INGOs Under Lockdown: (Dis)advantages of Remote Advocacy for Feminists and Conservatives

 

In early March, everything was ready for the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64), an annual UN gathering dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. The session’s theme was the review of the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It was supposed to be a special moment for feminists. The Beijing Declaration is their brainchild. It was a result of their unprecedented advocacy, and it served as a blueprint for women’s empowerment ever since.

The main thing feminists feared ahead of the CSW64 was the conservative pushback. In the past decade, a strong conservative block has emerged in the UN. Often referred to as the “Unholy Alliance,” the block includes many post-Soviet, Catholic, and Islamic states, the US, and the Vatican, along with many conservative INGOs. Its members are making UN negotiations on women’s rights increasingly more difficult as they seek, among other things, to eliminate such concepts as “sexual and reproductive health and rights” from UN documents.

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New Viruses, Old Foundations. COVID-19, Global Health, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

A long history: philanthropic foundations & health organizations [Photo: Getty Images/juanmonino]
On May 19 this year, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cancel U.S. payments to the World Health Organization (WHO). One month earlier, Trump had already announced that the U.S. would not honour its biannual 500 million USD commitment. The next day, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated that they would donate an additional 150 million to the WHO, on top of a previous 100 million USD. The Gates’ largesse precedes COVID19. Since 2000, their foundation has granted almost four billion USD to the WHO to support a gigantic program against polio, and additional hundreds of millions for other programs on malaria, HIV, and maternal health, and the escalated use of technology in health. The Gates Foundation is a crucial contributor to the WHO, second only to the U.S.

Despite its pre-existing involvement with the WHO, the Gates Foundation’s statement surprised many. The public wondered how it could be possible for a private actor to replace the contribution of a state to an international organization. In reality, there is nothing to be surprised about. For at least a century, philanthropic foundations have funded international organizations involved in health issues, including fighting pandemics, or even conducted what we call today global health policy. Actually, the continuities are so fundamental that the foundations from the early twentieth and the early twenty-first century seem to choose to globally fund health policies for similar reasons. Because the arguments are similar, and the means they used comparable, the criticisms raised against philanthropic foundations generally and their health policies also remain remarkably stable. The similarities between the past and the present suggest that the criticisms are here to stay. Indeed, certain observers would venture that older and newer philanthropic foundations are built upon the same questionable bases: unequal income distribution and lack of transparency and accountability.

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Neue Viren, alte Stiftungen. COVID-19, globale Gesundheit, und die Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Stiftungen und Gesundheitsorganisationen verbindet eine lange Geschichte [Getty Images/juanmonino]
Nachdem US-PrĂ€sident Donald Trump im April ankĂŒndigte, den zweijĂ€hrlich fĂ€lligen WHO-Beitrag in Höhe von 500 Mio. US$ nicht ĂŒberweisen zu wollen und am 19. Mai gar damit drohte, die Zahlungen ganz einzustellen, verlautbarte die Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation nur einen Tag spĂ€ter, dass sie den schon gespendeten 100 Mio. US$ weitere 150 Mio. hinzufĂŒgen wĂŒrde. Seit dem Jahr 2000 spendete die Stiftung fast 4 Milliarden US$ an die Weltgesundheitsorganisation fĂŒr Programme gegen Polio, zusĂ€tzlich zu mehreren hundert Millionen fĂŒr andere Programme gegen Malaria, MĂŒttergesundheit oder HIV.

Ungeachtet des vorangegangenen Engagements der Stiftung sorgte die Aussage fĂŒr Überraschung. Wie ist es möglich, dass ein privater Akteur die BeitrĂ€ge eines Staates an eine internationale Organisation ĂŒbernimmt? TatsĂ€chlich ĂŒberrascht daran nichts, denn philanthropische Stiftungen fördern die gesundheitspolitischen AktivitĂ€ten internationaler Organisationen seit mindestens einem Jahrhundert. So auch die Rockefeller-Stiftung, die in der Zwischenkriegszeit die Gesundheitsorganisation des Völkerbundes finanzierte. Warum geben einige der grĂ¶ĂŸten Organisationen ihr Geld fĂŒr Gesundheit aus? Ist das Retten von Leben schlicht moralisch gut — oder steckt mehr dahinter?

Lesen Sie mehr ĂŒber das gesundheitspolitische Engagement philanthropischer Stiftungen im vollstĂ€ndigen englischsprachigen Artikel von Álvaro Morcillo Laiz hier.

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When norms collide: The COVID-19 pandemic and difficult choices on the hierarchy of norms and values

Norm collisions due to COVID-19 inevitably lead to societal conflicts [Image: Uriel Soberanes/Unsplash]

Note: A shorter version of this post was published earlier on Duck of Minerva.

Politics, as famously defined by David Easton, is the “authoritative allocation of values”, such as welfare, security, and liberty. Politicians thus have to make decisions on hierarchies between these values – and they have to weigh values against each other in cases in which they collide. It is still too early for an in-depth analysis of the numerous norm collisions in the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, we can already see how the previously found balance between the three aforementioned values, and the norms revolving around them, is destabilised.

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Das paradoxe Mandat der Weltgesundheitsorganisation

Die WHO: in Krisen gehört, in Normalzeiten ignoriert [Foto: Markus Spiske/Unsplash]

Die WHO gibt derzeit in vielen LĂ€ndern den Ton an fĂŒr die Strategie zur EindĂ€mmung der Covid-19- Pandemie. Ihre AufklĂ€rungskampagnen und Empfehlungen zum Umgang mit Covid-19 sind, wenngleich nicht unumstritten, doch weithin sichtbar und bestĂ€tigen eine ihrer Kernrollen: die der epidemiologischen Fachinstanz und Krisenberaterin, gerade in ressourcenschwĂ€cheren LĂ€ndern.

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The WHO’s Paradoxical Mandate

The WHO: Heeded during crises, ignored otherwise [Image: Markus Spiske/Unsplash]
In many countries around the world, the WHO is currently setting the agenda for a strategy to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. Its campaigns and recommendations on how to deal with Covid-19 are, though not entirely uncontroversial, widely distributed, while reaffirming one of its central roles: that of the epidemiological expert and crisis advisor, especially for poor countries.

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Die WHO nach Corona: VerfĂŒgungsgewalten fĂŒr die nĂ€chste Pandemie?

Das Hauptquartier der Weltgesundheitsorganisation in Genf [Copyright : WHO/Pierre Virot]

Anmerkung : Dieser Beitrag erschien zunÀchst auf verfassungsblog.de.

HĂ€tte die Weltgesundheitsorganisation (WHO) den Ausbruch der mysteriösen Lungenerkrankung im chinesischen Wuhan schon im Dezember 2019 zum öffentlichen.  Gesundheitsnotstand von internationaler Dimension erklĂ€rt, wĂ€re es womöglich nicht zu spĂ€t gewesen, die Ausbreitung der Krankheit zu stoppen, die mittlerweile zum globalen Notfall ungekannten Ausmaßes herangewachsen ist. Doch angesichts des begrenzten Mandats und eingeschrĂ€nkter politischer AutoritĂ€t der WHO war dieses Szenario weit von der RealitĂ€t entfernt. TatsĂ€chlich haben Beschwichtigung und Applaus in Richtung China die Situation womöglich sogar verschĂ€rft. Die Corona-Krise hat die LĂŒcken in der Governance globaler Infektionskrankheiten schonungslos offengelegt.

Das Repertoire der WHO an Notstandsmaßnahmen ist relativ eingeschrĂ€nkt. Wie die meisten anderen internationalen Organisationen fehlen ihr DurchsetzungskapazitĂ€ten, wodurch ihre AutoritĂ€t weitgehend von Anerkennung und freiwilliger Regelbefolgung durch die Mitgliedsstaaten abhĂ€ngt. Zweifellos leistet die WHO im Rahmen der COVID-19-Pandemie wichtige Arbeit – die FĂŒhrungsrolle, die sie in vergangenen Krisen oft innehatte, vermeidet sie momentan hingegen. Sollte die Organisation zur BewĂ€ltigung kĂŒnftiger Krisen mit mehr operativer Macht ausgestattet werden?

Lesen Sie mehr ĂŒber das gegenwĂ€rtige Dilemma der internationalen Gesundheitspolitik im englischsprachigen Beitrag hier.

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The WHO After Corona: Discretionary Powers for the Next Pandemic?

The WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland [Copyright : WHO/Pierre Virot]

Note: This post was originally published on verfassungsblog.de.

Imagine the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the outbreak of the mysterious lung ailment in the Chinese city of Wuhan a potential public health emergency of international concern already in late December 2019. Imagine it had immediately decreed a precautionary lockdown of the metropolitan area until the severity of the illness was assessed or the virus extinct. It might have been just in time to halt the spread of the disease which by now has become a supreme global emergency of unforeseen proportions.

Of course, this scenario was far from realistic given the WHO’s limited mandate and political authority. In reality, far from stopping the crisis dead in its tracks, its approach of appeasement and applause vis-à-vis China may have exacerbated the situation. The coronavirus crisis exposes deep gaps in the global governance of infectious diseases. Tragically, rectifying those problems would mean painful adaptations not only at the costs of national sovereignty, but also of democracy and constitutionalism.

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Back to the future

A regression of economic globalization due to Corona seems unlikely [Photo: Bene A/GettyImages]

It is not only the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses who are among the potential victims of the Corona pandemic. The end of globalization itself, too, is seen as a possible long-term effect. Crises are indeed moments of historical recalibration. However, not everything changes after a crisis.

It is indeed questionable that the pandemic will lead to the end of globalization, at least economically. Undoubtedly, there are alternatives to the global production chains, and a partial renationalization of economic cycles is possible. That, though, comes at high costs and welfare losses. Upon the return of normalcy, public and private debt will have skyrocketed. This kind of environment does not make further globalization less likely.

The situation looks a bit different with regards to political globalization. Many view the current crisis as the hour of the executive, while others point to the fact that we are witnessing a renaissance of political regulation rather than the return of the sovereign nation-state.

Until an accurate assessment can be made, many things will happen.  The outcome of the crisis will be determined not only by objective facts, but to a large extent also by battles over their interpretation.

Read more on the global implications of the Corona pandemic in the full German article here.

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ZurĂŒck in die Zukunft

Ein RĂŒckgang der ökonomischen Globalisierung durch Corona scheint unwahrscheinlich [Foto: GettyImages]
Es sind nicht nur Ă€ltere Menschen mit Vorerkrankungen, die auf der Liste der potenziellen Opfer der Corona-Krise stehen. Manche sagen auch das Ende der Globalisierung als Folge der Pandemie vorher. Krisen sind tatsĂ€chlich Momente fĂŒr historische Weichenstellungen. Allerdings verĂ€ndert sich nach einer Krise nie alles.

Die sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung zeigt uns, dass sich gesellschaftliche Praktiken als Folge einer Krise dann Ă€ndern, wenn drei Bedingungen erfĂŒllt sind. Die Praktiken mĂŒssen, erstens, als ursĂ€chlich oder zumindest verschĂ€rfend fĂŒr die Krise angesehen werden. Eine exogen verursachte, gleichsam unverschuldete Unternehmenskrise bedarf laut Lehrbuch weit weniger der Restrukturierung als eine endogene, durch eigene Fehler verursachte Krise. Es mĂŒssen, zweitens, Alternativen bestehen, die umsetzbar und nicht allzu kostentrĂ€chtig sind. WĂ€hrend der Ozonkrise beispielsweise konnten sich Ersatzstoffe fĂŒr das verursachende FCKW relativ schnell durchsetzen, da ihre Entwicklung nicht teuer war. Besonders wahrscheinlich fĂŒhrt eine Krise dann zur Änderung, wenn drittens die betroffenen Praktiken schon vor der Krise rĂŒcklĂ€ufig waren. So fĂŒhrte der Zweite Weltkrieg nicht zuletzt deswegen zu einem Dekolonisierungsschub, da der Kolonialismus schon vorher seinen Höhepunkt ĂŒberschritten hatte.

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