Capitalist competition is arresting the fight against Covid-19, argues Jamal Elaheebocus
During a global pandemic, internationalism can save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives. However, the rampant neoliberal ideology running through most of the world’s wealthiest countries has meant there has been precious little of it. Coronavirus knows no borders, and the dependence of us all on each other has been shown throughout the pandemic.
Donald Trump is symbolic of this lack of international co-operation. His dangerous, unfounded, ridiculous claims, such as that the virus could have been stopped by China and that the WHO had not been sufficiently independent of China, have jeopardised efforts at international co-operation. The temporary suspension of funding to the WHO is a murderous crime, considering how vital the WHO’s work is in poorer countries.
As well as this, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for a complete change in the way the WHO operates, including the creation of a team of investigators which can investigate the outbreaks of diseases, similar to weapons investigations. All of this adds to the general attack on China from the countries who have looked for this opportunity for years.
The WHO is one of the most valuable examples of international co-operation. Throughout the pandemic, it has provided clear information and advice to countries about when to implement and lift lockdowns and the need for tracking, testing and isolating. It has also provided clear advice to the public about social distancing and hand washing, something we have seen precious little of coming from the British government. Much of this advice has been purposefully ignored by governments who seek to keep their economies going at any cost to the working class and the vulnerable.
It is therefore little surprise that it has been brutally attacked and accused of being ineffective. This has mainly come from the most neoliberal countries such as the US, Australia, France and the UK, among others. It is no coincidence that these are the same countries who have offered so little co-operation with other countries.
Meanwhile the country who has been at the end of so much criticism from these same countries, China, has delivered 10,000 testing kits to Palestine and pledged to make the vaccine a “global good”. This is in contrast to Trump who attempted to buy access to a vaccine that was developing in Germany in March. They have pledged extra funding to the WHO to make up for the cut in funding from the US.
The self-centred, arrogant and short-sighted leadership, lacking any regard for poorer countries, has been around for centuries and is best shown today through imperialism. Countries, particularly in the Middle East, have been exploited for decades, either for their resources or the potential for imperialist powers to exert control over a region by invading the country.
UN Secretary-General’s calls for a global ceasefire have been largely ignored by the leading imperialist nations. The UK launched airstrikes in Iraq during April and airstrikes in Syria resumed hours after Guterres’ statement calling for the ceasefire. China itself has taken the opportunity to pursue its military interests in the South China Sea.
Yemen particularly, which has been relentlessly bombed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition backed by the US and UK, is going to be “deleted from maps all over the world”, according to the head of the UN refugee agency in Yemen.
Iran has suffered under US sanctions for over 40 years and under EU sanctions for almost 15 years. This has drastically reduced its ability to deal with the outbreak in the country, which was the largest in the Middle East and affected surrounding countries. As a result, Iran has had over 130,000 cases and over 7,000 deaths.
More urgently than ever do we need a rapid and complete change in approach. If a coronavirus vaccine is produced, it must be available for every single person and must be prioritised for those countries whose health system is vulnerable to collapse due to the pandemic. The cost of a vaccine that could be provided around the world is just $20 billion, which is a tenth of the cost of renewing Trident. Despite this, a meeting of EU-led donors raised just $8 billion.
Considering the extent to which some of the countries who attended have contributed to the dire situations the healthcare and infrastructure of the most vulnerable countries this contribution is an insult to poor countries.
The inequalities across the world have been starkly exposed by the coronavirus pandemic. The response by wealthy countries has shown their complete unwillingness to support those who are most vulnerable in the world. There is a danger of more pandemics and we must fight for an internationalist approach to ensure we do not face another pandemic with this disgraceful level of inequality.
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