Over this disastrous pandemic, some of the worlds most pressing problems became that little bit more painful. Globalized supply chains were cut when countries closed their borders, causing damage to millions of businesses, political polarization caused many to reject the various vaccines that have been released, possibly causing even more death and destruction, and the subject for today’s article, Inequity between the rich and the poor; specifically, the inequity between rich countries and poor countries when it came to vaccine distribution. Rich countries were simply able to save more lives and heal their economies faster because of their wealth and access to vaccines, and poor countries were left behind.
Many of these mostly western countries have agreed to send some of their extra supply overseas to poorer countries as Aid.
Aid is a word often bandied about by people on News Platforms reporting some of the most horrific things to happen to human beings. The connotations of aid are often of UNESCO packages being parachuted into war zones or medical supplies being used to save lives; and this isn’t necessarily untrue, but aid is at its core a mechanism of International Law, as the main way this aid is arranged are agreements between countries. It is also one of the most misunderstood regular topics in the news, as most people in richer countries do not give it much attention, and when they do, they are bombarded with advertising from desperate charities such as Doctors Without Borders, who use the common tropes about aid to try to gain as much money possible. (Wikipedia, n.d.)
It is, however, incredibly important that we evaluate this system as the international community is set to send out millions of doses into a system that has been used and abused for years. Such an enterprise would be up there with the Marshall Plan in its extent. We must look at this aid initiative with good eyes, so we may clear our eyes of darkness and truly see.
Aid between countries has been around for as long as civilization. States have been sending aid, in the form of armies, food or other forms, to their allies for centuries. This system was always at the disposal of kings to create alliances and to make friends. However, this system was always a selfish endeavour. In the past, it was a way to make the state stronger. Today, it is used to make oligarchs and rich companies richer, to create virtual client-states and to force work out of people who are starving.
This point is shown in the Afghani Governments collapse. The US Government alone spent Billions of Dollars in Afghani Aid. 80% of the budget of Afghanistan was paid by the US and their other allies and $83 Billion Dollars went to the Afghan Army alone. Yet they collapsed almost as if they had never been there. The Afghan military was a farce ruled over by inept commanders, with US Dollars used to buy wasteful weapons that relied on US companies to keep running, as the Afghans had no one who could keep the weapons running, or bribe warlords that turned right around to pay off the Taliban. The leaders of government were corrupt beaurocrats who profited off the Americans and never thought they would leave, meaning they had lacklustre preparations for such an eventuality. It can only be said that some of the biggest problems that led to Afghanistan’s fall was the intense corruption caused by mismanaged aid.
Such an example is not infrequent. In Haiti, the money that the international community sent in to uplift the Haitians and help them rebuild their economy was mainly paid to non-Haitian organizations. These organizations used the money to, for example, build manufacturing parks, which pay workers unlivable wages and are run by companies such as Walmart and other Western companies. American dollars, in the service of aid, were being cycled back to American companies; a cycle of greed that left the people of Haiti, the people who were supposed to be helped, out of pocket. (Sherrin, 2016)
How can we fix this? How can we make certain that corruption does not take over this time? These vaccines will save peoples lives if they can just get to the people who need them. These are tough questions with very few satisfactory answers. Perhaps we could increase accountability in the countries that accept these vaccines. Perhaps we could require UN officials to keep watch over the vaccines from delivery to administration to the patients. I would argue that International Law has a fix. The UN would run the allocation of aid, as an independent eye would help avoid cronyism. Jurisdiction over misappropriation of aid money should be given to the International Criminal Court or one of its constituent bodies. The investigation of such crimes should be given to Interpol, ensuring an independent investigation. The country would be required to assent to this.
We could do endless things to fix this heartbreaking situation, but there is no choice here to continue as we have. Once again, people’s lives are in our hands, and we cannot let them down again.
Sherrin, J., 2016. BBC. [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37826098 [Accessed 30 08 2021].
Wikipedia, n.d. Wikipedia. [Online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aid [Accessed 28 7 2021].