2:30 pm

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4:00 pm

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Monday, 11 May 2020 @ 2.30 - 4.00 pm

In the last few years, we have witnessed the emergence of unilateralism, nationalism and provincialism around the world. Countries which for a long period championed vigorous multilateral views and deeds have been increasingly challenged by nationalistic issues which tended to be inward-looking.

In keeping with this trend, unilateralist forces have been slowly weakening multilateralist forces, institutions and views. Multilateral principles of governing, including international collaboration and development cooperation, have been frowned upon as unilateralism has taken hold in major global power centres.

Enter COVID-19: the infinitesimal multilateralist, which brought together the gigantic unilateralists in a search for redemption.

This pandemic has shattered the deeply-seated notion of invincibility, supremacy and affluence of the Superpowers of the world. The power of the invisible virus has not only demonstrated our collective vulnerability, but has humbled the most powerful nations, their people and their institutions.

This pandemic – mercilessly and indiscriminately – strikes at the time when the new world order, as peddled by its most powerful architects, has been dangerously marching towards unilateralism.

In response to COVID-19, policymakers must rise to a double challenge. They must do their best to protect the health of human beings and to safeguard the health of economies. International cooperation is indispensable. Nationalism is not helpful.

In 1987 the Brundtland commission report stated that ‘The Earth is one but the world is not’, many had dismissed that as a romantic notion. Yet the serial crises of the past few decades, from natural disasters to pandemics, from financial meltdowns to terrorism, remind us that no nation can be an island, sufficient unto itself, in the modern world.

To gain a better understanding of the big-picture implications, we asked some economic, policy, health and development thinkers and leaders to share — in their own words — their insights and their predictions on the long-term consequences of the pandemic — how it will reshape economic, health and development institutions, occupations, and priorities.

1. What is the role of the UN system and the WHO in particular? How is the system is set up to deal with such a crisis and a global pandemic?

2. What is the role of multilateral diplomacy? While there is a general agreement that joined efforts are needed to manage the crisis, responses seem largely unilateral. Some might even say that we are seeing a new nationalism taking hold. Is multilateralism failing us, and if so why? More importantly, is multilateralism failing those most vulnerable to the economic and societal impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, namely the developing countries?

3. Post COVID-10, will we see elements of a new UN or a new multilateral system emerge after the crisis, and what will its building blocks be?

4. On the regional front, how important is ASEAN Centrality’s role in multilateral diplomacy? What role is APEC playing? How does it fit into the narrative?

• H.E. Ms. Maria Castillo Fernandez, Head of Delegation of the EU to Malaysia
• Dr. Wang Huiyao, Chairman, Centre for China and Globalization & Counsellor to the State Council, People’s Republic of China
• Dr. Yan Lijin, Chairman of China Silk Road Group Ltd, Beijing

• Mr Michael Yeoh, President, KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific/Member, Executive Council of United Nations ESCAP Sustainable Business Network (ESBN) / Hon Secretary General Malaysia Japan Economic Association (MAJECA).




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