“Shocking how little has been done to avert an entirely predictable catastrophic moral failure,” said Director General WHO Tedros Ghebreyesus. The vaccine grab is on. It is the survival of the most vaccinated. Most vaccinated are those who have invested the most in producing and buying them. Those who have invested most are those who have the most money. So, what is wrong with it? Nothing, perfectly legitimate. But entirely self-serving. As the rich do mass vaccinations for old and young the poor countries are struggling to get even their most vulnerable segments covered. Logic says, too bad, they deserve it. But logic also says that it is these inequities that lead to inequalities, and it is these inequalities that lead to insecurity.
Covid-19 has laid bare the thinness of humanity, the sparseness of morality and the pretense of security. Economies that were mighty once have become a shadow of themselves. Countries that were the lands of opportunity have become ghost towns of bankruptcies. Never in a century has the world faced insecurities of the level, scale and scope as presently. This should have been time for reflection, time for introspection and time to rediscover the true spirit of being human. Instead, it seems to have become a time for more division, more self-absorption and more tunnel vision. The only instinct is to survive the moment, the crisis, the fourth wave etc.
In this atmosphere to talk about a security dialogue is essential but perhaps not the top priority for most. Why this reluctance despite the need? Perhaps because the constant fear of being subject to an invisible virus has made all other visible alert sensors mute. Perhaps because the race to vaccinate itself out of the pandemic has engulfed all other policy decisions. But, perhaps the understanding of what security means and how it affects every single aspect of one’s life is not really registering.
When Pakistan held its first Islamabad Policy Dialogue few considered it as anything beyond Indo-Pak relationship repeat. A look at the headlines and discussions will show that the understanding of security is more about securing borders and the LoC. That Is where more dialogue needs to take place. The dialogue on security needs a pre-conversation on what all is involved in World Security to make people relate with how the virus and any other danger is interrelated and codependent on other insecurities. A comprehensive security dialogue is a conversation that any and all nations must have independently and jointly to create an all-encompassing security. Otherwise, just wait for another shock and awe like Corona to happen. Here are some areas that need to be part of the security policy narrative of the world:
Economic insecurity- The big guns have run out of ammunition. Scenes never seen before are being witnessed. The US economy has fallen multiple times. Europe has been locked down since Christmas and Easter seems another quite at home affair. Shops, pubs, restaurants, cinemas all closed down for months. Even in the rich countries middle class has been pushed into the poor segment. Pew Research Center found that the ranks of the global middle class, i.e., those earning $10-$50 per day fell by 90 million people to almost 2.5 billion last year. That has expanded the bracket of poor, or those living on less than $2 a day, by 131 million, Pew estimated.
Climate change insecurity- Climate Change is perhaps the biggest insecurity of all times. The pandemic is a result of the havoc created by man’s meddling with nature. The one year post-Covid-19 saw skies regain their life in lockdown and lose it again when human beings were allowed to resume their rat race. Presently, Sydney is flooded and drowning in flash floods. Fires in Melbourne and California hills took half a year to control. Pakistan is already in the throes of melting and urban flooding. With $3.8 billion lost in the last two decades Pakistan is really facing environmental insecurity of the worst type.
Borders and wars- While wars are being condemned they are being indulged in as well. India’s unilateral actions in Kashmir continue. Its aggression against the Chinese almost led to a full-scale war. Afghanistan is still struggling to own up its responsibility for creating peaceful political settlement with the Afghan Taliban. Terror attacks in Afghanistan show the fragility of the peace process. With inequalities growing violence is a logical consequence.
Knowledge superiority- Inequality is the bane of all insecurity. The pandemic has tested the research depth of nations. Developed nations with their superior research and knowledge base have an advantage of developing vaccines, etc., for these viruses. That itself has created an unfair world where the rich countries are not only producing mass vaccines but busy buying it off the rest of the world to ensure that their populations get it before others. That is going to create speculative gambling and betting galore. It is going to create havens of smuggling and grey markets for the poor countries. It is going to create black markets, gold diggers and blood diamonds on vaccine jabs. Fake vaccines, fraudulent practices, killer injections are all going to beat the worst of horrors experienced or seen.
Rays of hope- Stars shine most in the darkest nights. All is not lost, especially for Pakistan. While incredible sadness and lowness on inhumanity and insecurity are on display there are rays of hope too. Pakistan has become a case study of managing corona with compassion. While India has become a case study of mismanagement of corona, Pakistan has been globally acknowledged on two fronts. Firstly, its social protection programme to save the poor; and secondly, its green revolution efforts during the pandemic. The Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme has been quoted by International Policy Center for inclusive growth as a model for saving the poor from devastation in the world. The programme delivered $ 1.1 billion to 14.8 million families at the risk of extreme poverty.
The world needs to understand that more of the same will lead to more of the same. Greed, self-centeredness, win-lose, will lead to a more unequal world. A more unequal world is a more insecure world. Never before has the lesson that collectivism is the only solution been reinforced more clearly. Pandemic has been a leveler, an equalizer and a non-discriminator.
With the rich countries still busy procuring all resources for only their people they forget the basic lesson of the Corona Virus- Nobody is safe till everybody is safe. They can vaccinate every body in their countries but there will be a South African or a Nigerian or a Columbian variant that left untreated will travel and make these vaccines ineffective. The best vaccine to make the world secure is caring for others, sharing with others, compassion, empathy and contribution. It is the practice of these values that will be the best security against a resurgence of the virus.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021