Ciphers of post-coronavirus world: National self-sufficiency and global cooperation

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has shared his views on what kind of world will be awaiting us in aftermath of pandemic

Ibrahim Kalin   | 22.04.2020
Ciphers of post-coronavirus world: National self-sufficiency and global cooperation


The world, caught off guard against the new type of coronavirus (COVID-19), will soon embark on a quest to strike a new balance. The main actors of the new power struggle will be the globalist, nation-statist, and populist movements that have already been competing for a long time. It will not be easy to break old habits, but the flow of history will speed up. The direction of this movement, however, will be determined through the decisions being taken these days.

The COVID-19 outbreak has laid bare the global order’s immune system, which has turned out much weaker than it was thought. The epicenter of the crisis originating in China has very quickly shifted to Iran, then to Europe. In recent weeks, the U.S. has taken the lead in terms of new cases and the death toll. Countries’ preparedness for the virus, their measures, and crisis management skills will soon emerge as a serious political issue before many governments and will be reflected on the polls of countries set for elections.

Since the pandemic is primarily a public health issue, everybody – liberal or conservative – expects the public authority to step in to take action by exercising its power. It is obviously a very normal expectation. Political observers say that the power of the state will increase and the security perspective will take on greater significance in this process. Notwithstanding the portion of truth in this observation, the issue at hand is not about maintaining the public order alone. The overall ecosystem, consisting of public health, basic services, food, energy, transportation, and communication infrastructure and the supply chain, should work effectively and in harmony. How this eco-system operates in concert will determine the marks, as it were, on the scorecards of the countries.

Three elements of this ecosystem will gain specific importance in the post-virus world. Bio-security, cyber-security, and food security will be the hot topics of the coming decades. Biological products, treatment methods and vaccines, as well as the bio-terror threat, will be among the main topics of public health and national security.

Every day, billions of transactions are carried out over the Internet and social networks. We can safely predict that this trend will gain greater intensity in the post-COVID-19 world, and practices, such as working from home and video conferencing, will be used more frequently. Therefore, communication infrastructure, cybersecurity, and the protection of private data will become much more important.

Finally, food security will enforce the development of new areas of expertise and investment in both how food is produced and how it is supplied. The natural and chemical components of the food we buy and how it is ultimately delivered to our tables will also gain more importance.

These three security issues will also bring up the necessity of new regulations between countries and in global markets. Countries with strong agriculture and livestock infrastructure will be among the winners in this process.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the vulnerabilities of international institutions and organizations. The effectiveness, competence and legitimacy of organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the G20 will now be put on the table. The UN’s inefficacy in this crisis has confirmed just how right our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been to consistently point out that "The world is bigger than five." The EU has been severely criticized, especially because it did not or could not help Italy and Spain, causing many to ask themselves, "Does the EU really exist?" The efficiency and legitimacy of these institutions will depend on how they will come out of this process.

With its medical aid sent to Italy, Spain, and the U.K., Turkey has shown once again that it is a reliable member of NATO.

The new strain of coronavirus will take a heavy toll on the world economy. The cost of the SARS outbreak to the global economy in 2003 was around $40 billion. It is estimated that the cost of COVID-19 will be $ 3 to 4 trillion ultimately. Europeans are saying that a new Marshall plan is needed, but it is no secret that the Donald Trump administration is not entertaining such a thought, nor does it have the capacity to do so. The discussions revolving around the idea that "China could propose its own Marshall plan" are dropping important hints about the future direction of the new economic balances that will emerge.

It is too early to say who will be the real winners and losers of this period marked by COVID-19. It is not possible to make predictions with mathematical precision on this subject. The big actors might lose big, and the smaller ones accordingly. One thing is certain, though: We are no longer living in an era when the big fish can get away with swallowing the small one; we are rather living in an age in which the smart and agile fish can find itself the safest path in turbid waters. Countries, regional alliances and international institutions and organizations will have to act in light of this fact in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In this process, national and domestic self-sufficiency and global cooperation will have to progress hand in hand, in coordination. The pandemic has revealed the importance of the national capacities of individual countries. Countries with a strong infrastructure and a strong national capacity that took prompt action are putting up a more effective fight against the crisis. Turkey has demonstrated the importance of investing in national and local capacity in public health, communication, agriculture and livestock, and the supply chain.

But we cannot afford to ignore the importance of international cooperation, either. No country is expected to deal with such crises alone. Regional and international cooperation is much more important now than ever. A global order based on equality and fair sharing will be to the benefit of everybody. After COVID-19, national self-sufficiency and global cooperation will increase in importance simultaneously.

Turkey is taking the lead among the countries with the best crisis management in the coronavirus era. We have seen that the massive investments we have made in the health sector over the past years are now paying back abundantly. Announcing its first package of measures on March 12, including the suspension of schools, Turkey became one of the first countries to initiate a process of prevention against the pandemic. The Economic Stability Shield program announced has alleviated the burden of workers and the business world in this critical process. Turkey has encountered no issues with regards to emergency care units, hospital beds, the production of medical protective equipment and the supply of medications.

Since March 12, measures against the virus such as halting air, land and sea transportation, the closure of borders, banning travel between cities, weekend curfews in 31 provinces, intense social distancing measures, isolation, the number of tests, meeting needs of citizens who have to stay home via new support chains by security forces working together with civil servants have featured Turkey an effective crisis manager.

The fact that President Erdogan has been closely monitoring this process and mobilized all our country’s resources played a key role in achieving this success. The fact that President Erdogan has been closely monitoring this process and mobilized all our country’s resources played a key role in achieving this success. Most recently, the opening of Basaksehir City Hospital, two more new hospitals being built in Istanbul (in Sancaktepe and at the Ataturk airport), and the entering into service of domestically-designed and produced ventilators have all contributed to Turkey’s momentum of success in the fight against the pandemic.

There are two key takeaways here: A strong infrastructure and strong leadership in combating natural disasters are indispensable elements of crisis management. The infrastructure investments made under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the effective crisis management and the coordination between official institutions are also getting a lot of support from the public. Turkey is setting an example for other countries with its strong performance in these areas.

The pandemic has exposed the already fragile fault lines of the current world system more radically. The lessons to be drawn from this process will determine the course that humanity will soon be walking along. This epidemic has the potential to bring us closer together, as well as the possibility of removing us further apart. Humanity, which has brutally abused and maltreated nature for nearly two centuries, might, by chance, decide to take stock of everything, and perhaps reconsider what this life’s priorities are. It is now inevitable to make a radical paradigm shift in issues such as environmental crisis, climate change, biological and chemical weapons, GMO products and organic agriculture. Engaging in self-reflection and drawing up a balance sheet based on reason and wisdom will allow the earth and the sky, and soil and water to start breathing again and will surely be in our favor.

[Assoc. Prof. Ibrahim Kalin completed his doctoral degree at Georgetown University and has many books and articles published on Islamic philosophy, Islam and Western relations, and Turkish foreign policy. Kalin is also the spokesman for the Turkish Presidency, Ambassador, special advisor to the president and deputy secretary-general of the Presidency]

*Translated by Omer Colakoglu and Firdevs Bulut

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