Politicisation of pandemic, climate change polarises global efforts, says UAE expert

'It increased the rift between rich nations with a monopoly over vaccines and poor nations seeking help'


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Sun 14 Nov 2021, 11:44 AM

While nations are expected to work hand-in-hand to tackle the pandemic and climate change challenges, even such grave threats have failed to unify global efforts, Dr Ebtesam Al-Ketbi, President of the Emirates Policy Center (EPC), has said.

In her keynote speech at the annual Abu Dhabi Strategic Dialogue (ADSD) which kicked off on Sunday, Dr Al-Ketbi said that the pandemic enhanced existing fault lines among countries.

"The pandemic was politicised and became a polarising factor among great powers. It increased the rift between rich nations with a monopoly over vaccines and poor nations seeking help," Al-Ketbi said.

She said that the pandemic and climate change have shown that we live in one world, and any wrongdoing in one corner of the globe would have consequences on the rest. "As challenges are no longer domestic, internal problems rapidly turn into global ones and vice versa," said Al-Ketbi.

The Center brings together prominent decision-makers, strategic studies experts, and scholars from all over the world to participate in this landmark event.


ADSD has occupied a special status in the map of regional and global conferences. It ranks among the world's top 10 conferences in the annual Global Go To Think Tank Index Report released by the University of Pennsylvania from 2018 to 2021. The same report ranks the EPC first in the Arab world and second in the Middle East and North Africa region.

According to her, while the pandemic poses a tangible threat, it has also ushered in new opportunities, notably technological advancement and a growing digital transformation in various aspects of human life, especially the economic field. She also suggested that countries should enter into multi-lateral treaties and develop mechanisms to deter technological and digital risks on societies, reduce their use in political conflicts or manipulate cyberattacks by non-state actors or criminal organisations.

"Most important is the need to employ cyber technology, artificial intelligence, and digitalisation to enhance nations' development and social welfare," she said.

Commenting on the ongoing tussle between the United States and China, Dr Al-Ketbi said that the election ofPresident Joe Biden raised optimism in large parts of the world due to his slogan of a return to international organisations, multi-lateral agreements, and cooperation with allies.

"However, the new administration has continued to adopt a hardline policy toward China," she said, adding that the increased tension and competition between Washington and Beijing, in a way, remind us of the Cold War era.

Dr Al-Ketbi referred to security alliances such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) and the trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS), as significant developments. "There has also been a military buildup in the Indo-Pacific regions. All of this raises fears that this geopolitical struggle between the two superpowers might turn into a direct conflict triggered by any accident," she said.

The EPC President also called the turn of events in Afghanistan "a colossal failure of over 20 years of efforts to rebuild the Afghan state. The repercussions of this event will not be limited to Afghanistan or even Central Asia but will also reach the Middle East," she said.

Dr Al-Ketbi also said that these events would influence international politics as we see the European endeavor to enhance political and military independence from the US.

"While the future of Afghanistan remains unclear, the big game in Central Asia is being reshaped," said Dr Al-Ketbi.


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