Promises and Perils of Regional Response to Covid-19 in Asia
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‘Crises’--financial crash, pandemics, political conflicts, and natural disasters—have been recognised for providing stimulus for institutional strengthening of regional organisations (Ogbonnaya, 2013; Vinokurov and Libman, 2014). The development of institutional mechanisms and strategies to address crises that impact a particular region is argued to facilitate strengthening of existing institutions or initiating new ones within regional organisations. This report first maps and analyses the Covid-19 responses of two of Asia’s prominent regional organisations, namely the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in South and Southeast Asia. In doing so, it assesses how has the regional response to the pandemic impacted prospects of greater regional cooperation in Asia. Understanding regional organisation’s responses to Covid-19 and the impact of these responses on the strengthening of regional organisations in Global South is pertinent for at least two reasons. First, there is a consensus that a concerted global multilateral response to the pandemic has been absent. The key global health agency, the World Health Organization, was underpowered. There was absence of global political leadership (Wise, 2021). The UN Security Council was unable to facilitate multilateral cooperation, questioning the very relevance of the UN system (Charbonneau, 2021). Secondly, national responses, in turn, have been parochial and inward-looking. The colossal impact of the pandemic in rich industrial Western states meant that countries who otherwise were expected to take lead in tackling global crises were themselves occupied domestically. A push to get first access to vaccines supply or ‘vaccine nationalism’(Gruszczynski and Wu, 2021) by the Western states not only delayed prospects of a global recovery (Huizen, 2021), but also exposed the inequalities between the Global North and the South. The gaps left by the limitations of the ‘nationalist’ and the ‘absence of global leadership, carved space for regional leadership, in turn, raising prospects of regional institutions to play important role in managing the crises. Additionally, the transboundary nature of pandemics that required policy coordination between different countries in a region put further impetus on the role of regional organisations (Kliem, 2020). This report examines if and how two regional organisations in the Global South--ASEAN and SAARC--have been able to harness the opportunities presented by Covid-19 and its impact on building and strengthening of cooperation mechanisms.
CitationAdhikari, M. (2022) 'Promises and Perils of Regional Response to Covid-19 in Asia,' PeaceRep Research Report: Covid 19 series, Edinburgh: Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP)
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