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Carl Bildt: Its Imperative to Rebuild Effective Multilateral Institutions in COVID-19 Era


Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt diagnosed that multilateral institutions were under attack already before the current tensions between the U.S. and China. Bidlt, who is now co-chair of European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), stressed in an interview with the media team of the World Knowledge Forum that it is imperative to rebuild the effective multilateral institutions in the era of COVID-19. Bildt joined the WKF from 2014 to 2017, four years in a row and shared his insights as former foreign minister and prime minister of the Scandinavian nation. Here are questions and answers.


Q: What impact did coronavirus give on the global governance? How should the global governance be reorganized to properly react to coronavirus?

A: Number of our multilateral Institutions were under attack already before this crisis as we saw tensions building up primarily between the US and China, and sometimes a US policy actively questioning them.Now it should be imperative to go back to trying to rebuild effective multilateral institutions in key areas, notably global health, but whether this will be possible remains to be seen. US policy after the November election will be most important, but also the attitude of China. The EU is certain to make a determined effort.


Q: How will the world be different after coronavirus in terms of international relations? 

A: We will in all probability be struggling with the economic consequences for a considerable time, and how different countries and regions manage to come back will be very important. Will China be able to quickly go back to the growth rates they have been aiming at? Will Europe be able to deal in a constructive way with all the debt now piling up? And the same applies to the massive debt and deficits in the US economy? The answer to these questions will have a huge impact on the world that we will see a decade from now.


Q: How do you evaluate each government's measures to coronavirus? What about the US, Europe and Asia?

A: So far it seems as if parts of East Asia - notably South Korea and Taiwan - have been doing better than practically everyone else.And we need to learn from that experience. The US performance has hardly been impressive, and we will see how the difference plays out between different European countries. So far, to mention just that, Germany seems to have done better than the United Kingdom.


Q: Sweden chose a different strategy for coronavirus,called 'herd immunity'. How do you find its effect compared with other countries' measure which is social distancing?

A: The jury is still out on the somewhat different line the Swedish authorities took. But if we compare ourselves to our Nordic neighbours in terms of what is most easy to measure - the number of people that have died in relation to the total population - we have so far regrettably been doing substantially worse. 


Q: How much the global economy will be affected by coronavirus? Will it be worse than Great Depression or 2008 global financial crisis?

A: Everything points at the immediate effect being worse than the Global Financial Crisis, but then much depends on the shape of the recovery thereafter and whether there are any "second waves either of coronavirus or possibly financial crisis. I see that the IMF believes that the global economy will be back in growth in 2021, and I guess so as well, but I fear we will be living with the also economic consequences for a number of years.


 WKF Media Team