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Story | Education
19 July 2020

QF professor: MENA region won’t be the same after COVID-19 – and its path depends on the choices governments make


Syrian refugees in Jordan are among those Qatar has helped through its humanitarian efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image source: Ehab Othman, via Shutterstock

Dr. Anis Ben Brik, Associate Professor, Hamad Bin Khalifa University College of Public Policy, says the economic and social consequences of the pandemic cannot be addressed without worldwide cooperation and coordination.

Humanity is now facing a global crisis that is the biggest crisis of this generation. Currently, 4.5 billion people around the world are in lockdown due to the measures that governments throughout the world have taken to combat COVID-19.

Dr. Anis Ben Brik, Associate Professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s College of Public Policy, says it will not be possible to face the economic and social consequences of the pandemic without cooperation and coordination at the highest levels, and across the widest spectrum, throughout the world.

Dr. Anis Ben Brik.

But he believes COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the inadequacy of regional cooperation in addressing a crisis, saying: “The pandemic swept through a region already struggling with the effects of a decade of uprisings, failed or struggling political transitions, state collapse, civil war, and international conflict.”

He feels there is a need to establish a regional post-pandemic coordination mechanism to provide the countries of the region with the resources necessary for recovery, saying: "In the Arab region, a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response is needed now more than ever.

“Arab countries should intensify their cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic. A coordinated regional approach will enable collective examination of impacts, coordination, measures, sharing best practices and the lessons learned.

This crisis has revealed the variation in state capacity across the region in areas such as health sector capacity, crisis communication, and relations between states and citizens

Dr. Anis Ben Brik

“But this crisis has revealed the variation in state capacity across the region in areas such as health sector capacity, crisis communication, and relations between states and citizens.”

Dr. Brik said it is clear that the MENA region will not be the same after this pandemic, but which path the post-pandemic region will take is dependent upon the choices that its governments make, saying: “In this time of crisis, Arab countries face an important choice between national parochialism and renaissance.

“If they choose parochialism, this will exacerbate disunity, trust deficit, governance failures, and conflicts, and deepen economic divisions within and between countries. If they choose renaissance, it will be a victory not only against the coronavirus, but against all crises affecting the region.”

According to Dr. Brik, Qatar has earned the status of being “a global and regional humanitarian leader during prosperity and distress”, as he said: “Qatar has provided significant humanitarian aid to 20 countries so far, including assistance in the field of medical supplies, building field hospitals, and contributing to the work of multilateral healthcare institutions that are working to develop vaccines or ensure the resilience of healthcare in other countries.”

Qatar has had a visible role in humanitarian interventions in conflict-affected and post-conflict environments over the last two decades

Dr. Anis Ben Brik

Qatar has already contributed of USD 140 million to the organizations tackling the pandemic. It has sent substantial aid to China, Iran, Palestine, Italy, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Nepal, and Rwanda, and since mid-February Qatar Airways has carried over one million people from Qatar to their home as well as transporting over 70,000 tons of medical equipment and aid relief.

The country has allocated USD 1 million to provide access to life-saving water, sanitation, and hygiene services for Syrian refugees in Jordan, and the same sum to support UNICEF in its efforts to improve COVID-19 preparedness and response levels in Syria. Meanwhile, through its mission in Turkey, Qatar Red Crescent Society has distributed supplementary food aid to around 110,000 families, at camps in northern Syria, while food packages will also be delivered to 15,800 Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, with the QAR2.9 million costs met by charitable donations in Qatar.

"Providing humanitarian relief is not uncommon, nor is it new for Qatar,” said Dr. Brik. “Qatar has had a visible role in humanitarian interventions in conflict-affected and post-conflict environments over the last two decades.

If each government does its own thing with complete disregard for others, the result will be chaos and a deepening crisis

Dr. Anis Ben Brik

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a defining moment for modern society, and history will judge the efficacy of our response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors to the benefit of our human family.

“The pandemic is a world-shattering event whose far-ranging consequences we can only begin to imagine today, because the coronavirus does not stop at national borders.”

According to Dr. Brik, the pandemic has “underscored the importance of global governance and multilateralism”, and this highlights the importance of global cooperation and solidarity between countries, whether within the MENA region or around the world.

Qatar Airways has transported over 70,000 tons of medical equipment and aid amid the pandemic. Image source: BlackFarm, via Shutterstock

“It is a global health crisis that has further demonstrated the need for a coordinated international approach, cooperation, multilateralism, and global solidarity, and exposed the fallacy of go-it-alone isolationism,” he said.

"Given the nature of the global economy and of global supply chains, if each government does its own thing with complete disregard for others, the result will be chaos and a deepening crisis. Countries must come together to defeat the global threats we face."

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