
TERESA SCASSA: I think governments need to be thinking about privacy from the perspective of the human right to privacy.
ROHINTON MEDHORA: This crisis has shown how fragile is the state of global cooperation currently, and how little is the appetite for more of it, precisely at a time when we need more of it — be it in health, in trade, in scientific research, in debt relief.
ILONA KICKBUSCH: There is a clear call to change the international health regulations and the rules of the game, meaning that WHO does get the authority to ask countries for information — actually, to insist on it.
JEAN LEBEL: And talking of big pictures, the G7 and the G20 have been talking over the last five years of global health threats.
ROHINTON MEDHORA: A small bright spot in this crisis has been the response of the research, scientific and policy system.
E. RICHARD GOLD: What COVID did is caused all of the actors involved with doing the research and innovation to abandon that system. Suddenly, instead of doing things themselves and patenting it — and a patent here is a way to keep people out, not to share, not to build on each other, that’s how you make money — they abandoned all that. And they suddenly started radically sharing knowledge.
ROHINTON MEDHORA: It is not too early to reflect on the lasting impacts that the COVID-19 crisis is going to have on, for example, international cooperation, social cohesion, our faith in public action and the trade-off between privacy and the public good.
CIGI’s Global Cooperation after COVID-19 series does just that.
We hope you enjoy reading the series, which may be found on the CIGI website.