The Post-Covid World Order

Kavya Manocha

With the United States no longer funding the World Health Organisation, looking at how 2020 is changing the world power dynamics

The current Covid-19 pandemic has been truly “global” and adversely affected every country in the world. Its continuing longevity and profound effect has destabilized the world and shook the power dynamics of the emerging multilateral world we have seen in the last few decades. A possible trend in the post-Covid-19 world is the vacuum in global leadership and the inefficiencies of international institutions. It has brought attention to the various issues underlying this multilateral world and exposed problems in global governance and institutions. The institutions, like the United Nations and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which were created post-World War II, aimed to ensure peace and stability, are currently highly politicised. Lack of timely response by these organizations has eroded their importance at solving issues of the real world. 

“The US-led world order propagated capitalism, collective defence, trade legalisation, and democracy as ways to uphold its ideals and norms”

The United States has been the world’s leading superpower, or rather, the world’s hegemon, since the last century. This is because of the glorious victory of the allied block in the Second World War and later, due to the US defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Moreover, its unmatched economic and military capacity, supposedly developed society, along with the support of its western allies has helped to cement this position. The US-led world order propagated capitalism, collective defence, trade legalisation, and democracy as ways to uphold its ideals and norms. Its allies would grant the US access to their countries’ resources and support in international institutions and the US provided them with funding and security. They were critical in upholding such a system through material and ideological support, which favoured American supremacy. However, the Trump administration has time and again questioned these alliances and viewed them as unnecessary burdens. 

“The US’s response to Covid-19 has put major doubts on its capability of handling a crisis and brought devastation to human lives and the economy”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the US tried to hold on to its position in the world order. Moreover, rightly so, a collective response along with its allies would have been the standard response. However, the pandemic threw the country into a frenzy where it was unable to lead or care for its citizens, forcing it to look inwards, and threaten allies for medical supplies. The US’s response to Covid-19 has put major doubts on its capability of handling a crisis and brought devastation to human lives and the economy. Another big blow came from the Trump administration withdrawing from the World Health Organization, an international institution that depended on the US for $893 million in funds in the two-year budget cycle 2018 and 2019, that’s nearly 15 percent of its budget. The pandemic has shown how dependent international institutions were on their de facto leader, the United States. In addition, the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw troops from Germany could affect the US’s ability to operate in the Middle East and Africa, while handing over a strategic advantage to Russia. This leads us into a time when the international community is going through one of its biggest vacuums in global leadership. 

“The termination of the United States’ relationship with the WHO is a complete disaster for public health research and life-saving work administered by the WHO in treating Ebola, HIV, and polio in many poor and low-income nations, where the US public health researchers and policymakers are a huge guiding force.”

The termination of the United States’ relationship with the WHO is a complete disaster for public health research and life-saving work administered by the WHO in treating Ebola, HIV, and polio in many poor and low-income nations, where the US public health researchers and policymakers are a huge guiding force. International institutions like the WTO and the United Nations were established to ease the response to global threats, and they are global resources, which the world cannot do without. These institutions have in the past, aimed to act as an agency working for the greater good, to provide scientific information, peace, and assistance to both, developed and underdeveloped nations. Most importantly, being accountable to all countries. Hence, in such uncertain times, the US could have aided the world, rather than divide it. 

What withdrawing financial support amid a global pandemic showcases is a lack of global understanding by the United States and gives way to a possible domino effect leading to the crumbling of international institutions. Losing financial and organizational backing from the world’s leading superpower puts doubt on their acceptance, applicability, and importance by many of United States allies in the post Covid world. Imre Hollo, director of strategic planning for the WHO, said it is already hampering their financial plans and budget for 2021 and might cause many employee cuts.This move by the US could make these institutions obsolete. It has only led the international community to believe that the United States is no longer upholding the world order and can not be relied upon. It could force allies to doubt collective action measures and the possibility of a collective response to the pandemic. 

“This power vacuum might have an upside: it brings the possibility of a world order which is much more decentralized than being controlled by a hegemon. This cooperation can be different from the previous one, which only benefitted a few elite nations.”

This power vacuum might have an upside: it brings the possibility of a world order which is much more decentralized than being controlled by a hegemon. This cooperation can be different from the previous one, which only benefitted a few elite nations. It could lead to a world order containing groups of nations, which support ideals of global governance, progress, and issues that the United States and its allies have failed to act upon. Such groups could still support multilateralism and harness its benefits in the globalised world. They need not pursue the norms of capitalism, trade liberalization, or collective security guided by the Western World, rather, propagate a new set of norms and ideals. 

The economic boom and the rise of emerging powers like Japan, Australia, South Korea, India, and Brazil in the last few decades have made their presence felt in the post Covid-19 international order. These states have the capacity and ability to influence global leaders. They have already begun safeguarding and assisting their neighbourhood nations to leverage support and reduce dependence on either the US or China. Hence, partnerships between these states could restructure ideals and guide material resources and capacity. These partnerships could be more productive since a collective approach encourages states to leverage capacities by providing information, collaboration, and medical expertise. 

“the lack of responsibility by the United States has thrown major doubts on its ability to expand its power, while the collapse of its hegemony seems inevitable.”

At present, the world is going through one of its biggest economic and health crises and such unprecedented circumstances make it impossible to correctly shape the post-Covid-19 world order. At the centre of all this, is the manner in which the WHO handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Their failure to make responsible decisions and timely action in declaring it a pandemic made it impossible for nations to be prepared for the wreckage which was soon to come. This has resulted in a lack of trust forcing them to reduce their reliance on such organisations. In addition, the lack of responsibility by the United States has thrown major doubts on its ability to expand its power, while the collapse of its hegemony seems inevitable. This brings to question the validity and use of international institutions, which rely heavily on the US for funding, along with their existence. 

The tragic termination of the United States’ relationship with the WHO affects its very existence in the post-Covid-19 world. This vacuum in global leadership allows for the rise of middle powers as groups that can benefit from collective action and shared interests. Thus, the upcoming world order hangs in the future, but cannot be fathomed without factoring in the role and power these middle powers will hold in the upcoming decade. 

Kavya has recently started working as a management consultant after completing her Economics Honors degree from Christ University, Bangalore.

Design by Hemashri Dhavala

The Revelation of the Unspoken

Siddhi Shah

An insight into the UN Women Ad Campaign “the Autocomplete Truth” which exposed the stark gender inequality and discrimination that exists today.

Over the past decade, the way in which women are presented in the media has come a long way. With women-centric films and increased focus on gender equality by the government and corporates alike we have seen greater acceptance of feminism. However, there exists a deeply entrenched assumption and stereotype of a “woman”, as a mother, daughter, homemaker, or caregiver, who is responsible for the household.  

“The assumption of women as the one responsible for the household is further emphasised when advertisements related to cooking, cleaning, washing products predominantly feature women.”

This is because we live in a world that is surrounded by prejudiced visuals, imagery, and other representations that help us perceive our surroundings. A factor that contributes to the human lens and the representation of the worldly domain is advertising. It forms a vast superstructure within our human existence and has a major influence on our day to day lives.  The assumption of women as the one responsible for the household is further emphasised when advertisements related to cooking, cleaning, washing products predominantly feature women. In today’s time, it is important to curate advertisements that bring a positive change in society by addressing the issue of gender inequality. 

The United Nations organisation for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women or UN Women works for women empowerment by raising awareness of biases that exist against women and highlighting the long term imbalance of inequality. To address the issue with advertising,  it created a campaign called “The Autocomplete Truth” in 2013. 

“Google searches starting with “women should” depicted in the advertisement showed regressive attitudes about women and how they should be in order to be accepted in society.”

The Autocomplete truth was an exemplary campaign that provided insight into the discrimination that women face across the world. What made it unique was the fact that the campaign collated stereotypes that exist against women and responded to them. Google searches starting with “women should” depicted in the advertisement showed regressive attitudes about women and how they should be in order to be accepted in society. The search gave autocomplete results like “women should be in the kitchen”, “women should be slaves”, and “women should not have rights”. 

With the campaign, UN Women tried to highlight the sexism that exists even today. It challenged the higher social, political, and legal rights that men have enjoyed over women. Gender equality in terms of all peripheries is the major message that was emanated to the audience. 

“What stood out for me was the curation of the google search bar showing auto-completed results on the mouths of the four women, depicting how women have been silenced over the years”

I believe the UN campaign gave a voice and strength to women. What stood out for me was the curation of the google search bar showing auto-completed results on the mouths of the four women, depicting how women have been silenced over the years. It evoked the viewers to look at the grim reality of the prejudice and discrimination against women that continues even after decades of global progress on gender equality. It also showed how women are perceived on a global platform. Are women only supposed to be in the kitchen? Are they only supposed to serve men? Don’t they deserve the same rights economically and socially as men? 

“The Autocomplete truth had visibility of 755 million people globally and was tweeted by accounts of official authorities of more than 50 countries”

The campaign in the digital age created its trend with hashtags and left impressions online. It emerged victorious with 1 billion and 224 million impressions on Twitter. It also created #womenshould hashtag empowering women and acknowledging their achievements. The Autocomplete truth had visibility of 755 million people globally and was tweeted by accounts of official authorities of more than 50 countries. It became the most shared promotion of 2013 on Adweek.

The campaign got a lot of positive feedback. It had a profound impact that was reflected in headlines across the globe in leading news and media companies like CNBC, The Guardian, Times of India, Buzzfeed, and Cosmopolitan. The campaign also served as a helpful educational campaign for women empowerment. Companies such as Bajaj Allianz made a campaign after the hashtag to support UN women and it’s global equality purpose. This campaign served as an important medium to make consumers of internet media see that women are more than just being responsible for the household.

“The campaign made viewers question the culture of oppression that has persisted through generations”

The Autocomplete Truth campaign made viewers question the culture of oppression that has persisted through generations. It was positioned to provoke a widespread reaction from the new-age audience, to personify the positives of globalisation in society. It asked the audience what they were doing to make a change to the sexist perceptions of women that have been prevailing for years. In 2020, this campaign is still relevant as we see women across the globe bearing the burden of housework, along with working from home and being the primary caregivers. With Covid lockdowns, there is evidence of drastic increases in reports of domestic violence against women. It is important, now more than ever to look back at the Autocomplete Truth campaign from 2013 and challenge and question the inequality that persists today.   

“It’s time for each one of us to call out sexism at our workplace, educational institutions, and our homes”

I believe that the Autocomplete Truth Campaign revealed the patriarchal bigotry that has been encrypted in our society for generations. It has been a powerful attempt to challenge the power dynamics that exist even today. We need to build a  society in which women are equal to men in all situations and at all times. It’s time for each one of us to call out sexism at our workplace, educational institutions, and our homes. That is when the Autocomplete Campaign campaign will succeed.

Siddhi is currently pursuing Media and Communication from the University of Arts London. She strongly believes in bridging the gap in all societal aspects and cultures. She believes in gender equality and empowerment of the youth. She is also a music junkie who loves to travel and has her own fashion blog called Maisonsash.

Images from Ad series for UN Women by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai