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Isolated thinking

Posted on 30th March 2020 at 07:59am

Right now the world is quite rightly focused on tackling the immediate threat from Covid-19, mainly looking after their own countries through lockdowns and rapidly bolstering their own health services.

However, we must keep an eye on the future as what we prioritise or, more significantly, dismiss now, will have far reaching impacts for us all later which we have not yet fully anticipated, writes Rob McAlister of Glenbarr Consultancy.

Yes, the coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone’s lives, disrupted global markets and exposed the competence (or lack thereof) of governments. And it will probably lead to permanent shifts in political and economic power in ways that will become apparent much later down the road.

We can anticipate greater moves toward selective self-sufficiency (and decoupling as a result) given supply chain vulnerability; even greater opposition to large-scale immigration; and a reduced willingness or commitment to tackle regional or global problems (including climate change) given the perceived need to dedicate resources to rebuild at home and deal with economic consequences of the crisis.

But perhaps the biggest risks are yet to come – two such examples being increased global insecurity and the implications and impacts of instability.

We can expect both developed and developing countries to have difficulty recovering from this crisis, with state weakness and failed states becoming an even more prevalent feature of the world. Countries already facing humanitarian crises, instability or conflict do not have the same capacity to respond and those
who would traditionally support peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance may well turn to focus on their own internal issues.

Coronavirus already threatens to turn aid crises into ‘humanitarian catastrophes’. Restrictions on movement prevent food and medicine from reaching people in adversity, experts warn. You would have a hard time designing a more dangerous setting for the spread of this disease than a country already affected by a humanitarian disaster or conflict.

From past crises of a lesser magnitude, we know these countries cannot adequately respond. Now the real test is coming. The issue is not so much the coronavirus itself. It's the secondary illnesses and the secondary social issues mass infection will bring. The vacuums of political power, corruption, disaffected populations, leading to the inevitable breeding ground for radicalisation, mass migration, social unrest and the subsequent security crises this potent cocktail of issues can create.

So as we understandably focus on current issues closer to home, we must also have some foresight and longer term strategic vision regarding what this current crisis will create and what will ultimately come back to haunt us should we not pay attention to red flags that are already presenting themselves beyond our own borders and current isolated thinking.

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