By Henry Kyambalesa
“As [United States] president, I have rejected the failed approaches of the past, and I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your countries first. That’s okay. That’s what you should be doing.” — President Donald J. Trump at the UN General Assembly, September 22, 2020.
According to Rick Gladstone and Jason Gutierrez of The New York Times, “Mr. Trump has been a longstanding critic of the United Nations and has challenged its multilateral diplomacy as an impediment to his ‘America First’ policy.”
It is common knowledge and commonsense that national leaders are expected and supposed “to put their countries first” before they devote their time and resources to the resolution of global issues, challenges and crises alongside the leaders of other countries. Therefore, to say so publicly is to state the obvious. But as it is often said, “commonsense is not common to all.”
There is no disagreement that every normal person – national leaders included – puts his or her family first, community second, municipality third, state or province fourth, country fifth, and the world sixth. For an ordinary citizen, “to put one’s country first” is to recklessly disregard one’s other vitally important stakeholders.
Mr. Trump, understandably, is leader of a country, the United States of America – arguably the most advanced country in the world, economically and militarily. Therefore, one would appreciate his emphasis on “putting his country first” to the exclusion of his family and other important, locally-based stakeholders.
But what could be the source or sources of the current and contentious squabbles between the United States and China which have tended to be characteristic of U.S.-Sino relations – squabbles that have even overshadowed the international community’s quest to collectively resolve pressing global issues, challenges and crises?
Well, the squabbles or disputes could as well be a result of national leaders jostling for their countries’ global hegemony, particularly in political and economic spheres. They could also be a result of the two countries’ disparate socioeconomic systems – the free enterprise system in the United States and the centrally planned socioeconomic system in the People’s Republic of China.
Moreover, they could be a result of any one of the two countries’ leaders’ envy or jealousy of the other country’s economic success and global competitiveness. And/or they could as well be a result of an unquenchable desire by the two countries’ national leaders to fulfil or satisfy their personal egos for global eminence.
Unfortunately, the current and direct confrontational tactics by the two countries can potentially result in unnecessary and disastrous conflict –conflict that can ultimately imperil global peace and stability.
Suggestively, the squabbles between the two countries – and between and among any other countries as a matter of fact – would best be resolved by any countries involved to invest their time, energy and resources in enhancing their competitive and comparative advantages rather than by engaging in direct confrontational tactics.
Besides, there is a need for all countries worldwide to resolve their trade-related (and other) issues with other countries through established global institutions, such as the World Trade Organization. Resorting to unilateral actions in, and solutions to, the resolution of inter-national issues and problems can be a recipe to the creation of a chaotic and anarchic world.
As experience and observation have taught us, national leaders who scorn, challenge or are disrespectful of global rules and norms of conduct tend to have a similar attitude regarding their own countries’ rules and norms of conduct.
The Focus of the Article
In this article, I wish to examine the need for each and every sovereign nation worldwide to work hand in hand with other sovereign nations in seeking viable and mutually beneficial solutions to global issues, challenges and problems, including terrorism, the refugee crisis, climate change, pandemics, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and money laundering. In this regard, I wish to revisit my earlier article entitled “Cooperative Efforts in Tackling Global Issues and Challenges.”
Sovereign nations are “global citizens” in that their pursuits, actions and interests often transcend their national borders, and that they are essentially members of the global community of nations. As such, they have a moral obligation to act in ways that do not only improve the vistas of their citizenry but also contribute to the resolution of global problems and crises.
On June 27, 2020, for example, world leaders – including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, alongside dozens of others – came together in Brussels to pledge funds for use in generating COVID-19 solutions during the “Global Goal: Unite for Our Future” campaign under the aegis of the European Commission (Global Citizen, 2020).
Other world leaders at the gathering were from France, Canada, Italy, Spain, Austria, Belgium, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and New Zealand, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and numerous philanthropists and foundations.
The world’s political and civic leaders were joined by international organisations – the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and others whose work includes tackling and alleviating hunger and poverty, gender inequality, inadequate access to education, the climate crisis, and inadequate water and sanitation – called for “the full support of [national and regional] governments” worldwide in addressing global issues and crises, particularly issues and crises emanating from the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the remainder of this Article, let us consider examples of efforts involving nation-states in addressing global issues, challenges and crises – that is, development partnerships, altruism by developed nations, President Bill Clinton’s momentous visit to Africa, the Marshall Plan, global efforts to deal with pandemics, and the resolution of conflicts.
Developing countries worldwide face a catalogue of persistent and widespread socioeconomic problems which they cannot address by themselves mainly due to the lack of appropriate technologies and inadequate financial and material resources – problems which include poverty, hunger, ignorance, illiteracy, disease, high rates of unemployment, disadvantaged children, dilapidated infrastructure, crime, and endemic corruption.
Fortunately, development partners like Canada (through CIDA), China, Denmark (through DANIDA), France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan (through JICA), The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden (through SIDA), the United Kingdom (through DFID / FCDO), and the USA (through USAID) voluntarily and continually render their support in different fields and sectors of the economies of developing countries.
Such fields and sectors include agriculture, decentralization, education, energy, gender, governance, health, HIV/AIDS, housing, macroeconomics, private sector development, social protection, science and technology, tourism, water, transportation infrastructure, and the environment.
Altruism by Wealthy Nations
The following summits convened by local and national governments in industrialized countries reflect the North’s greater enthusiasm to participate more actively in redressing the socioeconomic ills facing much of contemporary Africa:
(a) The first Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD I) held in October 1993 and its runner-up (that is, TICAD II) held in October 1998 (Nwagboso, 1998: 842-848).
(b) The summit of leaders of G-7 countries and Russia’s Boris Yeltsin held in Denver, Colorado, in June 1997 to discuss the prospect of “spreading the wealth” worldwide, among other things.
(c) The G-7 countries’ annual summit (including Russia) held in Cologne, Germany, in June 1999 to initiate a plan for providing greater and swifter debt relief to poor countries, among a host of other things.
(d) Summits convened in several American cities during 1999 by the U.S. National Summit on Africa organisation to generate strategies for working with African governments in their quest to improve the quality of life on the economically beleaguered continent. A diversity of themes was explored at these summits.
The Mountain/Southwest Regional Summit on Africa held in Denver, for example, included the following themes: (i) economic development, trade, investment, and job creation; (ii) democracy and human rights; (iii) sustainable development, quality of life and the environment; (iv) peace and security; and (v) education and culture.
(e) In 1999, the G-20 (Group of 20) nations was created, comprising the members of the G-7 nations – that is, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – and 12 additional countries and the European Union. Currently, the G-20 (Group of 20) nations consist of the G-7 nations, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.
(f) In 2016 between August 27 and August 28, TICAD-6 Summit – the first-ever Summit to be held on the African continent – was hosted by Kenya in Nairobi to discuss issues and challenges relating to industrialization, healthcare and social stability, among other things. (Note: The Tokyo International Conference of African Development, or TICAD, was launched in 1993 by Japan to promote peace and security and sustainable socioeconomic development through greater bilateral relations and partnership between Japan and African countries.)
(g) The 7th TICAD summit was held in 2019 between August 28th and August 30 in Yokohama city, Japan, to discuss economic transformation and improvements in Africa’s business environment and institutions through private investment and innovation.
President Clinton in Africa
Between March 23, 1998 and April 2, 1998, Mr. Bill (William J.) Clinton went on record as having been the first incumbent American president to have officially visited Africa on a noble mission in two decades. Although he visited only six of Africa’s fifty-four countries (that is, Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, and Senegal), his message cast a gleam of hope over the entire continent (Ankomah, 1998:8):
My dream for this trip is that together we might [accomplish great] … things so that a hundred years from now, your grandchildren and mine will look back and say this was the beginning of a new African renaissance.
The Marshall Plan
The “Marshall Plan” or “European Recovery Program” was an initiative mooted by the United States government and implemented from April 1948 to December 1951 in an effort to rebuild allied countries in Europe after widespread obliteration and devastation of the economies and institutions of such countries caused by the 1939-1945 Second World War. The other main reason for the initiation of the Plan was to prevent the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from spreading socialism and communism in Europe.
It was named after George C. Marshall, who was then U.S. Secretary of State. Countries which benefitted from the economic aid provided through the Plan included Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (Holland), Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.
Dealing with Pandemics
By and large, pandemics – that is, outbreaks of contagious and deadly diseases or viruses across national and regional borders – compel affected countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC), and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to collaborate in efforts aimed at seeking the most effective ways and means of diagnosing, treating and preventing such diseases, and/or serving communities impacted by the diseases.
Among the most deadly of such diseases have been cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, HIV/AIDS, and novel forms of influenza. A brief description of some of these dreadful diseases or viruses follows.
(a) The 1918 Spanish Flu: The Spanish Flu, which haunted the world between 1918 and 1920, is chronicled as having been among the most brutal killer-diseases in human history; around 500 million people worldwide were sickened by the virus, out of which 40 to 50 million lost their lives.
(b) The 1968 Flu Pandemic: The flu pandemic of 1968 caused the deaths of over 1 million people worldwide. The first case regarding the flu was reported on July 13, 1968 in Hong Kong. This was followed by reports of outbreaks of the virus in both Singapore and Vietnam. Within the next three months, the virus had spread to Australia, Europe, India, The Philippines, and the United States.
(c) The HIV/AIDS Pandemic: The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) surfaced during the early 1980s. The first case of the pandemic was diagnosed by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in a patient in San Francisco, California, and was designated as HIV/AIDS by the agency in June 1981.
The following information excerpted and adapted from data compiled by UNAIDS portrays the mind-boggling statistics regarding the impacts of the HIV/AIDS pandemic (see UNAIDS, 2020):
- 9 million people worldwide were living with HIV by the end of 2018;
- 7 million people worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2018;
- 770, 000 people worldwide died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2018;
- 9 million people worldwide had become infected with HIV from the beginning of the pandemic during the early 1980s to the end of 2018; and
- 32 million people worldwide have died from AIDS-related illnesses from the beginning of the pandemic during the early 1980s to the end of 2018.
(d) The Covid-19 Pandemic: “Covid-19” – the shortened form of “Coronavirus disease of 2019” – was originally referred to as “Coronavirus.” It is a novel type of pneumonia detected in Wuhan, China, and was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Office in China on December 31, 2019. It was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO on January 30, 2020.
The virus spread worldwide within a few months and infected more than half a million people, caused nearly 30,000 deaths, and triggered an immediate and considerable reduction in economic activities in China and other countries worldwide, as portrayed by Segal and Gerstel (2020) in the following excerpt:
Surveys of China’s manufacturing and services sectors plunged to record lows in February, automobile sales sank a record 80 percent, and China’s exports fell 17.2 percent in January and February. The official data confirmed a widespread slowdown in economic activity foreshadowed in low pollution levels and depressed shipping traffic, among other informal barometers.
Resolution of Conflicts
The military and/or political external interventions by coalitions of countries in such incidents as the Iraq-Kuwait conflict in August 1990, the bloody struggle for power among war-lords in Somalia in 1995/1996, the restoration of civilian rule in Haiti between 1990 and 1995, the ethnic conflicts in both Burundi (1993) and Rwanda (1994), and the civil war in the Federal Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire) during the 1990s provide factual examples of an earnest effort, desire and moral obligation by national governments worldwide to work together in addressing issues, challenges and crises facing humanity.
There is a need for each and every sovereign nation to work hand in hand with other sovereign nations in seeking viable and mutually beneficial solutions to global issues, challenges and problems, including terrorism, the refugee crisis, climate change, pandemics, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and money laundering.
All sovereign nations need to embrace the fact that they are “global citizens” mainly because their pursuits, actions and interests often transcend their national borders. Besides, they are essentially members of the global community of nations. As such, they have a moral obligation to act in ways that do not only improve the vistas of their citizenry but also contribute to the resolution of global problems and crises.
Therefore, any actions by sovereign nations that are contrary to this expectation are horrendous, and are detrimental to the wellbeing and interests of human kind. Accordingly, they deserve to be expressly condemned by all civilized nations!
Ankomah, B., “Clinton’s African Odyssey,” New African, Number 363, May 1998.
Gladstone, Rick and Gutierrez, Jason, “U.N. Live Updates: China Calls on World to Reject Politicization of Covid,” The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/, September 22, 2020.
Hughes, Sally S., “The AIDS Epidemic in San Francisco: The Medical Response, 1981-1984, Volume I,” http://texts.cdlib.org/, 1995.
Kyambalesa, Henry, “Global Issues and Challenges,” manuscript (2020), Chapter 13.
Nwagboso, M., “Africa in the 21st Century,” West Africa, Number 4199, December 7-20, 1998.
Segal, Stephanie and Gerstel, Dylan, “The Global Economic Impacts of COVID-19,” The Center for Strategic and International Studies: https://www.csis.org/, March 10, 2020.
UNAIDS, “Global HIV & AIDS Statistics — 2019 Fact Sheet” and “AIDS By the Numbers,” UNAIDS: https://www.unaids.org/en/, April 20, 2020.
Henry Kyambalesa is a retired academic. He has pursued studies in Business Administration and Management at the University of Zambia and Oklahoma City University, Mineral Economics at Colorado School of Mines, and International Studies (including the fields of International Business, International Economics, International Relations, and International Technology Analysis and Management) at the University of Denver. He has served as adjunct Assistant Dean and tenured lecturer in Business Administration in the School of Business at the Copperbelt University, and on the MBA Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, USA. He has also served as Instructor in Economics, Marketing and Statistics at the former Zambia Institute of Technology, and as a Guest Lecturer in Supervision, Production Management and Management Development at Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Zambia.
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