4 min read
International order is coming apart at the seams, the US and UK must step up and lead together to meet the urgent challenges we face on climate, coronavirus and human rights.
The election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the 46th President and 49th Vice President of the United States respectively marks a turning point for the creaking rules-based international order, climate change cooperation, the global coronavirus response and much, much more.
But this election result is only the beginning. Joe Biden’s election won’t produce overnight the changes we badly want to see on the world stage. Many will be ecstatic that he has vowed to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement on day one of his presidency and undo Trump’s work against the WHO. Yet the United States is still deeply divided, and we face a world increasingly at odds.
Reversing Trump’s missteps is one thing, but leading the forward-thinking changes we need to overcome future challenges is not so easy.
The first issue is the US domestic landscape. The President-elect said in his victory speech that he doesn’t see red and blue states, but united states. That lofty rhetoric needs to translate to and impact on a Democratic Party that is already squabbling over how left-wing he is and what that means for them, and a country so divided that just slivers of percentages decided key states in the election.
I’m mentioning this not because of any obsession with US politics, but because it will have a significant impact on the world in the years to come. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have an immense job on their hands. The post-war international order is coming apart at the seams – removing Trump from the White House doesn’t fix that; the lack of global political leadership runs deeper.
Biden has spoken about building back better – let’s unlock that ambition with our neighbours and allies the world over
It’s right that the US and its allies, the UK chief among them, should now step up and lead to meet those urgent challenges we all face.
Britain hosts COP26 next year – we only have a narrow window to work with the new administration to secure the best deal we can for our climate, for nature and for every person on our planet. Biden has spoken about building back better – let’s unlock that ambition with our neighbours and allies the world over.
Coronavirus is a global pandemic that needs a united, global response if we are to defeat it. None of us are free from this virus until we all are. Whilst reversing Trump’s attacks on the WHO and bearing down on the virus domestically will make a difference, what we need is international ambition and leadership. The US’ isolationist approach under Trump has left a vacuum that Biden would be wise to proactively fill.
This is about how the United States works with other nations, whether that’s bilaterally, through NATO, the WHO, COP26, the UN Security Council, or other institutions that have been undermined. On human rights too, there is so much for the UK and like-minded nations to work with the Biden administration on. Efforts to combat abuses in China, in particular against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the people of Hong Kong, and Tibet, would greatly benefit from a more coordinated and tougher response.
The next four years may well be looked back on by historians as a watershed moment in world history. Boris Johnson and the Vote Leave team should be on notice; Biden will be setting a new, higher bar. Attempts to undermine the Good Friday Agreement won’t wash any more.
I’m optimistic, but it’s vital we’re also realistic at the same time. For Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and world leaders everywhere, this transition is a challenge to be gripped, a mountain to be climbed.
We will be in a much better place in four years time if we meet it head on with leadership and cooperation.
Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development.