There is a board game called Pandemic that has been around for years before COVID-19 circled the globe. In Pandemic, you and your fellow players are members of a disease control team. You must work together to develop cures and prevent disease outbreaks, for Pandemic is a cooperative game. The players all win or lose together.
We need to learn the lessons of this game and apply them to the real world. In controlling a global pandemic, we must come to the realization that no one is safe until everyone is safe. Global cooperation is the key to success.
The developed nations have received most of the vaccinations but have been plagued by new variants such as Delta, which started in India, or the new omicron, first reported in Southern Africa. These variants are created in areas of low vaccination, where high rates of transmission increase the odds of a new mutation that is more contagious, more deadly or able to break through the existing vaccines. Such variants, unfortunately, can circle the globe quite quickly, as we have seen. Consequently, we must develop a coordinated global response to this pandemic if we truly want to defeat COVID-19.
But how do we develop this coordinated global response? At present, we have the World Health Organization, which unfortunately lacks the authority and resources to truly be effective. There is also Covax, an international organization whose purpose is to create equitable global access to the COVID vaccine, but has yet to fulfill its mission.
These organizations are part of the United Nations, and as such, all actions are voluntary on the part of individual nations. Due to our state of relative anarchy at the international level and our lack of strong and effective global governance institutions, our response to the COVID pandemic has been primarily an every-nation-state-for-itself affair.
If we are to win this campaign against COVID, we need to empower, update and democratize the United Nations, the World Health Organization and Covax. We must use this crisis to bring us together rather than tear us apart.
Our world has a globalized economy, and we can communicate effortlessly across borders and continents. Unfortunately, our international governance institutions have not grown or reformed to meet the challenges of the 21st century. With these facts in mind, I volunteer with Citizens for Global Solution, a nonprofit organization whose mission has been to help nations solve problems that no nation can solve alone. These problems include the pandemic, global warming and nuclear weapons.
If we are to win the real-world game of Pandemic, we must strengthen and reform our global institutions in order to apply a global cooperative response, rather than our current patchwork approach of every country for itself.
Jerry Tetalman is co-author of One World Democracy (Origin Press).