Ana Paula Blower (Fiocruz News Agency)
In a geopolitical context marked by disputes and inequalities, there are many economic, social, and environmental challenges in the path of those aiming to reduce these inequalities and achieve better global health outcomes. Based on this point of view, issues such as multilateralism and a possible new world order were discussed last Thursday (February 10) during the first Advanced Seminar in Global Health and Health Diplomacy this year. Promoted by the Fiocruz Global Health Center (CRIS/Fiocruz), the webinar brought together three specialists to discuss perspectives for 2022.
“Health is not merely a biological phenomenon. It is basically the result of the social production of social, economic, environmental, and politic determinants of health”, highlighted CRIS/Fiocruz director, president of the Latin American Alliance for Global Health (Alasag), and mediator of the seminar, Paulo Buss, in his opening statement.
According to the participants of the webinar, in addition to the challenges ahead, there are also new paths waiting to be explored, in a year in which Latin America will be having important elections. In this context, specialists emphasized that difficulties will have to be faced, such as the economic impact of the pandemic, social inequalities, and a new environmental era.
“A new era”
In his presentation, José Luís Fiori, professor of International Political Economics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, commented how three challenges in today’s global geopolitics may lead to perspectives to 2022: the conjunctural worsening of the pandemic, the crisis in Ukraine, and the recent declaration by Russia and China, which he classifies as a “foundation document of a new world order”.
Fiori highlighted the effects on agriculture and maritime transport caused by the pandemic, something which has been made more difficult and may worsen the production of pesticides and food, and the distribution of pharmaceutical products on a global scale. In addition, a set of facts, according to him, “definitely puts an end to the globalitarian fantasy” and brings advancing nationalisms with it.
Fiori mentioned the social manifestations that appear as a response to the impacts of the pandemic and commented on the case of Brazil and Latin America, which will be holding elections this year. “The shift to the left that is taking place in the region is not surprising”, he said, emphasizing that “all victors will have to face the economic consequences of the pandemic and of errors in the conduction of economy in this period, which will not likely be fixed in four or five years”.
Another situation addressed by Fiori was the energy crisis in Europe and the Old World’s dependence on Russian natural gas, which he believes contributed to allow Russia to propose a redefinition of the rules of strategic balance in the continent. “The novelty is that the Russians are proposing a rearrangement without a war, sitting everyone around a table to discuss the issue”, he said.
Right now, Fiori draws attention to the relevance of the document signed by Russians and the Chinese, who, in his opinion, are for the first time stating their support to multilateralism and economic globalization, among other “classic American liberal flags”, such as the defense of democracy and of human rights. On the other hand, the letter states that no nation is entitled to define these rules. “The document puts an end to the era of European authoritarian universalism and of the hegemony of Western Christian universalism from the definition of what are the proper values, rights, and peace”, stated Fiori. “This is the beginning of a new era”.
This perspective of change was also addressed by the former minister of the Environment (2010-2016) and co-president of the International Panel of Natural Resources of the UN Environment (FIP-Unep), Izabella Teixeira. She highlighted that today environmental issues are also in the economic and social dimensions and are “redefining the demand for solutions” and the “political structure of the international environmental agenda”.
In what she called the contemporaneity of environmental issues, Teixeira pointed to the role and the responsibility of Brazil and its society, highlighting the importance of the new generations in mobilization. “Brazil is an incubator of solutions and leaderships. It has natural resources, territory, and technology; what is lacking is political willingness”, the specialist observed.
Santiago Alcazar, a diplomat and researcher associated with CRIS/Fiocruz, added to the debate by commenting on participants’ interventions, such as that of Teixeira on the new ways of thinking about the environment. He pointed to a new “multi causality” and stated: “We cannot deal with this subject in a primitive fashion. Everything has political, cultural, and social implications. The same applies to health. We are living in syndemic times”.
Once again in the theme of global health, Teixeira noted that “public health means environmental health” and vice-versa. This is why she says we need to look to the well-being of populations beyond individual environmental issues. “If we can promote development with health as part of this new equation, we will begin to have the perception that we must provide economic solutions that generate security and well-being”.
When thinking about the environmental crises, she highlights that they are planetary and not global, which, according to Teixeira, imposes solidarity and co-responsibility to all societies, and not just governments. “The present has never been as present as it is today”, she said.
In this discussion, the executive director of Oxfam Brazil, Katia Maia, presented an Oxfam report called Inequality kills. The report shows that between March 2020 and November 2021, the wealth of the world’s richest men doubled, while the income of 99% of humanity declined, due to COVID-19. The report also shows that inequality contributes to the death of at least one person every four seconds.
Maia, a sociologist, also listed inequalities in the use of natural resources, in carbon emissions, and in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the world, which she called “vaccine apartheid”. “If we look away from this, if we fail to become outraged by this, it will be very hard to build any social environment for human coexistence. Violence will increase, as will disputes and oppression. We need to understand where we are now and fight inequalities”, Maia declared. “We want to state our position by fighting for a fairer world”.
The CRIS seminars will be held every two weeks until December 16. The next session, to take place on February 23. The event held last Wednesday, as well as the previous ones, can be watched in full here.