Last year, under the leadership of former President Donald Trump, the United States struggled to contain the spread of the coronavirus within its borders, recording more than half a million known deaths from COVID-19 and becoming an epicenter of the pandemic. Now, however, America is finally taking action to put its house in order. A mass vaccination campaign is underway, and on March 11, President Joe Biden enacted a $ 1.9 trillion “US bailout” to “bring immediate and direct relief to families most affected by the disease. COVID-19 crisis and supporting communities in difficulty ”.
The “Build Back Better Recovery Plan,” which President Biden launched on March 31 in Pittsburgh, is a coming addition to this massive relief and recovery effort. The first part of the two-part plan, which is expected to cost between $ 3 trillion and $ 4 trillion in total, aims to enable the major infrastructure investments needed to build a clean energy economy adapted to climate change. The second part includes provisions on health and workforce development.
While these steps are most welcome to put America back on its feet, national plans and investments alone cannot protect Americans from the virus and its damaging effects on the economy. As long as the virus continues to spread to other parts of the world, new vaccine-resistant variants of the virus may emerge and bring America back into crisis. Additionally, country-only approaches will not help the United States and the global community build resilience to future disasters. Indeed, President Trump’s inward-looking political stance, “America First”, which led him to withdraw the United States from several crucial international organizations and agreements, has not only hampered the American response. but also global to the pandemic.
Fortunately, as he explained in the first National Security Directive he issued on his second day in office, President Biden is well aware of the need for the United States to contribute to the international response against COVID-19 and to work for the advancement of global health security, to leave this global public health emergency behind.
The new president has already marked his commitment to multilateral cooperation by joining international organizations and agreements, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris Agreement, which his predecessor had left. The appointment last week of former USAID Administrator Gayle Smith as the new US State Department Coordinator for the Global COVID Response and Health Security, combined with the recent US Congress clearance of 11 billion dollars for the global response to COVID, is yet another demonstration of America’s growing global leadership.
President Biden must now continue on this path and work to support multilateral organizations in their efforts to make possible a truly global and just recovery from COVID-19.
In the short term, the Biden administration should view support for the WHO COVAX facility, which aims to provide all countries with equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as a political imperative. The United States has already pledged $ 2 billion to COVAX, with an additional $ 2 billion to be added when other countries honor their own pledges
The new US administration is also expected to resume its leadership position within the World Trade Organization (WTO), which has the power to help expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution in developing countries.
In the medium term (the next 2-3 years), the Biden administration is expected to partner with major global multilateral organizations, such as the IMF and the World Bank, to help low-income countries worst affected by the pandemic to do so. in the face of acute development financing. gaps. Mechanisms such as the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights, the World Bank’s International Development Association Replenishment, and the UN’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund can be used for this purpose, with Washington’s support.
As it is now widely accepted that climate change is exacerbating existing biological threats like COVID-19 and creating new ones, enabling a global green recovery should also be at the center of President Biden’s plans to ‘build back better’. America’s unique technical capabilities, vast financial resources, and political influence should be used to encourage and enable global and regional institutions to invest more in renewable energy and green infrastructure projects in rich countries alike. the poor countries.
The appointment of former Secretary of State John Kerry as the United States ‘Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and President Biden’s decision to convene a leaders’ summit on climate this next Earth Day (April 22 ), make it clear that the new administration is already working to re-establish the United States as a global leader in climate action.
Overall, President Biden’s actions, words, and policy proposals during the first few months of his presidency show that under his rule multilateralism will be at the center of US foreign policy.
Without a doubt, America’s return to multilateral order is a welcome development and opens up new possibilities for the international community to address a myriad of global challenges that have been ignored by the Trump administration.
However, the new US commitment to multilateral cooperation also raises some concerns. Admitting multilateralism as a general policy or ideological position and seeking multilateral cooperation on every issue regardless of the context and unique aspects of different issues could do more harm than good in the long run. Moreover, it can leave multilateral institutions, and in particular the United Nations, in a situation where they are forced to take the lead on issues for which they are not equipped.
Indeed, the UN, too bureaucratic and underfunded, is not always the best actor to take the lead in many fragile and urgent political processes. Asking the UN to take the lead in issues that it objectively does not have the resources and capabilities to resolve not only defeats the organization and leaves it open to hostile criticism, but also leads to a lack of important opportunities for conflict and crisis resolution.
The pitfalls of a comprehensive multilateral approach to foreign policy are already emerging in Afghanistan, where delicate and complex peace negotiations are underway.
In late February, the United States unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan that called for a UN-led regional conference in Turkey this month. While this may seem like a positive step at first glance, the Afghan peace process is an area in which broad multilateral participation without clear long-term mandates is likely to prove counterproductive. The internationalization of a sensitive mediation effort led by the principle of “Afghan ownership” is unlikely to be successful. The United Nations has not been as closely involved in the peace negotiations as the handful of well-known states that have a vested interest in the conflict and whose support will be key to the lasting success of any peace agreement. Cynics have previously criticized the United States’ decision to further internationalize the Afghan peace process as an attempt to spread the reputation cost of the failure of the end of the war among 192 other states in the international community. It is an alarming pattern in many crises that the UN is only called upon when the states involved have failed in their attempts to resolve them and the problem is seen by the main actors as unsolvable.
After the catastrophic catastrophe of Trump’s “America First” presidency, which eroded Washington’s reputation as a world leader and left the country struggling to stop the spread of the coronavirus, it is imperative that the Biden administration support multilateral efforts to enable a global recovery from COVID-19. Additionally, responding to global challenges such as climate change requires global cooperation and more US investment and support for global and regional multilateral organizations.
However, while multilateral cooperation involving or even led by the United States on these increasingly urgent issues is welcome and necessary, other sensitive political concerns rooted in specific regional dynamics only need support. selective from international organizations. Applying a broad multilateral perspective to political issues that require finely tuned and very specific multilateral intervention, such as the resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan, risks reverting to the last US president’s strategy of imposing an ideology on political needs.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.