Raila Challenges United States and Europe to offer leadership to the rest of the world during Covid-19 pandemic

(Raila Odinga)

In an opinion piece published on the mail and guardian, the African Union High representative for Infrastructure and Development Raila Odinga has called on the United States and Europe to unite and offer leadership to the rest of the world during this Covid-19 pandemic.

He began by saying that the whole world stands where Europe was in 1945. And that Europe recovered because of massive international assistance. It’s that same cooperation and solidarity that he is asking United States and Europe to consider because it’s “needed now more than ever before.”

He said there were massive help pumped into West Germany at around 1962 after the World War II,

“So much help got pumped into West Germany a decade after the war, one would have been forgiven for believing that it was Germany that had won World War II. It was not European money that repaired Europe.”

Adding, “It was America’s leadership, through the famous Marshall Plan, that got Europe back on its feet again. Today, the whole world stands where Europe was in 1945. The world finds itself in the middle of a grim and disruptive pandemic.”

Mr Odinga is surprised with the unpreparedness for coronavirus pandemic in Africa, “Strangely though, while humanity learnt from the 20th century wars and crafted an international system to deal with their consequences – and to avoid similar devastation in the future – we have responded to Covid-19 as if there has been no precedent.”

As the countries are weighing up reopening their operations, including international travel and tourism, Odinga want the move to be accompanied by “a new resolve: that the international system that emerged from the devastation of World War II should be strengthened, not undermined.”

This he argues that, “The world has no alternative to the United Nations and its support bodies like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Health Organisation; and to ideals like international security, free markets and democracy.” And so, he suggests that, “Cooperation, coordination and solidarity should guide the search for vaccines and cures for Covid-19.”

He is also arguing that it’s the United States together with Soviet Union who liberated West Germany. And the United States did not stop there, they, according to Odinga, “Went ahead to provide the money to rebuild Europe and proceeded to craft an alliance (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO) to help defend Europe. America at that stage showed what is possible when nations cooperate in a spirit of enlightened self-interest.”

It’s on this basis that he suggest that “The US, in tandem with Europe, can once again bring the world to one table and lead it into recovery and reconstruction.”

This is because, “Collectively, they have the experience, the technology and the institutions to lead this process: if they can summon the will and a sense of debt to the world.” He observed.

He asked the two continents to form an alliance “that brings the entire world to one table to address the health and economic consequences of Covid-19 and to chart a path for tackling similar crises in the future is needed.”

This he believes that once you get proper “leadership at the global level, the post Covid-19 reconstruction period could be the start of something interesting, just like the Marshall Plan led to the formation of NATO and the institutionalization of support for liberation from colonialism.”

Odinga recalls that the US offer of help for Europe came with the requirement that nations get their act together.

He says, a similar debate is on in Africa. And that “The idea that this continent must act in unison to strengthen its systems with regard to food security, healthcare, infrastructure development, intra-Africa trade and governance is taking root.”

He adds, “Africa is already organizing itself for post-Covid, just like the rest of the world.”

He however feels that Africa has more issues to be put on the table as its going to be extremely problematic for Africa to service its debt and finance reconstruction and recovery at the same time.

On the above he suggests that, “There is a need for bilateral and multilateral discussions into debt write-offs and rescheduling for Africa. These efforts require financial, political and diplomatic backing on a global scale.”

Adding that, “They need broad global agreement on how nations are going to relate and transact business post-Covid-19.”

Mr Odinga is optimistic that “It is still possible for the present administrations in Europe and the US to rethink and re-engage with the world. After all, even at the end of World War II, the US was reluctant to involve itself in Europe. When President Harry Truman started pouring money into Europe in 1947, nobody could tell whether he would be re-elected in 1948 (he was). With no end or cure in sight, and little knowledge of where the pandemic goes from here, the world is calling for a change of mindset.” He explained

“Instead of withdrawal, we need engagement on a global, not national scale – no matter what the slogans that leaders used to win power might say. Although all nations have been devastated by this pandemic, that should be a reason for all of us to think beyond our borders, not to retreat.

“With this disease, no nation is safe as long as one nation is under attack. This is more so as we consider reopening our economies, including international travel and commerce. Those who have in the past advocated the global system, and those who have benefited from it, must once again champion it, expand its reach and oversee a uniform return to good health for the world.

“The US and Europe must therefore not build walls to keep the world out. They have to provide leadership, using the institutions firmly under their control, and experience gathered from previous, similar crises.” He writes on.

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