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How Will The Post-Corona World Look Like?

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Abdul Qayyum Kundi discusses how the world should look like once the coronavirus crisis is over.

Coronavirus converted from an epidemic to a pandemic much faster than the previous two deadliest ones Spanish flu (1918) and Asian Flu (1957). it is possibly because the world is now much more connected than the 20th century. There are estimated over 102,465 daily flights (source Quora) connecting the five continents. The deaths from the Coronavirus are less than the previous two because of the fast spread of preventive information through social media. But the world will certainly change once we recover from this crisis. The question is whether it will change for the better or the worse? The objective of this oped is to initiate discussion on positive change.

The first fear is that the ultra-right politicians will try to erect more barriers and hurdles to prevent economic migrations, stop processing asylum applications, refuse entry to refugees, and interrupt trade linkages.

President Trump’s labeling of Corona as a Chinese virus was meant to divide humanity and convert this crisis into a political conflict. This approach does not help anyone. We have to remember that the pain of one nation is ultimately felt by all others. Wars in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan resulted in an increased flow of refugees to Europe thereby impacting their demographics. It is better to encourage more trade, free flow of ideas, capital, and people.

The reduction of lifestyle gaps will reduce the incentives for people to migrate to other countries. It is for this reason I have requested that the G20 countries should dedicate a large portion of their $5 trillion economic stimuli to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to help poor countries improve their basic health infrastructure. The current allocation of $2 billion is peanuts and grossly insufficient.

I fully support and endorse the call of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that there should be a global ceasefire. But he did not mention that this ceasefire should also include economic warfare imposed through unilateral sanctions. I am not hopeful that those engaged in these wars will heed to this call. The main reason for it is that the UN has become increasingly irrelevant in containing unilateral aggression of some of its member states. The UN has to be reformed to become effective. It should have the ability to enforce its resolutions which are missing at the moment. UN Security Council has no representation from Africa, South America, and the Muslim world despite being the epicenter of most conflicts of the last 50 years.

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UN subsidiary organisations should also be reformed. WHO mandate should be expanded to include helping members provide basic health; approve generic drugs and standardisation. A new entity should be created to implement a charter for freedom of expression to ensure the protection of consumers’ data, transparency in state monitoring of citizens, contain fake news, protect professional journalist to report; support credible news sources, prevent hate speech, and allow citizens to participate on social media. In the absence of such a charter, there will be state action that could be detrimental to the flow of information.

Media plays a significant role in informing people but they have been blamed to hype the issue and create fear that has a damaging effect. I firmly believe media (here I am referring to professional media outlets that exercise editorial control) has played a positive role but it is also true that commercialisation of digital media has introduced an element of dramatisation of facts. Print media, which has a deeper impact on people, is facing an existential crisis because of a business model rendered obsolete by the introduction of low barriers to entry, high overhead to print, and migration to digital platforms.

Some organisations, for example, the New York Times, have introduced online subscriptions but so far it is not clear this revenue stream is enough to help it survive. It is quite clear that philanthropic organisations and state support will be required to help some of these institutions to survive. Death of print media will cause a lot of human suffering and has to be protected from demise.

Electronic Media (TV & Radio) has increasingly assumed a larger role as compared to print but it is also true that they are the ones that have contributed most to the erosion of public trust in journalism. Traditional journalist ethos is that it reports how, where, what, and when an event has happened that has to be reported in the public interest. In this conception dog-bites-man as well as man-bites-dog both should be reported with unvarnished facts.
But television media has added an extra dimension to it by sensationalising facts using pictures, sound, and expression.

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Extra emphasis on any non-factual ingredients can change the message of a news report and overtake facts that assume secondary importance. In primitive times (in the fast-paced world just 40 years seem primitive) it was considered important that a newscaster or a talk show host remain unbiased and un-opinionated when reporting or mediating a debate. Now it is considered a norm that an anchor is a participant in a debate rather than remain a neutral arbiter. These celebrity anchors appear to also have editorial control.

This has resulted in media outlets taking an ideological position rather than remain a medium to convey bare facts. For instance, Fox News is considered a platform to promote Conservative or Republic party views while MSNBC is tilted towards liberal or Democratic Party views. This trend has helped the tribalization of society exploited by populist and ultra-right politicians. These media outlets forget that masses, in general, remain anchored to the center and it is for this reason they are increasingly alienated from the biased media. This trend has to be arrested and electronic media has to regain its trust of the people.

This is not an exhaustive list of changes in the post corona world because the subject is too broad to cover in one piece with limited space. But it is important to engage in this dialogue so that the world becomes a better place rather than fall into a prolonged economic recession, higher walls around the states, and widening gap in the lifestyles of the world community.

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