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Reflections on Global Public Health Governance amid COVID-19
January 11,2021   By:en.humanrights.cn
Jan.11,2021 -- en.humanrights.cn: The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, governments across the world attach high importance to pandemic prevention and control and adopt more and more effective measures. Meanwhile, there have been growing calls for responding to the pandemic through global governance. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human society is so enormous that it urges people to reflect on how to respond to the global public health crisis in a timely and effective manner. Today, we are pleased to have Professor Qian Jinyu, executive deputy director of the Center for Human Rights Studies at the Northwest University of Political Science and Law. He will join us to analyze the lessons on global public health governance we can draw from this pandemic. Hello, Professor Qian!
 
Qian Jinyu: Hello!
 
en.humanrights.cn: Mr. Qian, what risks are exposed by this pandemic to the global public health governance? 
 
Qian Jinyu: Just as you said, the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the whole world poses a huge public health challenge. The modernization drive, on the one hand helps to shape a more convenient, affluent and happier society, on the other hand, however, it breeds and expedites risks during the course of modernization. We can see from the large-scale regional risks including the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the nuclear leak in Fukushima, Japan, the crude oil spill from the 220,000-ton oil tanker Amoco Cadiz owned by an American company and the poisonous gas leak from the pesticide plant in Bhopal, India that the modernization drive has not solved the varied risks faced by human society once and for all. Instead, it is actually brewing or has already created new risks. We call it the risk of modernization. 
 
The COVID-19 pandemic can be regarded as a typical risk of modernization emerging under the background of accelerated globalization. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic not only poses a great threat to the lives and health of mankind but also has a severe impact on global politics and economy. The governance system and capabilities of most countries around the globe are put to the test. So does our public health prevention and control system and capabilities. 
 
However, we have found many problems which exist in the global public health governance system. 
 
The first one is the inadequate safeguard against the pandemic. Although China has largely contained the pandemic. This global inadequacy is rather obvious. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of confirmed cases worldwide reached 54 million by November 16 with over 1.3 million deaths. This is the first risk. 
 
The second risk is the ill performance of the global public health governance and disease prevention and control system. Why is that? The reason lies in the uneven levels of economic and social development of countries around the world and their various political systems differences in the anti-pandemic concepts, strategies and measures as well as the effectiveness of medical supplies. It causes varying results of anti-COVID-19 efforts around the globe. Different countries have different responses to the pandemic. For example, when I came back from a business travel some time ago, a taxi driver talked to me about the prevention and control of COVID-19. "The outbreaks across the world made me feel that our country really puts people first while capitalist countries value money more," he commented. I asked, "Why do you say that?" He said "In our country, the ordinary people can totally afford the cost of testing and treatment and in some places, it is even free of charge. But in capitalist countries like the United States basically, the cost is way too high for some ordinary people". I was deeply impressed by his words. 
 
The third one is the structural problems caused by pandemic prevention and control concepts. One of the structural problems is the impact on and weakening of the global public health governance and disease prevention and control system. Different prevention and control concepts lead to varied practical effects of anti-pandemic efforts in different countries. Countries that didn't deal with the pandemic successfully may under domestic pressure, try to pass the buck by finding scapegoats. The WHO has become a scapegoat. The authority and leading role of the WHO in the global public health governance and disease prevention and control system have been continuously questioned and impaired. 
 
The pandemic has not yet been effectively contained on a global basis. There is even a second wave occurring in some countries and regions, showing that the global public health and disease prevention and control work is fraught with difficulties. So, what specific challenges is the global public health governance system facing. 
 
The WHO acts as the core or the leader of the global health governance and disease prevention and control system. It aims to promote the prevention and treatment of transmissible diseases and endemic diseases which was one of its goals. But unfortunately, the WHO was not endowed with the authority and power to accomplish this goal when the system was designed. Instead, its authority and power are constantly being undermined by some countries during the pandemic. This is the first challenge the global public health governance system faces. 
 
Now, let's talk about the second challenge from the perspective of institutional development. Whether developers of international rules represented by the United Nations can provide an effective and adequate international legal framework and system for global pandemic prevention and control in the face of the pandemic is a matter of concern for me. However, judging from the practical effect of anti-COVID-19 efforts, the global pandemic prevention and control system for coordination and cooperation is still not in place. 
 
The third challenge lies in the concept. Concepts may be what matters most. Why? Because idea leads to action. What's the key to effective prevention and control of a global public health crisis? It's effective actions. Where do effective actions come from? They originate from an effective concept. However, it is a pity that due to various factors including economic and social development as well as political ideologies, there is still a long way to go for the world to reach a consensus on global pandemic prevention and control. I think it's a big problem. Just take a look at China's joint prevention and control strategy and the so-called "herd immunity" strategy adopted by the United States and some other western countries. China's health code policy and the "No Mask Campaign" in the United States and some other western countries. There have been large-scale demonstrations over the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Few people wear masks during the protests. So, what is the concept of pandemic prevention and control? It's about respect and protection of people's lives health as well as science. It is the key issue. 
 
en.humanrights.cn: How can we effectively promote global cooperation in public health governance. 
 
Qian Jinyu: I suggest that we focus on the risks and challenges we are facing. We can improve measures, the system and concept from the following aspects. 
 
The first is the concept. If we want to achieve good results in fighting against the pandemic, we should, first of all, reach a consensus on the guiding concepts based on science and respect for human life, health and dignity. On top of that, we should then abandon the notion that goes against win-win cooperation science which takes the form of unilateralism or anti-globalization in international policies. And then we should seek a governance model that facilitates win-win cooperation, collaborative governance or a governance model that promotes sharing of the benefits yielded by cooperation. So, what kind of conceptual guidance do we need for such a model? Among the existing concepts of global governance, the concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind proposed by China is of high significance. 
 
From an institutional perspective, we should promote the development of institutions on the premise of safeguarding the authority and effectiveness of international organizations. So, what is the benchmark for the development of institutions? It is the international laws system which can effectively promote collaboration and cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. When we say that there are laws to follow for global efforts to fight against the pandemic, we refer to international laws. 
 
Joint pandemic prevention and control on a global basis can be effectively promoted based on relevant international laws. 
 
One of the most prominent features of the COVID-19 pandemic is its globality. In this globalized world, we call the pandemic a modernization risk because of its globality. No pollution is limited to a small region or area. Both the crude oil spill and the nuclear radiation, for example, are global issues. So is the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, a global perspective, a global system and the development of a global system are required. 
 
Lastly, we should keep enhancing political trust amid COVID-19. It is wrong to politicize pandemic prevention and control which will ultimately take a toll on all humanity. Under the guidance of the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind, we should promote a win-win model featuring joint actions to benefit mankind. 
 
en.humanrights.cn: We will win the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in the end. However, this will never be the last major public health emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded the world in a special way that humanity is a community with a shared future. No country can overcome it alone in the face of a major crisis while collaboration and cooperation is the only right track to follow. We can learn from history and the current situation that as long as the international community embraces the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind, upholds multilateralism and follows the path of unity and cooperation, we will be able to address various global issues and build a better world.
 

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