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What COVID-19 Means for International Cooperation

A clear parallel between the growing COVID-19 pandemic and climate change is emerging. In particular, both phenomena highlight the need for much closer forward-looking international cooperation to reduce and manage global threats.

WASHINGTON, DC – Throughout history, crisis and human progress have often gone hand in hand. While the growing COVID-19 pandemic could strengthen nationalism and isolationism and accelerate the retreat from globalization, the outbreak also could spur a new wave of international cooperation of the sort that emerged after World War II.

COVID-19 may become not only a huge health crisis, but also a crisis of globalization and global governance. Most obviously, it raises the question of how the world should organize itself against the threat of pandemics. But it also has implications for how globalization is perceived and what that perception means for the future of international cooperation.

Five decades of increasing interconnectedness have opened up the world to massive cross-border flows of goods, services, money, ideas, data, and people. While globalization itself is not new, the sheer scale and scope of the current version has made the world unprecedentedly interdependent – and thus fragile.