Covid-19 has burst into a messy world dominated by weak and underfunded multilateral organizations, undermined by rising geopolitical tensions between China and the United States.
This has had an impact on how measures have been taken to deal with the pandemic, with nationalist solutions to close borders, purchase medical supplies and vaccines predominant.
It has also had an impact on the effectiveness of the measures, with an “apartheid” of the rich and vaccinated countries and others and that the pandemic is in danger of becoming endemic.
It has also weakened multilateral solutions, with a World Health Organization whose main contributor is a private foundation (Gates Foundation).
From this organization, Covax, the global collaborative immunization system, began distributing vaccines three months after wealthy countries began to vaccinate and which, at best, will cover one-fifth of the population.
This situation should be of concern to Latin Americans. Here, the pandemic has hit the population like nowhere else in the world.
Although we are just under 9% of the world’s population, we have come to account for a fifth of contagions and 30% of deaths worldwide by the end of 2020.
It is also the region most affected economically, with an 8% drop in activity, the closure of 2.7 million businesses and a drop of two out of ten shipments received.
This generated 28 million new poor – a number similar to the entire Venezuelan population – and 15 million people in extreme poverty.
Highly complex challenges such as Covid-19, “super entanglements” or “super villains,” as they are called in the public policy literature, are distinguished by four competing factors.
The first is the need for an urgent solution.
The second is the coincidence between those who cause the problem and those who want to solve it.
Third, the weakness or lack of authority over the parties to deal with the issue.
And, last but not least, the potential of current actions to add further problems for the future.
These types of issues require increased cooperation and coordination among countries.
However, there has been no concerted action by countries in the region in response to the pandemic, in addition to specific and bilateral actions.
And the latest Mercosur summit, during which Uruguayan President Lacalle Pou called the bloc a “burden,” is symptomatic of the crisis in regional projects.
There has been a “Latin American recess” of common policies. A paradoxical situation, given that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the oldest international public health agency in the world.
In view of the dismemberment of the South American Union of Nations and the consequent demise of the South American Government’s Institute for Health, an alternative regional body has not been created.
Meanwhile, the virtual meetings promoted by Celac (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and Prosul (Forum for the Progress and Development of South America) did not translate into action.
Mercosur was also distinguished by its absence, whereas in the past concrete results had been obtained in the field of sectoral regulation and that, from its Intergovernmental Commission for Pharmaceutical Policy, patents had been negotiated with laboratories.
Other organizations, such as the Andean Community of Nations, the Central American Integration System and the Caribbean Community, have shown some initiatives to articulate their member states, but they have not been sufficient to have a substantial impact at the level. Latin American.
This is why it is inevitable to find spaces for political coordination, avoiding the mistakes of the past and taking note of the lessons learned from experience.
In this sense, the former secretary general of Unasur (Union of South American Nations), Ernesto Samper, argues the need for a convergence of the existing organs of the organs, but under the political coordination of Celac.
A different approach is also needed, aiming for collaborative multilateral governance – we call it 3M – that is multilateral, multi-level and multi-functional.
In other words, the political decision-making table should logically be made up of international organizations, civil society organizations (international or regional), as well as large philanthropic foundations whose funding is essential to maintain the budgets of global programs.
Here, the local actors play a fundamental role for their knowledge and their legitimacy on the territory, which the other actors do not have – to a greater or lesser degree.
Any global policy, whether agreed at regional, hemispheric or international level, must necessarily go through a process of adaptation to the local context, without this dissipating focus and purpose.
It is also essential to incorporate the private sector, especially large multinational companies, which in some cases have larger budgets than many countries and have specific interests, whether it is to cooperate or not. .
The context demands being proactive and responding with increased coordination, collaboration and commitment, through a long-term plan that strategically builds on operation under the Celac umbrella.
This plan is not only urgent to deal with the pandemic, but it is a historic opportunity for Latin America to position itself in a world increasingly filled with “super entangled” problems.
The costs of not doing this are already ahead of us.