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June 2020

Cover Story

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G20 Leaders Urged to Mobilize
COVID-19 Response for World’s Poor

G20 leaders urgently need to reconvene to agree on an enhanced and more strongly coordinated global response to the COVID-19 crisis. Although lockdowns are being eased in many places, the daily number of new COVID-19 cases worldwide recently reached its highest level yet. Read More

Cover Story

Wildfires Leave Lasting Scars,
Lessons on Australian Continent

As coronavirus grips Australia, the country has barely recovered from another crisis: the catastrophic wildfires that consumed parts of the continent. But Australia’s new ambassador, Arthur Sinodinos, is no stranger to crisis. Read More

Pandemic Impetus

Coronavirus Could Upend
Yemen’s Long-Running Conflict

It’s hard to imagine things could get any worse in Yemen, which was already the Arab world’s poorest country before war broke out five years ago. With the coronavirus health crisis sweeping the globe, however, experts fear the situation in Yemen could indeed get much, much worse. Read More

South Asia

Is the Afghan Peace
Process Back on Track?

USIP’s Scott Smith looks at what a few hopeful recent developments might mean for the peace process, when we can expect the vital intra-Afghan negotiations to begin and what, if any, impact COVID-19 has had on peace. Read More

People of World Influence

Ex-Pentagon Official Offers Perspective
On U.S. National Security Challenges

Michèle Flournoy, one of the highest-ranking women to serve in the Pentagon, talks about the litany of security crises facing the world, but when asked what keeps her up at night, one worry stands out: the Yes Men surrounding President Trump. Read More


Singapore's Coronavirus Cases
increase Due to Migrant Workers

In recent weeks, Singapore went from global success story in its response to the coronavirus outbreak to having the largest number of cases in Southeast Asia. Most startlingly, though, is the number of migrant worker infections in the country, which dwarfs that of the general population. Read More

Contagion Learning Curve

After Botched Ebola Response, WHO
Applies Lessons with Coronavirus

The World Health Organization was sharply criticized for its response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. Today, however, the early reviews of the WHO’s response to coronavirus are much more nuanced. Read More

Failure of Forcible Regime Change

Academics Say U.S. Interventions
To Force Regime Change Often Fail

There is a long history of countries overthrowing other countries’ governments to get what they want and an equally long history of such efforts ending in abject failure, ranging from the American morass in Vietnam to the botched Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Read More

Why America Slept

JFK’s Analysis of Pre-War Britain
Offers Parallels to Today’s Pandemic

Published in July 1940, John F. Kennedy’s “Why England Slept” provides a template for how to analyze the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States in 2020. His approach can help us understand “Why America Slept.” Read More

Contested Waters

U.S. Races to Broker Egypt-Ethiopia
Deal As Nile Dam Plows Ahead

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam along the Nile River could be a game-changer for Ethiopia’s 100 million people, transforming their country into Africa’s biggest power exporter. But for Egypt and its 100 million people, the Nile Dam is an existential threat Read More


Blood Plasma Therapy Helps
Critically Ill Covid-19 Patients

The blood plasma of people who have recovered from the new coronavirus infection may help critically ill COVID-19 patients recover, a new study finds. Of 25 sick patients given plasma transfusions, 19 improved and 11 left the hospital, the researchers reported. Read More


Amid COVID-19, Traditional Recipes
Comfort Middle Eastern Communities

Amid global lockdowns and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, many countries are circling back to one constant: food. In the Middle East, there has been a revival of traditional recipes to unite communities through cuisine. Read More

In Memoriam

Yoko Elizabeth Sugiyama, Wife
of Japanese Ambassador, Dies at 66

Yoko Elizabeth Sugiyama, the wife of Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Shinsuke J. Sugiyama, died Feb. 10 of apparent sudden heart failure at the couple’s home in Tokyo at the age of 66. Read More

Quiet Trailblazer

America's First Female Ambassador
Focused on the Job, Not Gender

One of the first things that stands out in the book “Mrs. Ambassador: The Life and Politics of Eugenie Anderson” is that history really does repeat itself. Were America’s first woman ambassador to return to the job today, she would find herself on somewhat familiar ground. Read More



G20 Leaders Urged to Mobilize COVID-19 Response for World’s Poor

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By Erik Berglöf, Gordon Brown, Helen Clark and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

LONDON — G20 leaders urgently need to reconvene to agree on an enhanced and more strongly coordinated global response to the COVID-19 crisis. Although lockdowns are being eased in many places, the daily number of new COVID-19 cases worldwide recently reached its highest level yet, while the pandemic’s devastating economic toll continues to mount as new epicenters arise in the emerging and developing world.

We are at a critical moment, because the poorest countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are facing economic and public health emergencies that demand immediate action. A diverse group of middle-income economies need help, too. Together, these countries represent nearly 70% of the world’s population and account for approximately one-third of global GDP.

Their needs will grow more acute in the months and years ahead. The International Labor Organization expects that global working hours in the second quarter of 2020 will be 10.5% below pre-crisis levels, equivalent to the loss of more than 300 million full-time jobs. And, for the first time this century, global poverty is rising.

Indeed, a global recession could reverse up to three decades of improvements in living standards and, according to one estimate, push 420 million to 580 million people worldwide into poverty. The World Food Program, moreover, has warned that COVID-19 will likely double the number of people suffering from acute hunger, to 265 million.

The pandemic has also given rise to the greatest education emergency of our lifetime, with 1.7 billion children — more than 90% of the global total — having been out of school because of lockdowns. In poor countries, many may never go back. Millions of children who no longer receive school meals are going hungry, and cash-strapped governments are reducing education aid.

This global economic and social emergency will not end until we overcome the global health emergency. And that will require overcoming it in all countries.

We welcome the pledges totaling $8 billion at a special May 4 virtual summit to develop COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments, and we urge governments and other donors to pay these contributions immediately. But much more needs to be done.

Global coordination is particularly important in the development, mass manufacture and equitable distribution of any eventual vaccine. And, because such a vaccine must be universally and freely available, we urge every G20 member to support the replenishment of funding for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, at an online pledging conference on June 4.

In a similar vein, COVID-19 testing capacity must be ramped up and deployed on a vastly greater scale. Moreover, closer cross-border collaboration is essential to increase the limited global supply of vital medical equipment. Developing countries also need support to build up their health systems and capacities, and to improve their social safety nets. And G20 countries should support the United Nations’s appeal to protect refugees, displaced persons and others who rely on humanitarian aid.

Reflecting the unprecedented economic and fiscal deterioration in many emerging and developing economies, more than 100 countries have approached the International Monetary Fund for help. More will likely do so. But although the IMF has said that these countries need $2.5 trillion to overcome the crisis, only a fraction of that amount has been allocated.

So, while we welcome the good intentions at the heart of the G20’s COVID-19 action plan, world leaders must do more.

First, debt relief for the 76 International Development Association countries needs to be scaled up radically to include relief by bilateral and private creditors until the end of 2021. Moreover, multilateral creditors must demonstrate that they are providing net new lending; if not, they must provide debt relief. And because time is running out for private creditors to grant debt relief voluntarily, a new binding approach now needs to be considered.

Meanwhile, a dozen or more emerging market economies may well run into debt-servicing problems in the coming months. The IMF should prepare now to bring the relevant parties together.

Second, the G20 should agree that the $2.5 trillion of needed support will be provided. This will require the IMF, the World Bank and regional development banks to raise their lending and grant ceilings, with the multilateral development banks increasing their outstanding loan portfolio over the next 18 months from $500 billion to $650 billion to $700 billion. These institutions must secure greater resources and allow more ambitious deployment of their capital if they are to act adequately.

All of this makes imperative a fresh emission of Special Drawing Rights (the IMF’s global reserve asset) and the transfer of existing unused and new allocations to countries desperate for support. A new SDR issue would release $600 billion immediately, and more than $1 trillion by 2022. The G20 should marshal political support for this measure and undertake the necessary technical work, so that it can be implemented as soon as an agreement is reached.

In the first stage of the COVID-19 crisis, the emphasis was on liquidity provision, employment protection and emergency investments in health. Now, as policymakers seek to return the world economy to pre-crisis growth levels, enhanced fiscal and monetary coordination is vital.

Governments should therefore consider establishing a global growth target alongside national inflation targets. Green investment must be part of the stimulus, with governments favoring infrastructure projects that advance sustainable development and thus help to combat climate change.

To raise vital revenues for national governments, world leaders should agree on a coordinated strategy to recover money lost to tax havens. Countries should automatically exchange tax information, lift the veil of secrecy surrounding beneficial owners and trusts, and sanction non-compliant countries that refuse to implement the agreed rules.

COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the world to build a new and more effective multilateralism that is equipped to address the challenges of the 21st century. The global health and financial architecture must be reinforced, and partly redesigned, to enhance our preparedness and capacity to fight future crises rapidly and at scale. Further G20 action to prevent the pandemic-induced recession from deepening, and to mitigate its impact on the world’s poorest people, would advance this goal. We urge its leaders to embrace what needs to be done now.

Reprinted with permission from Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org).

About the Author

Erik Berglöf, a former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, is director of the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Gordon Brown, former prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer of the United Kingdom, is the United Nations special envoy for global education and chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. He chairs the Advisory Board of the Catalyst Foundation.

Helen Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand, is a former administrator of the United Nations Development Program.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former finance minister of Nigeria, is board chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and distinguished fellow at the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution.


Is the Afghan Peace Process Back on Track?

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By Scott Smith

Read more: Is the Afghan Peace Process Back on Track?

This Is Why Singapore’s Coronavirus Cases Are Growing: A Look Inside the Dismal Living Conditions of Migrant Workers

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By Sallie Yea

Read more: This Is Why Singapore’s Coronavirus Cases Are Growing: A Look Inside the Dismal Living Conditions of Migrant Workers

Blood Plasma Therapy Aids Recovery in Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients

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By Alan Mozes

Read more: Blood Plasma Therapy Aids Recovery in Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients

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