Coronavirus: Gordon Brown calls for new global government to fight impact of Covid-19

Former prime minister who led response to 2008 financial crisis calls for international taskforce to distribute medicine, equipment and build multilateral cooperation

Harry Cockburn
Thursday 26 March 2020 12:48
Chris Whitty says it is 'close run thing' whether NHS capacity will be exceeded

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has called for the creation of a temporary form of global government to be assembled to provide a unified body to tackle coronavirus.

Such an organisation could tackle the spread of the virus, coordinate production and distribution of essential equipment, and help deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic, he said.

Mr Brown’s suggestion comes ahead of an emergency video conference of the G20 countries, which even before it has begun has already seen a standoff between the US and China over responsibility for the virus.

The summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, is designed to produce new practical measures to deal with the disease, but a coordinated fiscal response to the crisis is not expected to be agreed.

Mr Brown said the summit also ought to include the United Nations security council.

“This is not something that can be dealt with in one country,” he said, according to The Guardian. “There has to be a coordinated global response.”

Mr Brown was a key figure in the global response to the 2008 financial crisis, and while he said the current pandemic poses different problems, it also has a major economic component.

“That was an economic problem that had economic causes and had an economic solution.

“This is first and foremost a medical emergency and there has to be joint action to deal with that. But the more you intervene to deal with the medical emergency, the more you put economies at risk.”

An international body with executive powers could fight the virus on two fronts Mr Brown explained. Firstly in the effort to produce an effective vaccine, and secondly to manufacture and distribute it, along with essential medical supplies, without profiteering occurring.

Mr Brown urged the G20 nations to avoid a “dog eat dog” bidding war for such supplies.

“With the healthcare crisis, the idea of individual self-isolation is now commonplace, but on the international stage, national self-isolation has taken off,” he said, according to PA.

“In the post-Cold War unipolar era, America acted multilaterally. Now, and in a multipolar era, America acts unilaterally, and aggressive America first, us-versus-them nationalism — along with China first, India first, Russia first, Brazil first, and Turkey first – is going global.

“But even the most isolationist nations must know that it is not enough to stop coronavirus in one country: it has to be stopped in every country.

“The G20 should underwrite and speed up the concerted global effort to develop, manufacture and distribute vaccines and treatments.

“Almost simultaneously every nation also needs, at scale: testing kits, ventilators, cleaning chemicals and protective equipment.

“So in place of today’s dog-eat-dog bidding wars that encourage profiteering, the G20 should come behind the WHO and Global Fund’s efforts to co-ordinate and vastly increase production and procurement of these key medical supplies and to build, over time, a global inventory, stockpile and workforce, with tariffs and other protectionist barriers removed.”

He added: “Nothing should prevent what is mass produced in and for one country, being also mass produced for other countries.”

Additional reporting by PA

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