Authors: Elizabeth Deheza and Srgjan Kerim*
The COVID-19 blame game is underway and it has already severely inhibited the implementation of a co-ordinated, multilateral response to fight the coronavirus. When the need is greatest for international cooperation and collective action to confront the most severe global challenge since the Second World War, world leaders are moving away from globalisation and public trust in international institutions is evaporating. We believe this divisive behaviour has been compounded by the lack of clear communication between the World Health Organization (WHO) and Member States and that ‘communicative multilateralism’ must play the central role in beating the virus.
The WHO, a United Nations (UN) specialised agency, has a mandate from its 193 Member States to provide science-based recommendations to protect human health worldwide. The agency had been calling for better preparedness for epidemics or pandemics long before the current crisis, highlighting the vulnerability of many healthcare systems towards such crises. Unfortunately, when the moment arrived, the absence of a clear and simple communication framework and common understanding between the WHO and the Members States undermined previous work and the goodwill the agency once enjoyed.
When several cases of pneumonia were first reported in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, the WHO noted the new threat and started independent epidemiological investigations to understand the cause. WHO’s communications stayed close to China’s official line and even endorsed a preliminary investigation that the virus might be limited to animal-to-human transmission, despite warnings from Taiwan of the possibility of human-to-human transmission.
Later, on 10th January, the WHO released an interim Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidance note for Member States and on 14th January it warned hospitals of the possibility that the virus could spread between humans. On 20th January China confirmed human-to-human transmission and after a further ten days of deliberation, while the virus was already spreading internationally, the WHO declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) – one of its highest levels of alert under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), a legally binding agreement between Member States to work together on global health security. At this point, several Member States became anxious, but most did not have a clear idea of what a PHEIC alert actually meant in the context of their response.
On 4th February, WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that the world had a “window of opportunity” to invest in prevention and control as there were a limited number of confirmed cases outside China. By 21st February Dr Ghebreyesus called the international community to action as “the window of opportunity was narrowing”. How did Member States really interpret this message? Was the international community really grasping the idea that we were about to miss the last opportunity to contain the spread of the virus? Was it already too late?
As February rolled into March, the WHO highlighted a huge shortage of equipment for frontline healthcare around the world and finally on 11th March, nearly three months after the first reports, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Throughout April, the WHO made desperate calls to global leaders to put aside any differences, step up collaboration and act in unison. However, by this point, some Member States were struggling to stay ahead of the virus and could only think of themselves, instating measures to protect their citizens and borders without the time to consider a concerted multilateral response.
At the time of writing, with over 5.2 million coronavirus cases reported globally, more than 336,000 deaths and many more unreported cases, the pandemic still rages on. While China claimed to have recovered from the virus, its north-eastern city of Shulan is currently in lockdown after a cluster of coronavirus cases emerged, fearing a second wave. Meanwhile, its political adversary on the issue, the United States, has more than 1.6 million confirmed cases with more than 95,000 deaths, the highest in the world. Other regions like Europe are slowly emerging from strict lockdowns but in Latin America the number of confirmed cases has passed half a million and continues to rise, with Brazil the worst affected.
This is the first truly global health crisis that “We the Peoples” have suffered since the foundation of the UN: every citizen of the world is at risk. The pandemic has forced governments to impose draconian restrictions in an attempt to mitigate the collapse of their public health systems while simultaneously injecting unimaginable levels of capital directly into their economies to soften the financial impact. And yet, if all the governments had rapidly coordinated their responses, collaborated at an early stage and acted in unison, the global impact may have been contained and the recovery period shortened. Moreover, if clearer communication had come from the WHO in a more timely fashion, even the most self-interested and ill-prepared Member State would have known what pre-cautions to take as the viral threat grew and their citizens could have held their governments accountable.
The wider UN has also been lacklustre in its response. Who better than the UN to digest WHO’s early warning messages and convey the right message to its Member States? Who better than the UN to orchestrate a coherent global response through its Security Council (UNSC)? “The UN has a huge role to play in bringing together countries and people during these trying times,” says Amir Dossal, President of the Global Partnerships Forum, to ensure that “no one is left behind”.
There are 3 articles of the UN Charter that clearly determine the UN’s role in such emergency situations: Article 13 refers to the UN General Assembly’s role in initiating international cooperation on economic, social and health issues, Article 57 describes the need of engaging specialised agencies, such as the WHO, and eventually under Article 99, the UN Secretary General must bring forward any matter which may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security to the attention of the Security Council. Unfortunately, to date, the UNSC has not produced any meaningful statement to tackle COVID-19 as efforts have been obstructed by political conflicts between the U.S. and China.
While the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres has referred to the pandemic as “the biggest challenge since the Second World War” and has acknowledged that “normal rules no longer apply”, the General Assembly started to address COVID-19 only in mid-March and its response has not passed beyond a non-binding resolution that called for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat” the coronavirus.
Despite WHO’s leadership through the SARS, MERS, Ebola, Avian Flu outbreaks and its extensive knowledge of past pandemics throughout history, Member States have voiced their frustration at the WHO’s handling of the pandemic. One of the organizations biggest donors, the U.S., has even suspended its funding and has threatened to withdraw its membership if substantial changes are not made. Other countries, such as Australia, have requested more transparency and an independent investigation of the causes of the coronavirus outbreak. A resolution, presented by the European Union (EU), on behalf of 100 Member States, called for an independent inquiry into the WHO’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and was approved at the first virtual annual assembly (WHA) of the WHO’s 194 members on 20th May. The day before, on 19th May, an interim independent review on the WHO’s conduct and response to the virus was released by the Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee (IOAC) for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.
Communication is the most important tool in any international crisis and ‘communicative multilateralism’ must be at the core of all response strategies. The IOAC report calls for “greater global solidarity and stronger multilateral cooperation” but a close reading of the recommendations underlines the clear need to improve the clarity of the communication framework between the WHO and its Member States.
‘Communicative multilateralism’ has also been at the heart of suggested reforms by the IOAC report to the WHO’s response framework. It has been reported that some Member States do not consider a PHEIC declaration a “sufficiently clear trigger” due to its broad coverage between a small outbreak and a pandemic. Alpo Rusi, a distinguished Finnish diplomat recently told us, “A more effective early warning system needs to be urgently set up at the UN”. There have been other sensible calls for change including, “a stepped level of alerts and galvanization of response measures added to the IHR” and “IHR-nominated focal points in governments to adequately raise the alarm”, that must be heeded.
Additionally, the people must be able to hold their governments to account and how can they do this without clear and simple communication, well defined categories of alert and detailed response measures from the WHO? “Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on the health and economic well-being of our society. As individuals, we have readily conceded life-changing decision-making to our leaders, and we now assume and indeed expect them to do what is in our best interest”, exemplifies Amir Dossal, President of the Global Partnerships Forum.
The IOAC’s recommendations provide the opportunity to explore further the mechanisms already in place and well known by Member States that could “trigger” a much needed sense of urgency that the WHO tried but failed to convey to the international community. Lessons could be learned from other disaster response strategies, for example, there are clear and simple categories of alert to the likely effects of hurricanes and earthquakes that have been tried and tested for over 50 years and are widely understood by governments, scientists and the public alike. There are clear lessons that the WHO and the UN can learn from such natural disaster response systems.
There is a general understanding that this pandemic will have far-reaching political, economic and social implications. Parag Khana, an expert on international relations told us, “If we are lucky, the world will pass ‘peak virus’ within the next six months. But the economy, governments, and social institutions will take years to recover in the best-case scenario. Indeed, rather than even speak of ‘recovery,’ which implies a return to how things were, it would be wise to project what new direction civilization will take. That too will be a bumpy ride. The next 3-5 years will remind us that COVID-19 was the lightning before the thunder”.
There are opportunities to improve following any crisis but before we transform the way society has functioned for hundreds of years, we must determine whether multilateralism and globalization is to blame or if there are other weaknesses in the system that have led us here, such as an alarming weakness of national economic, social and health systems?
We must be careful that rising geopolitical tension is not exploited by some national political elites as an excuse for imposing inward-looking policies and strategies. This may bear fruit on the short- term but will be counterproductive longer-term. A shift to nationalism would disrupt global supply chains of goods and services, doing harm to economies of scale and the provision of aid which will worsen health security. World leaders must step back from knee-jerk reactions to retrench and instead should come together in order to pursue modalities of international cooperation.
Clear communication channels only work if the message is simple and the recipients are educated on the subject. While the IOAC’s recommendations call for “more robust use of WHO collaborating centres around the world, expert networks, such as technical advisory bodies, and public health institutes”, we believe that they should be more ambitious and aim to strengthen the understanding of health systems and pandemics within schools, universities and the public at large. As for the international organizations such as the UN and WHO it must be clear: reforming them and updating them to the requirements of the globalized digital era necessitates ‘communicative multilateralism’ and the launching of ‘Verified’ by the UNSG António Guterres on 21st May, to create a cadre of “digital first responders” to fight misinformation, may be a positive step to adjust.
* Srgjan Kerim, President of the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly, is a seasoned diplomat, scholar and businessman with more than 30 years of international political experience as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia. Mr. Kerim began his academic career as a professor of international economics at the University of Belgrade. In addition, he was a visiting professor at the University of Hamburg (Germany) and at New York University. Mr. Kerim is also a recipient of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Award and has been decorated with honours by nations such as Italy, Germany, Austria, the U.S. and others.
Relevance of green politics in the contemporary world
Green theory is a critical theory in International relations which is gaining its relevance very much in recent times as the world couldn’t help itself in fostering climate change and in controlling global warming.
Green theory came into existence in the time of the late 20th century world where there was an increased need for addressing environmental issues. During the 1970s, environmentalism became a dominant concern in the society where people started to argue on the solutions to fight pollution. The USA introduced NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) and Clean Air Act which was one of the huge movements that brought awareness to include environmental problems as a major concern in the society. Before that, environmentalism and pollution control was overlooked by the majority of countries. Since then, there has always been a wide scope for green theory in this industrialized modern world; as pollution is increasing, the responsibility for controlling it is also increasing.
When ideologies such as liberalism and realism failed to save the environmental aspect of society, there came a need for a different way of thinking which led to the emergence of Green theory. Green theory discussed the green aspect in political, economic and social life.
Concepts of Green Theory
Green theory, green politics, green economy and green security are very similar concepts which are also intermingled in general. This Greens ideology doesn’t only focus on saving the environment but also aims in achieving ecological sustainability in three main areas: Environmentalism, social liberalism and democracy. The aspects of the political world are analyzed through a green perspective.
Green theory in international relations is known as green political theory – an ecological political theory that doesn’t come under environmentalism. The concept of Green political theory is often misunderstood with environmentalism. Green political thinkers are called Greens and environmentalism thinkers are called environmentalists. In a common view, one can find that environmentalism is often science based and green politics is the social perspective.
Green theory in IR focuses on climate justice, global justice, modern development and security. As the world faces many transnational environmental – related problems, there came a compulsive requirement for Green Theory in international relations
Understanding Green Political theory
The main difference between environmentalism and green political theory is that :-
Environmentalism focuses on issues such as acid rain, global warming, need for growing trees and on saving the environment within the man-made structure which is Anthropocentrism – human-centered perspective of the world. Whereas green political theory focuses on the same but in a social aspect between human and nature, arguing that the man-made structure itself is responsible for the destruction and considers human as a part of nature, which is ecocentrism – nature centered perspective of the world.
Environmentalists believe that humans should bring change in the world by taking certain measures to reduce pollution. Hence they depend on governments, institutions and international organizations, trying to bring stability within the existing structure of the world where they rely on the concept of sustainable development.
On the contrary, Greens believe that the world has already reached the limits of development and sustainable development will only make the condition worse, as there is no more possibility for it. Greens do not depend on humans to bring a change, instead argue that the whole structure which is responsible for this condition should be changed.
Thus Green political theory critically examines and attacks the current world structures that are responsible for the situation and suggests that the idea of sustainable development even makes it worse when there is an immediate need for a complete shift.
Understanding the reality through green theory
The nations are self-centered and while they thrive for meeting their self-interests, balance of power, and security, global change is not a possibility. Combined contributions and effective steps are not possible when countries seek only mutual benefits and struggle with insecurities. No nation can trust and rely on any nation. It can be seen that Industrialization is the core element that connects the structures which are responsible for global warming and pollution.
Considering the factors that environmentalists depend on:
The International organizations are not a sovereign entity. They are heavily funded by super powers and hence considered an agent or actor of those super powers, as they cannot voice against the countries which provide them to operate. So, the reality is that the powerful nations provide and help the developing nations in cutting their green gas emissions, reducing pollution, poverty, etc while the developed nations’ polluting index itself is much worse compared to other countries. In 2019, Agenda 2030 plan set by the UN in 2015 to achieve various sustainable goals by 2030 was declared impossible in a report published in the UNSG.
The United States uses oil and natural gasses more than any other countries which emits over fifteen tons of greenhouse gasses per person every year. The US was the largest polluter of the atmosphere till the emergence of China as a superpower. Now China is the largest greenhouse gas emitter which emits twice as much as the US!. China alone is responsible for around 31% of the world’s emissions. The other top countries which rank next to China and the USA are India, Russia, and Japan , which are responsible for 60% of the total global pollution. Instead of taking immediate steps to stop polluting the environment, these developed nations focus more on other interests and issues.
Thirdly, the Capitalist structure of the world as accused of being heavily selfish by the Marxists is a huge responsible factor standing as a constraint for an effective change. In this capitalist society, bringing a change, for example; cutting out potential harmful substances such as the plastics; stopping production and consuming of unnecessary products, switching to alternatives from fossil fuel based transportations (Transportation sectors are the largest contributors to global warming followed by other manufacturing industries) would affect the manufacturing company of the product which would also directly affect the economy of the countries. Even if there’s a possibility of banning those polluting products posing no nexus in the economy of the country, those industries or the MNCs will easily influence not only the government but also the people of the country to maintain its richness.
Thus under this system, where development is still considered a possibility without destruction, no organization or individual can bring an actual change by following the goals set in global conferences (such as COP27, UNCC) in achieving net zero emissions or by using alternative energies for fossil fuels, etc. The first question itself is “Without changing the platform which runs on fossil fuel and without constructing a new platform for alternatives, how can any change be brought?”. The whole structure of the world must be changed to attain the goals of the future.
The feasibility and constraints in rapidly changing the system are the challenges posed on the green political thinkers. Meeting these challenges by innovative solutions and the growing need for a change in the world to safeguard our future is of great interest in today’s world. And as the countries keep on postponing and failing to achieve their sustainable goals set under this current system, green politics becomes very much relevant in the contemporary world.
Green theory in International relations provides unique ideas such as decentralization to bring real change, as state-centered hopes are not promising; consciousness on the limits of modern development; ecological modernization as an alternative to sustainable development; green security, green economy, etc which are evolving but always critical in nature. Green political theory is crucial for questioning the countries and the organizations to bring real solutions and changes.
Russia Has Lost Soft Power War with Ukraine – Global Soft Power Index 2023
Russia is the world’s only nation brand to lose soft power over the past year, while Ukraine has seen the strongest soft power improvement, according to the Global Soft Power Index 2023 released today. The Global Soft Power Index is a research study conducted annually by brand evaluation consultancy Brand Finance on a representative sample of 100,000+ respondents in 100+ markets worldwide, measuring perceptions of 121 nation brands.
While Russia‘s Familiarity and Influence have gone up because of the impact that its decision to go to war has had on lives the world over, the nation’s Reputation has been severely damaged. Russia’s Reputation ranking in the study, one of the main determinants of soft power, has fallen from 23rd to an abysmal 105th resulting in a soft power score erosion of -1.3 points and causing it to drop out of the Index’s overall top 10 ranking, down to 13th.
Alongside the three key performance indicators of Familiarity, Reputation, and Influence, the Global Soft Power Index also measures perceptions of nation brands across 35 attributes grouped under 8 Soft Power Pillars. Russia has lost ground relative to others in the Index on all 35 attributes apart from “affairs I follow closely”. It now ranks 119th for the People & Values pillar and for the “good relations with other countries” attribute in International Relations. In addition, global sanctions have caused the nation’s perceptions as “easy to do business in and with” to fall by 61 places and having “future growth potential” by 74 places.
David Haigh, Chairman & CEO of Brand Finance, commented:“While nations have turned to soft power to restore trade and tourism after a devastating health crisis, the world order has been disrupted by the hard power of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. An event that would be hard to believe were it not for the intensity of the images we have been seeing for months and the consequences the conflict is having on politics and the economy alike.”
At the same time, Ukraine gains +10.1 points (more than any other nation) driven by a steep increase in Familiarity and Influence, and jumps 14 ranks up to 37th from 51st the previous year. Ukraine now ranks 3rd in the world for “affairs I follow closely” and sees significant gains across attributes accentuated in official communications and media reports, such as “respects law and human rights” (up 69 to 29th), “tolerant and inclusive” (up 63 to 44th), and “leader in technology and innovation” (up 26 to 50th). The popularity of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his ministers, and advisors, results in the nation going up 36 ranks to 12th on “internationally admired leaders”.
Nevertheless, many other attributes are affected negatively, from the obvious “safe and secure” (down 60 to 118th) or “great place to visit” (down 38 to 118th), to perceptions of Ukraine’s culture and people as the focus shifts to their suffering.
USA unrivalled as the soft power superpower
Under President Joe Biden, the United States reclaimed its top spot in the ranking in last year’s Index and has further increased the lead over other nation brands this year. The USA’s overall score is up +4.1 points to an all-time high of 74.8. With the strengthening of the dollar and widely publicised large-scale investment projects by the federal government, perceptions of the US economy are on the up, resulting in America claiming the top spot for Business & Trade from China. The US also benefits from the introduction of a new “invests in space exploration” attribute in the Education & Science pillar, where it ranks 1st in the world. In fact, the US ranks 1st in twelve and among the top 3 in four more categories, bagging 16 soft power medals – more than any other nation brand in the Index.
The US records stable scores across most categories. However, mounting problems with shootings, gun crime, and police violence continue to erode perceptions of the country as “safe and secure” (down from 21st in 2020 to 62nd this year) and of its people as “friendly” (down from 5th in 2020 to 103rd this year).
The end of the Second Elizabethan Era
In the United Kingdom, 2022 will be remembered as the end of an era. The passing of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96, after 70 years on the throne, shook the nation. At the same time, intense media coverage of the period of mourning and the monarch’s spectacular funeral attended by the world’s leaders reminded the global public of Britain’s greatest soft power assets. The UK has defended its 2nd position in the Index this year, with an increase of +2.4 points to 65.8, recording increases across a number of attributes, from “good relations with other countries” (up 7 ranks) to “appealing lifestyle” (up 5 ranks).
Last year will also go down in British history for its three prime ministers. After the fall of Boris Johnson’s government, Liz Truss shot to power as quickly as she lost it to Rishi Sunak, becoming the country’s shortest-serving prime minister ever. While the nation’s overall Reputation has not been dented, perceptions of the UK as “politically stable and well-governed” declined relative to others (down 10 ranks).
Germany post-Merkel holds its own
Many worried about Germany losing its international standing after the departure of Angela Merkel. A year later, the nation has largely held its own, retaining 3rd position in the Index, with an increase of +1.2 points to 65.8. Olaf Scholz’s government has struggled with criticism of its hesitant response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but this has had little impact on the nation’s perceptions among the global public. Germany’s nation brand strength transcends political crises, proving its resilience regardless of who is in charge.
China retains “future growth potential” despite COVID-19 restrictions
Although China has seen marginal growth of its Global Soft Power Index score (+0.8 to 65.0), it dropped in the ranking from 4th in 2022 to 5th in 2023, overtaken by Japan. While most nations accelerated their global engagement across trade, investment, tourism, and talent, China remained closed last year, maintaining a “zero COVID” policy. Reduced mental and physical availability of China’s nation brand among global audiences undermined its ability to improve perceptions at the same pace as competing economies, resulting in some relative declines, such as in the People & Values (down 57 to 95th) and Media & Communication (down 12 to 24th) pillars.
Nevertheless, on many metrics China has largely defended its position from last year and it remains 2nd in the world for Influence, behind only the US, and 3rd in the Education & Science pillar, with particularly strong performance across “leader in technology and innovation” (2nd), “leader in science” (3rd), and the new attribute: “invests in space exploration” (3rd). The nation also maintains its global #1 positions for “easy to do business in and with” and “future growth potential”, pointing to the resilience of its Business & Trade credentials, despite an overall rank drop for the pillar to 3rd. Revised economic growth forecasts by the International Monetary Fund confirm that China is back in business in 2023, predicting 5.2% GDP growth, above the level of previous expectations as private consumption rebounds following the country’s opening post-COVID at the end of 2022.
UAE enters top 10 for the first time
With otherwise little change in the top 10, the performance of the United Arab Emirates is a standout. For the fourth year running, the Emirates achieved the highest score of any Middle Eastern nation brand, but this year’s increase of +3.2 to 55.2 has meant a jump of five ranks to allow it to claim 10th position in the global ranking for the first time. Both Reputation and Influence of the Gulf nation have seen notable increases this year.
David Haigh, Chairman & CEO of Brand Finance, commented: “The UAE was one of the first economies to roll out mass vaccination and open during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving it a head start ahead of others and allowing it to maintain positive perceptions across the Business & Trade pillar with a particular improvement on the “future growth potential” attribute, where it ranks 3rd globally. The successful showcase of the Emirates as a global trade hub thanks to EXPO 2020 has also undoubtedly provided a significant boost. At the same time, the UAE is one of the largest donors of foreign aid as a percentage of GDP, which is recognised by the global general public counting it among the world’s most “generous” nations – 3rd.”
Perceptions of the UAE’s Governance and International Relations are on the up too and the nation’s salience is only expected to grow. The Emirates Mars Mission has landed the UAE at 8th for “invests in space exploration”, while hosting the world’s most high-profile climate conference, COP 28, will put the nation firmly in the spotlight in 2023. The historically oil-heavy economy continues to increase its commitment to diversification, innovation, and investment in a more Sustainable Future. The UAE already scores relatively high on the new soft power pillar of that name, placing 19th globally.
The Dilemma of Science Diplomacy: Between Advancement of Humanity and The Source of Rivalry
In the past decades, science and technology have gained more ground in foreign affairs decision making processes. The emergence of more complex global problems has raised awareness that policymakers need to collaborate with researchers and scientists to create effective solutions. This is where the term science diplomacy has become increasingly noticeable over the years. The complicated challenges are faced by numerous countries simultaneously; therefore, both inter-state collaboration and scientific evidence are considered indispensable to overcome those challenges, thus, bringing science to the foreground of policy-making. Science diplomacy is then expected to close the gap by presenting a contemporary approach to global challenges. The existence of science in diplomacy conveys two important promises: scientific advice and networks that could help build the world better amid the complexity of transnational issues and leverage that international actors can use to strengthen their foreign policy.
However, these two promises contradict each other as bestowing political power in science makes it laden with interests. By using science diplomacy, states will be confronted with the dilemma of either using science to improve the life of people or using science to pursue their national interests. This article will further analyze this dilemma on how science and technology are imperatively needed to resolve global challenges. Yet, at the same time, its existence becomes one of the sources of power that create a rivalry between states.
The Extent of Science Diplomacy in International Affairs
The development of science and technology is pivotal in solving complex human issues at both national and international levels. However, innovative inventions resulting from scientific evolution need to be acknowledged by policymakers and put into policy implementation first before they can be advantageous for overcoming global challenges. In this case, diplomacy could be one field of policy and decision-making where science can appear both as transformative solutions for international issues or as leverage tools for states to achieve domestic gains, which then refers to as science diplomacy. Simply put, science diplomacy is the use of scientific collaborations among nations to address common problems facing 21st-century humanity and to build constructive international partnerships. According to Legrand and Stone, science diplomacy is not limited to exchanges only between states, but the practice has been unfolded to have wider global policy ramifications.
Over the last 15 years, the involvement of researchers as transnational actors in public policy and global governance are increasingly visible and making a distinguishable impact in various dimensions, including social, political, and economical. The increasing entanglement of science in diplomacy is caused by three main factors as follows:
- The growth of transnational challenges. Recent international issues tend to spread and transgress national borders. For instance, concerns about cyber security, the transmission of disease, labor migrations and digital communities indicated how states had developed higher levels of interdependency towards each other. These are all matters that demand the implementation of sophisticated scientific knowledge.
- The disaggregation of transnational policy-making. Although powerful sovereign actors are still considered the most important actors in the international arena, non-state actors’ emersion started gaining influence as significant players in managing policy challenges. This creates an opening where new subjects can be integrated into transnational relations, necessarily science and technology.
- The turn to science diplomacy. The science paradigm is rarely contested when disputes over transnational issues occur. This circumstance started shifting when the rationalist traditions within public policy were ascending. As a result, scientific advice in understanding government challenges becomes matters to create policy responses related to economic inequality, social unrest, or depletion of natural resources.
The extent of science diplomacy’s contribution to international affairs ranges in countless essential issues. Cross-border partnerships and multinational research networks have accomplished consequential scientific discovery: from gene-edited plants that could endure climate change to the identification of SARS Coronavirus and the formulation of its vaccines in less than two years. Recently, the involvement of science in diplomacy has made a significant impact in improving global health. Cooperation between governmental and non-governmental public health experts with diplomats and political leaders successfully assisted the dealing with some health challenges such as HIV/AIDS, the spread of the infectious Ebola Virus and MERS, as well as managing swine flu through coordinated global response.
Further, science diplomacy has also been impacting economic dimensions. Initiatives conducted by governments and foundations along with United Nations have successfully employed technology to reduce extreme poverty. The rapid growth of digital technology also fortuitously generates new opportunities for people in the least developed countries. In environmental dimensions, The Paris Agreement was another accomplishment facilitated by science diplomacy and considered a game changer in dealing with climate change. The successful narratives above show how scientific research could eliminate major global challenges and save human lives. Undeniably, the integration of science in diplomacy become imperatives approach currently in improving humanity.
Science in Diplomacy: Creating Rivalry
Away from its contribution to solving major global challenges, the existence of science could also be the source of power which function to leverage states in international relations. According to Royal Society, science for diplomacy enables actors to conceive science as a means to cultivate or even improve international relations between states. However, the usage of science in diplomacy could not be separated from political objectives. This is in line with Nye’s argumentation which stated that the strategy of using science is pursued with genuine scientific interest, yet strategic political goals clearly champion the approach. Consequently, science in and for diplomacy drew a paradox, for it can be seen only as a way to exploit science in international political affairs to achieve national interests.
Science is inherently neutral and perceived as a force for good. Royal Society also claimed that science offers a non-ideological setting for interaction and free idea exchange, regardless of ethnic, national, or religious roots. The integration of science in policymaking has inflicted a political dimension into it; hence their neutrality is questionable. Nevertheless, by bestowing political objectives upon science, it can become a powerful tool to leverage states’ bargaining power. In this case, science becomes a source of contested power that creates rivalry. This was clearly seen during the Cold War Period when the United States and Uni Soviets attempted to attain nuclear and space capacities to maintain their hegemony.
The current trajectory of science in international relations is internalized much the same way, particularly when science and technology are growing at a breakneck speed. Looks at the Technology War between the United States and China, where both countries compete to increase their science capacity. As China gains more ground in technological developments, Xi Jinping Government is increasingly being reckoned in global political affairs. Its presence is welcomed progressively in Global South as a key player in building a digital backbone. China is even considered a systemic threat by the US following its increasing domination over science and technology. This narrative showed how science became a contested power which could leverage states’ position in the international arena. Thus, science diplomacy should be understood as something other than a contemporary approach to resolving the complex global issue. It also needs to be addressed as the source of rivalry among states.
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