No one is free until we are all free from Covid
At the 76th United Nations General Assembly, the Haitian representative said there will be no end to the US migration problem until the issue of equality is addressed. Was he correct?
His comments could be seen also in the address by Mia Mottley from Barbados, who spoke to the disparity in the global approach to the Covid pandemic, where there are larger developed nations bragging about achieving 80 per cent while some poorer and smaller jurisdictions have no vaccines at all.
In 1993, Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which had broad ideals of developing cohesion in the Atlantic hemisphere. The idea implicitly was to economically develop regions as a trade group that would have included Canada, United States, Central America and the Caribbean islands ultimately as an economic bloc under the US dollar. Haiti would have been included in that group.
The failures we see today on the US borders and the lack of economic progress in places such as Haiti and other countries are the direct consequence of not pursuing the ideals of Nafta. True enough, “no man is an island, no man stands alone” Bill had a great idea but it was really up to those islands and jurisdictions who needed it to shout from the mountaintop, recognising the benefit and fighting for it.
Many of the presenters at this year’s UN General Assembly, in particular the deputy leader of Ethiopia, spoke of multilateralism, suggesting that when nations co-operate with each other, it makes it better for each. The dogfight within American politics over what their role is in the world — whether a state unto itself and for itself, or a nation that is trying to expand the ideas of freedom and prosperity in the world — has taken its toll and dropping Nafta is one of its casualties.
We can see how far that pendulum swung by the time the Trump presidency came along. It was he who tore up the Nafta agreement in determining it was not in the interests of the US, while promoting “America First”.
Since then what we are witnessing is not the broad hemispheric vision but a hybrid of policies that resembles some of the goals of Nafta. You will have heard the Vice-President, Kamala Harris, say: “We need to solve the problems on the other side of the border to help ourselves.” That will be no small task if ever they get around to it, and when they do it will need to be a bold, robust initiative.
Whether we accept it or not, the state of the world with the haves and have-nots resembles that of the US-Haiti quandary. Most of the world’s population would escape their circumstances to migrate somewhere for better opportunity if they could. Meanwhile, we have governments of the world whose leadership have an innate responsibility to the planet, but who pander to the corporate machinery that devours the resources of poor countries. The mega corporations are more preoccupied with dividends and profit, and do so right under the noses of the governments that enable them.
It should be considered a “global” crime if we in Europe and the Americas can get two vaccinations and a booster shot while smaller island nations have nothing. It is a 21st-century horror when the scientific community knows the ramifications of an unvaccinated population.
It has long been the time for global statesmen to stand for the dignity of all mankind. This should be the imperative of modern-day leaders to act locally but think globally. It would have been nice if Bermuda’s leadership had the acumen to see past their careers as politicians.
Yes, it is a naive thought in a world with China and Russia as two superpowers whose spheres of global influence are huge but pay little attention to the upward mobility of the people as they utilise the resources. Totally ironic when both nations began as revolutions for the people.
Some may argue that it is a battle of style between Western liberalism and command, and control governments — who by design control what they deem the otherwise unruly nature of humans in society. In other words, Russia and China operate on the ethical premise that their rulership is benevolent because it saves humans from the worst of themselves — in contrast to what is displayed in the liberal West. However, missing in this ideological clash is a deeper sense of multilateralism where the concerns and needs of the world population are addressed.
The UN was created 70-plus years ago, but as a multinational organisation it has no power to bend or place any mandates on the superpower nations. This is particularly evident with this global pandemic, where there should be an effort to ensure every country has an effective vaccination programme. The world should not wait while the virus continues to mutate. None of us are free until all are free from Covid.