Coronavirus has seen nations across the world go into lockdown, with many commentators explaining how there will be societal consequences for years to come.The difficulties all affected countries face can be compared to those experienced in World War 2. The Queen drew the comparisons during her rare public address last weekend when she reminded the public “we will meet again”, in a throwback to the Vera Lynn wartime song from 1939. Yet, just as the world had to redefine itself after World War 2, it will have to do so again after coronavirus.
Writing for Forbes last month, economist Nishan Degnarain explained: “Before the COVID-19 crisis, our global institutions were on the brink – this pandemic has pushed them over the edge.
“When the world recovers from this crisis – and it will – society and the global economy will look very different.
“The world faces a choice: whether to build back the same government institutions – centred around traditional economic growth, traditional approaches to the environment, healthcare, education, public service delivery – or a new set of institutions that are better suited to the needs of the 21st century.”
Medics on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic, and a placard showing Britain declaring War
New global institutions were built after WW2 after mass destruction
The majority of the National and Global Institutions known around the world today were built after World War 2, such as the United Nations Security Council, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the World Health Organisation.
It was only after the revolutionary Beveridge Report from 1942 that Britain formed the National Health Service Britons still depend on today.
As Mr Degnarain explained: “It took a crisis as deep as World War 2 to imagine a future for the 20th century, and build institutions to achieve this positive vision.”
Yet, he added: “Decades-old approaches to Healthcare, Education and Public Services, all need to be radically rethought and retooled, as the COVID-19 pandemic is making more apparent every day.”
The Bretton Woods conference of 1944
He pointed out how the economic growth institutions, such as the Central Banks, the IMF and the World Bank, were all created during the key 1944 Bretton Woods conference.
Yet, all have come under fire in recent years for inadvertently promoting inequality and due to their inaction to the pressing problem of carbon emissions.
The NHS is coping with the health crisis at the moment, but it has been a cause for concern for years due to chronic underfunding.
Mr Degnarain also pointed out how health has altered considerably in the years since the creation of the NHS in 1948.
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With personalised medicine, artificial intelligence, mental health and biotechnology on the up in recent years, governments will have to consider how to redress this.
Education, too, will be strained after COVID-19 passes, as exams have been postponed and lessons cancelled due to the lockdown.
Teachers have had to use this opportunity to consider how to teach outside the classroom more effectively, which will lead to innovations within the sector.
Prosperity and the future of work will be deeply affected after so many UK businesses have been put on hold, with employees furloughed or let go due to the pandemic.
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The recovery of the environment following just weeks of decreased human activity have sparked hope for a reduction in climate change, a new crisis which was not present in the post-World War 2 era.
He pointed out how fake news, social media and remote working have altered the way countries are managed too.
Mr Degnarain said: “The institutions that define national and global governance will need to be rethought.”
With these points in mind, he asked whether the institutions established by the Bretton Woods conference still stand.
The economist said: “Are these really the institutions we wish to return to, when the world demands greater agility, responsiveness and flexibility in an ever more complex world.”
While institutions built after WW2 still stand, they may need updating to deal with today’s issues
BBC News recalled that there were only 18 countries without COVID-19, reminding the world that it is a ‘global village’ and so will need global change and interconnected institutions following the pandemic.
Perhaps, after humanity overcomes the coronavirus pandemic, the world needs a 21st century Bretton Woods to establish new global institutions fit for the modern way of life.
Just as the adversity of World War 2 presented an opportunity for mankind to reset and rebuild, so it could be with this deadly outbreak.