The outbreak of COVID-19 in November and its rapid spread from China around the globe is shattering pre-conceptions about the vulnerability of populations, the resilience of international institutions, and even the durability of globalization. For countries in the Global South, this pandemic poses challenges every bit as daunting—if not more so—as those facing industrialized countries in the Global North. These include weak public health systems, lower living standards and a lack of services in densely concentrated cities or widely dispersed rural populations. Even amongst middle-income countries, whose economies tend to be export-oriented and commodity-dependent, the collapse of global demand puts significant pressure on their national accounts. For some, dependency on tourism and foreign remittances makes up a significant portion of their GDP, and any losses in these sectors exacerbates unemployment and revenue losses. This diversity within the Global South is reflected in the responses of regional organizations to this transnational threat to populations and livelihoods.
This special feature on COVID-19 and the Global South focuses on regional responses to the pandemic. Specifically, we will examine some of key reactions and policy approaches of the leading regional organisations to the crisis— the AU (African Union), ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations), SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), Mercosur (Southern Common Market), CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market), Arab League, and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). The variety of responses, the levels of cooperation and coordination across their regions, as well as the interaction with multi-lateral organisations and great powers, provides a kind of ‘stress-test’ of the international system at the nexus between states, regional organisations and multilateral institutions.
Click on the regional links for more information.