An Arabic version of this piece was published by Al Jazeera Centre for Studies
It was no surprise that the covid-19 pandemic catalysed major controversy surrounding the future of the modern world, and the institutions and systems underpinning the international order. The covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented, at least in terms of individual and community awareness. While historically more severe and virulent pandemics have been recorded, such as the Black Death of the mid-14th century and the Spanish Flu of 1918-192, covid-19 is the first far-reaching pandemic to occur in modern times. In stark contrast to past pandemics, communication is fast and instantaneous, while citizens’ expectations from their governments are significantly higher than ever before. Within weeks of the spread of the covid-19 pandemic outside of China, tens of millions of people began to experience the spread of the viral outbreak, with its high human and socio-economic impact felt in real time around the world.
By April 10th, the pandemic had infected more than 1.5 million people (with many more still undetected and therefore not included in official numbers). At present, well over 100,000 have succumbed to the virus, with life as we know it disrupted in a way beyond the disruptions of wars. While the northern hemisphere seems to be the most affected, more than 200 countries have reported cases. At least one third of these countries, as of the first half of March, have declared a complete or near total lockdown on social and economic activity, in addition to enforcing strict social distancing measures in hope of containing the pandemic. Major cities across the world, from Istanbul, to London, to Paris, to New York, once teeming with life, have since turned into silent, desolate cities mired in fear, worry, and uncertainty.
In recent weeks political scientists, historians, philosophers, and international relations experts have posited critical questions: what world will be born out of the pandemic? Will the world, and international order, see change for the better? Or will humanity return to what once constituted the norm after fears of the pandemic come to an end? Moreover, how and to what extent can the pandemic reshape state institutions, the nation’s social contract, and its relations with others? What economic pattern can the pandemic establish? There can be no doubt that the global pandemic is dragging the world into a heavy economic recession. What is the fate of globalization which was rapidly manifested since the 1990s? Isn’t the pandemic itself a tragic witness to the unity of the world and the equality of its peoples?
These are some of the major contentions of our time, eliciting tireless debate around the post-covid-19 world, which will be duly addressed in the coming segments. Before tackling these issues however, it is necessary to examine the known and what remains unknown regarding the pandemic’s trends, and to further explore the linkages between the pandemic and the world, its countries and their populations.