By Dr. Sarala Fernando
Many excellent recommendations are appearing in the press these days about the path forward after COVID-19, such as increased focus on domestic agriculture, energy resort to renewables, re-thinking on import substitution, re-focusing tourism on the local and regional, pro-poor policies for the daily wage earners etc. What is missing is the debate on how to take forward the gifts provided by nature as a result of the months of lockdown. Around the globe, the reduction in air pollution, clear skies, rivers running clear and sightings of rare animals and unusual flowering have been welcomed as the “green harvest”.
Increased digitalisation during the COVID-19 crisis has permitted more exchanges of images and data on the unique gains in the natural world as a result of the lockdowns. There was even speculation that the largest ozone hole over the Arctic had closed although some scientists disagreed on its cause. Before COVID-19, economists chose to believe that globalisation was unstoppable, an ever increasing movement of peoples and goods relying on global supply chains. They chose to ignore the warning signs of extreme weather events, harbinger of global climate change and the onset of de-globalisation witnessed in rising inequalities, resistance to free movement leading to border controls, and calls to reverse outsourcing in favour of national self-reliance. Protecting the environmental gains that nature has offered us in the lockdowns is the best “bright” idea in the emerging new Normal.
Ideas have to be pursued at the national and regional levels because at this time of crisis, the international system appears paralysed with the UN Secretary General himself lamenting the lack of a coordinated global approach. Now that the pandemic recovery is under way, the very existence of WHO is under threat, a prey to the US-China conflict.
Dr. Sarala Fernando
Former Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and International Organizations in Geneva, (with concurrent accreditation to the Holy See).
Former Ambassador to Thailand (with concurrent accreditation to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), and Sweden (with concurrent accreditation to all the Nordic and Baltic countries)
Former Director General,
Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute