I told you so. In all humility, I was not alone. The WHO issued a veritable flood of dire warnings. Dozens of NGOs did the same. So did an army of globalists who argued that common sense dictated that Covid is a global problem that requires global cooperation to save lives and a world economy of which we are all a part.
We argued that Africa, with poor its health conditions and poorer health facilities, was likely to produce a highly transmissible mutant virus that would find its way north and bite a Europe and America that ignored Africa firmly in the bum.
I may be overstating the case. Scientists are waiting for more data before a judgement on the seriousness of the Omicron variant. So far there appears to be good news and bad news in initial reports from Africa and the 29 non-African countries to which it has spread in a matter of days.
But there is good reason to believe that the Omicron mutant may not have developed, or we would be able to control it better, if the developed world had made more vaccines available to the developing world through the WHO’s Covax scheme. Their support was Scrooge-like at best. They made noises and then dispatched a few million here and another million there to a continent which required ten billion of doses.
The result is that an estimated 60 percent of Europeans have been vaccinated and only seven percent of Africans. One billion doses in Europe were destroyed because they were not distributed before their sell-by date.
At the root of this problem is the conflict between the needs of the nation state versus the needs of the world as a whole and the inability of the national politician and their public to comprehend that the two complement more than they compete. Unfortunately, that view fails to win votes.
It is an instinct that when faced with fear based on problems such as disease, immigration or economic disaster, to withdraw behind borders; pull up the drawbridge; lock the doors and shutter the windows. But it is wrong. The virus ignores all those barriers.
Covid is not the only example of the need for counter intuitive international cooperation and statesmanship. Climate change is an even bigger and arguably more important challenge. The pandemic will hopefully become endemic and cease to rule our daily lives. But if nothing is done about global warming the waters will continue to rise and rise and…
And yet China and India managed to scupper the COP26 climate change conference with their last minute spanner to protect their national interest by allowing fossil fuel production, especially coal, at indeterminate levels. It should be clear that they were not the only villains of the piece. Cheering them from the sidelines were Australia, America’s Republican Party, The OPEC countries and Russia.
Even Norway—which is usually associated with the environmental lobby—argued that they should maintain their profitable offshore oil operations. A government spokesman explained: “We use very little the oil. So, it is not our responsibility to reduce production. It is the responsibility of the consumers.”
Then there is migration. There were 47.5 million displaced people in the world in 2020, and that was before Western withdrawal from another estimated 3 million. They are victims of climate change, war, and acute poverty. In many instances their problems are the direct consequence of developed world policies.
And yet they are vilified by many in Europe and America when they seek to cross vast land masses or seas to improve their lives or, in many cases, to simply pursue the survival instinct. Governments respond by erecting walls, razor wire fences, and, in some cases (Britain) actually cut overseas aid that helped people stay in the countries of their origin.
They argue amongst themselves about responsibility for the refugees. Sometimes the refugees are used as political pawns (Belarus and to a lesser extent Turkey) to extract money and concessions. In other countries (Britain and France) they are exploited for votes from the large and loud xenophobic minority.
The migration problem, like the pandemic and climate change, can only be solved through international cooperation. In this case involving investment, trade, security guarantees, overseas aid and internationally agreed rules and methods for migration. But this is unlikely to happen because the perceived the needs of the nation state v the refugees.
In modern history there are probably only one and a half attempts to solve world problems with international cooperation. The half was the creation of the League of Nations whose failure was one of the main causes of World War Two. It took the tragedy of an estimated 80 million deaths in the Second Great War to persuade politicians that an international body—the United Nations and its constituent organisations—was needed. It does much good work, but unfortunately it has been perennially hamstrung by the national interests of its membership.
The coronavirus pandemic had claimed 5,215,414 lives as of 0900 GMT 3 December 2021. This is still far short of the wartime figures. But the WHO has predicted another 700,000 deaths in Europe alone by the end of February. This was before Omicron made its entrance. What lethal figure must be reached for the developed nations to accept that Covid in their countries and others can only be defeated through international cooperation?
* Tom Arms is the Foreign Editor of Liberal Democratic Voice. His book “America Made in Britain” has recently been published by Amberley Books. He is also the author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War.”