A friend in need is a friend indeed. When this horrendous episode of history, the coronavirus pandemic, is over, many of us will have learned this lesson the hard way.
Do you think you have real friends? Powerful ones, perhaps? The Italians and other peoples have found out during this crisis that not all their so-called friends and allies are friends indeed.
A Washington Post report, from Rome, found out that a large number of Italians feel abandoned by the European Union during Italy’s darkest days. When Italy became the new epicentre of the pandemic, the Italians searched for friends but didn’t find many.
Countries will step up to lead a prospective new world through a multilateral order that will be based not on military alliance but on a forward-looking system that aims to avoid similar crises.
Ironically, Italy is one of six founding members of the union in 1957. Sixty-three years later, those allies have more or less vanished when Italy needed them the most. “There’s a segment of the Italian population that believes the European Union has turned its back on Italy when the country needed help the most,” Francesco Galietti, a co-founder of Policy Sonar, a political risk consultancy told the Post.
The Germans, one of the culprits in the eyes of the Italians who accuse Berlin of obstructing an EU urgent aid last month, also found out that their allies might not be so allied during the crisis.
On April 3, the Wall Street Journal newspaper reported that German officials have confirmed that a shipment of face masks en route to Germany was seized at Bangkok airport and diverted to the United States. German officials called it an act of “modern piracy.” So much for 70 years of alliance.
On the other hand, let us look at these headlines:
March 16: The UAE sends aid to Iran. Thirty-two tons of medical supplies and relief equipment have been sent to help Iran, one of the countries worst hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, cope with the crisis.
April 5: The UAE sends 11 tons of medical supplies to Pakistan to help combat the coronavirus, which included testing kits and sanitisers.
April 6: The UAE sends 10 tons of medical supplies to Italy to help medics tackle the pandemic. The shipment will support more than 10,000 doctors and nurses.
April 8: A UAE aid plane carrying 13 tons of medical supplies was sent to Kazakhstan to assist the country in combating the pandemic.
April 8: The UAE sends aid plane to Colombia to assist efforts to counter the crisis. Also, 63 Colombian citizens were repatriated from the UAE.
April 10: A UAE aid plane carrying 11 tons of medical supplies was dispatched to Ukraine to assist the country in combating the pandemic, benefitting over 10,000 healthcare professionals.
These are only a few examples of what a small country like the UAE did for friends and not-so-friendly nations to help them in what could be the worst global crisis since the Second World War. UAE aid has also reached China, Afghanistan, and Seychelles, among other countries.
UAE lives up to its principles
As the pandemic continues to alter the world’s way of life and when countries shut their borders while trying to figure out how to deal with this unprecedented crisis, the UAE has stepped up true to its defining principles on which the federation was established almost 50 years ago.
The late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan used to say that there is “no true benefit for us from the wealth that we have unless it reaches those in need, wherever they may be, and regardless of their nationality or beliefs.” This guiding principle is what made the UAE today a key player in humanitarian aid. The country is ranked among the top 10 countries in foreign aid.
There is a widely accepted notion that the world after the coronavirus will not be the same. It will have changed forever. One aspect of that will change is the strategic realignments. Countries will reassess who their real friends are — those who can be counted at the time of a crisis.
Major global players may have to relinquish their status as world leaders. The awesome military arsenals they possess will not help them recover the losses. The US decision to stop funding the World Health Organisation (WHO) at a time when the world needs the organisation to fight the pandemic is a shameful example of a leadership deficit. An example of a world leader turning its back on fellow nations during their darkest hour.
Other countries will step up to lead a prospective new world through a multilateral order that will be based not on military alliance but on a forward-looking system that aims to avoid similar crises. A new world order where small countries, with soft powers like the UAE, will play a role in shaping it through collaboration.
For now, those who bear the brunt of the pandemic need help. And as Italians and others found out, at a high cost of precious life and probably irreparable damage, that a friend in need is a friend indeed.