A very interesting and educative webinar

The Corona Virus and its associated Covid19 disease has turned the world upside down and we may never be the same again. Many of our resolutions for the year 2020 had to be put on hold. Travel, visits, vacations, all shelved for shelter-in-place and lockdown. Many a businesses may never recover. We have had to find new ways to meet online, virtually. Real life heroes:the frontlines in the health industry have had to put their life on the line and many lost their lives. We salute them, we wish the departed souls eternal rest. However, life must go on and we found new ways of keeping the conversations going across countries and boundaries.

So today, 7th May 2020, I joined a very interesting webinar titled: Global Order Amidst Global Disorder.

The webinar was jointly hosted by the Tällberg Foundation and The School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP) at The American University in Cairo. 

The introduction to the webinar invite states: 

"For decades, the global architecture built in the late 1940s served mankind well. Yet the global system has evolved: Cold War, the United States as the sole superpower, the emergence of China and today’s hodgepodge of multiple power centers. What’s next—and what might be in Egypt’s and, more broadly, the Middle East’s best interests?"

The panelists made up eminent personalities whose names I have only heard or seen written made my day, as thanks to Zoom, I was able to see and hear them in person. The panelists are:

1. Jan Eliasson, Chair of the Governing Board, SIPRI; Former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sweden

2. Nabil Fahmy, Founding Dean, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP), The American University in Cairo and Former Egyptian Foreign Minister

3. Ghassan Salamé, Former UN envoy for Libya and International Relations Professor, Emeritus Sciences Po, Paris

4. Alan Stoga, Chairman of the Tällberg Foundation and President, Zemi, US 

The panel was moderated by 
Ibrahim Awad, Professor of Practice in Global Affairs and Director, Center for Migration and Refugee Studies.

L-R: Nabil Fahmy, Ibrahim Awad, Jan Eliasson, Alan Stoga and Ghassan Salame

Professor Ibrahim Awad in his opening remarks, introduced the speakers and then posed questions to each speaker on issues surrounding the chosen topic: What would be the order, will there be new orders and practices after the pandemic?

According to Jan Eliasson who described himself as a 'worried optimist', yes, interdependence will have to be re-evaluated. There will be need to identify what kind of institutions will be required and so on. He noted that crisis usually bring the best or the worst in people and there will be need to focus on whether we allow the best or the worst of us to come out of this pandemic. He thinks we need to make a choice, will we look back outward and into the future or will we look backwards and inwards? The choice is ours to make.

In his own remarks, Alan Stoga who describes himself as a 'Hopeful Pessimist' says the United States has to rethink everything. He explained that a unilateral decision after September 11 kickstarted the US-global relationship with the world, which is the situation in existence today. He noted that with the pandemic, the people in the United States seem to be moving towards more localization rather than globalization. He said this is evident in the outcry about opening the economy. Americans are mainly calling for the opening of the barber shop, restaurants, beaches and not about opening borders or travel out of the United States. At this particular time, the focus of Americans is about getting out and going about life at home rather than engaging the world.

Ghassan Salame noted that the economy of the world came to a standstill with the pandemic. He is alarmed that the situation is like if we don't die of Covid 19, then we will certainly die of hunger. States are getting weaker as the economy weakens. He explained that we have much to learn from the Corona Virus pandemic. He noted that at his age and profession, the most profound disaster he witnessed is the Chernobyl disaster but then he says that was a disaster where we knew what was needed to contain it; physicists, epidemiologists and so on. We knew what we were dealing with and how to contain it. With Covid19, we are groping in the dark. He concluded that crisis of the future are likely to follow this pattern and now is the time to be prepared for the future.

In his own submission, Nabil Fahmy said we are facing serious micro questions and we are unable to give short precise answers to them. The corona virus has taught us that there is no discrimination between the rich and the poor. The powerful of the world must therefore rethink investing in destructive capability and destructive weapons and think more of investing in health systems and preparedness. He says there is a need to build the United Nations into a more robust institution. He concluded by saying that either we work together or suffer the consequences together for we have seen that we are less powerful than we think. The Corona Virus has taught us all a lesson in humility.

Caveat: This summary of the webinar is just my understanding from what I listened to. It does not represent all the exact words used by speakers. For the full transcript of the webinar and recording please visit the Tallberg Foundation Website: https://tallbergfoundation.org


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