Future of international peace and security From the Spanish Flu to COVID-19 and to the next pandemic

Andres Fiallo

Chapter 5 also considers how the global pandemic is deteriorating the conditions of the population in areas of armed conflict, complicating humanitarian access, and potentially exacerbating the roots of violence and conflict. It points to the “wakeup call” that the pandemic has served for global priorities; a reminder of Emanuel Kant’s project of perpetual peace; arguing that the global pandemic is forcing UN Member States to rethink how to prioritize the organization’s work, and making the case for a new Grand Bargain, while proposing what a “future-proof’ peace and security architecture could look like.

As with previous chapters, we are departing from the notion of COVID-19 as a force multiplier for all aspects of diplomacy. In this chapter, we will see that the COVID-19 pandemic and existing insecurities mutually reinforce one another. To begin, however, we will return briefly to 1918, and consider the impact of the Spanish Flu on security. By doing so, we will unpack the general relation between pandemics and international peace and security, in context of realpolitik.

The Spanish Flu pandemic occurred towards the end of the First World War, when global context itself was already one of conflict. In fact, the alleged origin of the pandemic was a military camp in Kansas.1 On 4 March 1918, hundreds of American soldiers presented the symptoms and illness, which they transported to Europe just one month later.2 The trenches, the overcrowding, and the displacement of troops and workers linked to the war effort were the perfect cradle for the spread.

At the same time, the measures taken to contain the pandemic included derogations to certain fundamental rights and freedoms; the living conditions of the poorest people were exacerbated and the lack of access to health services did not help. The loss of employment, and the disruption of production led to the increase of food insecurity. Poverty' and hunger on the rise, led to the displacement of people towards urban centres causing national instability, and struggle and rebellion against colonial powers.3

As a result, the Spanish Flu caused an extreme deterioration in food security, due to problems in supply chains not only during the pandemic but until at least two years later.'1 The pandemic also seriously undermined health security and affected public order and peace. The disorder generated also contrasted with a resurgence of the consciousness of the world community, and of the solidarity needed to overcome this transnational threat.5

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