SINGAPORE - Five leaders from different regions, including President Halimah Yacob, have called for greater sharing of knowledge and a coordinated, rapid global response as a critical antidote to the Covid-19 pandemic and deepening fault lines that have emerged.
This response includes the research and development as well as manufacture and distribution of treatments and vaccines, the leaders said in an opinion piece for the Financial Times.
It was written by German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as well as King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Halimah, President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia and President Lenin Moreno Garces of Ecuador.
"Nations are turning inward as they try to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, closing borders and imposing drastic executive measures in a retreat that risks leaving every country fending for itself," they wrote in the piece published on FT.com on Tuesday (March 31).
"However, we can contain and counter Covid-19 more effectively by knocking down the barriers that hinder knowledge exchange and co-operation," the leaders said.
"Crises like these tend to bring out both the best and the worst in people. It is our responsibility as leaders to encourage the former and contain the latter."
In their piece, the heads of state pressed for a global solution to the pandemic, pointing out that past healthcare crises from tuberculosis and smallpox, to Ebola and Aids, were defeated by modern medicine. Shared knowledge and accelerated research driven by a global network of scientists is also the answer to the current predicament, they added.
The leaders called on institutions such as the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, international vaccine alliances, philanthropic foundations, scientists and pharmaceutical companies to join forces and build on the work done by the World Health Organization to combat the virus.
Such a global alliance, they said, should commit to four objectives: accelerate research and development of treatments and vaccines; rapidly produce, procure and distribute testing kits and medical equipment in a fair and equitable manner; rapidly scale-up production and distribution of future vaccines to all parts of the world; and treat the eventual vaccine as a global public good.
"This is a global crisis. Delay in action means death. We all face the same enemy and we stand to gain by bringing the full force of humanity together to fight it," they added.
"This is not the time for geopolitical turf battles."
The op-ed comes amid an ongoing blame game between the United States and China, already locked in a mutually-damaging trade and tech war, over the spread of the coronavirus.
The leaders acknowledged that the proposed multi-stakeholder alliance will not be easy to set up or manage. But it is worth the effort, they said.
"We realise that our societies will not be the same after the crisis and the world we live in will also be different. But we defy all those who pretend to know already today that it will be a poorer, colder world with people and nations keeping their distance from each other," they added.
"Our decisions over the course of the coming weeks and months will determine what the world will look like tomorrow."