According to medical encyclopedias “apathy” means “lack of feeling or emotions; indifference”, and experts state that among other causes, it may also appear as an unconsciously used defense mechanism for protection from anxiety when one is overstimulated by traumatic news.
Today our world is going once again through difficult times caused by COVID-19 pandemic and there are cases everywhere across the globe.
A total 320,189 people around the world have died from the COVID-19 outbreak as of May 19, 2020. As we all keep checking the increasing figures a few times a day for almost three months now, particularly following the gradual “normalisation” of our lives, the trap of developing some kind of apathy and seeing these figures just as statistics is there.
But it should not be the case. First and foremost because this is the number of lost lives of those who were once the mother, son, husband, sister, grandfather, grandchild, best friend, role model, classmate etc. of some other people for whom someone vital is now missing from their life.
Today the priority for all states is to prevent further loss of lives but the situation is very complex, considering the other direct consequences and side effects of the pandemic.
Firstly, even the most developed countries’ health care systems have not succeeded to effectively respond to COVID-19. The contagiousness of the virus showed that in this closely interconnected world, no one, be it in a developing country or in a highly developed one, and not even on a ship in the middle of ocean is protected against this virus.
Furthermore, the tracking of the virus demonstrates that country borders are meaningless when it comes to stopping a pandemic. Such a situation makes it imperative for the entire international community to work on a concerted response and without leaving anyone behind. Simply because, as long as the virus exists in one country, it continues to pose a threat to us all.
Secondly, the world economy was already facing serious challenges even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and for many countries growth rates in 2020 were forecast to be smaller than one percent.
It is no secret to anyone that today’s economic projections are not brighter. According to the IMF, the global economy is expected to experience its worst recession since the Great Depression.
The WTO’s latest forecasts are projecting a negative growth rate of nearly nine percent for 2020. It also predicts a best-case scenario in which world trade has reduced by 13 percent, and a worst-case scenario of 32 percent.
UNCTAD’s latest Global Investment Trend Monitor said that FDI could experience downward pressure of between -30 and -40 percent in 2020–2021.
As we witness mass shutdowns of businesses all around the world, millions of people are faced with a serious risk of losing their job and experts agree that the path to recovery will be long.
Despite this not so bright picture, and as far as states are concerned, the possibility of “economic Darwinism” period can not be allowed, simply because our world is already suffering from a good number of global problems, among them:
Poverty. In 2018, almost eight percent of the world’s workers and their families lived on less than US$1.90 per person per day. A total of 26.4 percent of the world population (almost two billion people) were exposed to severe or moderate levels of food insecurity, meaning they did not have regular access to nutritious and sufficient food.
Lack of equal opportunity to proper health services. Over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safely-managed sanitation services. Around 297,000 children under five die every year from diarrheal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene, or unsafe drinking water.
Migration. In 2019, the number of migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million.
Environmental pollution. Eighty percent of wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. Every year, about eight million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the oceans, killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year. Plastic breaks up into tiny pieces in the sea, which is then consumed by fish and other sea animals, which means an average person eats 70,000 microplastic particles each year.
The list of global problems is much longer than that, but making an exhaustive list is not the purpose of this article.
However, one thing is certain: We can not afford to add to this list the “rise in number of fragile states”. Weakening states lose their ability to address internal problems and ensure proper services, which compromises peace and well-being in the country. It is highly likely that such countries can turn into sources of instability in their region.
As one of the characteristics of our globalised world, security is indivisible and as the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us, no one is safe anymore unless every one is safe.
It is now high time to come together against challenges that might compromise the quality of life of people, particularly that of coming generations.
First and foremost, starting with fighting COVID-19 and establishing a system that can enable the international community to better defend itself against similar challenges.
Turkey started on this path long ago through its enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy, standing by all those in need.
The most recent manifestation of this approach is the fact that while catering to the needs of its own people by providing top-notch health care in fighting the pandemic, Turkey has continued to support those in need and responded positively to requests for help from more than 80 countries by sending locally produced medical supplies ranging from masks to high-tech ventilators.
A common front is also much needed to tackle the problems of environmental pollution, climate change, poverty, famine, migration and others.
These issues are all complex enough and clearly no country alone can cope with them. It is a critical time for everybody to see that the global challenges we are facing make it imperative for all of us to accept the need for genuine international cooperation and better multilateralism, not more polarisation.
Only better functioning international organisations and creative multilateral solutions can help bring together the necessary tools to save our planet. Only by taking into account the needs of the vulnerable members of the international community, can we build trust among peoples to move in this direction.
Suat Akgün is Turkey’s ambassador to Brunei Darussalam.