Civil rights, Civil Society, Health, Neo-liberalism

COVID-19. GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH REMAINS A “PRIVATE THING”

Oct 9 2020

Riccardo Petrella* 

The United States of Trump tried everything to derail the 75th UN General Assembly and thus jeopardise the future of the United Nations.  The president of China,  XI Jinping, by unexpectedly declaring on 24 September that his  country had just approved the decision to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, saved the GA a little and opened up a new path of hope for the UN in the future, notably the possible relaunch of the Paris Agreements. Fortunately, because the powerful global masters of business and finance, for their part, gave no evidence of wanting to stray so far from their “business as usual”. 

On the front line of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, they have maintained their credo (Money First, Market First, Stakeholders First) by obtaining these last few weeks from rich  States( in rivalry with each other to support their multinational “champions”- billions of dollars in the form of Advanced Market Commitments for vaccines (still in conception!).

This explains why the GA failed to organise a special session on Covid-19.  Participants were limited to listening to or reading the analyses and proposals presented by each State and the other members of the Assembly. No debates.

Finally, there was no audacity either within the great magma of world political and social “bonism”. Its largest majority  remained submitted to the dominant liberal capitalist economic vision of society. Citizens must still wait for a special session on Covid-19. On Monday 5 October, the presidency of the GA confirmed its holding, hoping that it could take place before the end of the year, but the dates have yet to be fixed.

Because of the devastating power of the pandemic, the UN GA was intended to be a unique opportunity for the deployment of bold thoughts, proposals and decisions. Well, until now, the peoples of the world have been “gratified » by many fireworks of “vaccine” nationalisms (First our people). Proposals for stronger global cooperation have not received the great enthusiasm they deserve. International multilateralism as a model of coping with  global problems has once again proved to be inadequate and  fragile. The argument made by the UN Secretary General in a last resort statement on 25 September in favour of strong global cooperation against the pandemic (“We do not need a world government but stronger multilateralism”) did not have the desired effect. Trying to attract the consensus of anti-internationalist States in favour of world cooperation according to the UN model by discrediting “world government” was not a happy idea. The recognition of humanity as a key legal and political entity in global regulation should be one of the UN’s main long-term goals

In fact, the spirit that blew over this phase of the UN General Assembly was marked by three  mystifying principles :

a) the strategy of equitable and affordable access “for all” to vital goods and services, applied without any nuance to the field of health and, therefore, to the fight against Covid19.Over the past 30 years, this strategy guided the international community choices and committments . It has not been able to resolve any of the deep global and intra-national inequalities in the right to health, water, food, housing…. . How dare the leaders of the world continue to propose it?

b) Maintaining the principle of the for-profit privatisation of patents on life (including vaccines) and all health services. Far from being the solution to the problems, patents have proven to be at the root of the problems, as one of the main causes of the private expropriation of life in the interests of the richest, of the enslavement of research and innovation to money and military power, of the weakness and submission of public policy to the powers of the big pharmaceutical and agro-chemical corporations;

c) the opening to an apparent recognition of health, vaccines in particular, as “global public goods” thanks to a mystifying change in the meaning of the concept of “public good” and “world public good” to which the UN system has contributed, since the 2000s, in accordance with the spirit of “global economic governance”.

What do social “climatologists” think? Is a reversal of the current trend foreseeable?  In any case, I think that it is worthwhile for the inhabitants of the earth to try to provoke it.  Brussels, 8 October 2020

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*Riccardo Petrella (La Spezia, Italy, August 5, 1941) –Agora of the Inhabitants of the Earth. Founder of the International Committee for the World Water Contract, Prof. Emeritus of Globalisation at the Catholic University of Louvain and member of The WPF’s Scientific Committee, Italy. Article sent to Other News by the author.

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