Countries Are Global Citizens! By Henry Kyambalesa March 7, 2024

Henry Kyambalesa

Countries Are Global Citizens!

By Henry Kyambalesa

March Thursday 7th, 2024


Countries are “global citizens” in that their pursuits, actions and interests often transcend their national borders, and that they are essentially members of the global community of nations. As such, they have a moral obligation to work hand in hand with other countries in seeking viable and mutually beneficial solutions to global issues, challenges and problems, including terrorism, the refugee crisis, climate change, pandemics, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and money laundering.

On June 27, 2020, for example, world leaders—including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, then German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, alongside dozens of others—came together in Brussels to pledge funds for use in generating COVID-19 solutions during the “Global Goal: Unite for Our Future” campaign under the aegis of the European Commission (Global Citizen, 2020).

Other world leaders at the gathering were from France, Canada, Italy, Spain, Austria, Belgium, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and New Zealand, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and numerous philanthropists and foundations.

The world’s civic, political and business leaders were joined by international organizations—such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and GAVI (the Vaccine Alliance), as well as others whose work includes tackling and alleviating hunger and poverty, gender inequality, inadequate access to education, the climate crisis, and inadequate water and sanitation—in calling for “the full support of [national and regional] governments” worldwide in addressing global issues and crises, particularly issues and crises emanating from the Covid-19 pandemic.

This article is organized into two sections relating to the need for cooperative efforts in tackling global issues and crises. The first section is devoted to a brief discourse on examples of collective efforts aimed at addressing global issues and crises, including the role of development partnerships, unwavering altruism by wealthy nations, hopes engendered by President Clinton’s visit to Africa, the Marshall Plan, shared responsibilities in dealing with pandemics, and joint attempts at preventing and/or resolving perennial conflicts around the world.

The second section is designed to render an opinion on U.S. foreign relations, including the ‘America First’ mantra and a brief assessment of the approaches to foreign relations by the Donald J. Trump and Joseph R. Biden administrations.


In this section, let us consider examples of efforts involving nation-states in addressing global issues, challenges and crises—that is, development partnerships, altruism by developed nations, President Bill Clinton’s momentous visit to Africa, the Marshall Plan, global efforts to deal with pandemics, and the resolution of conflicts.

2.1 Development Partnerships:

Developing countries worldwide face a catalogue of persistent and widespread socioeconomic problems which they cannot address by themselves mainly due to the lack of appropriate technologies and inadequate financial and material resources—problems which include poverty, hunger, ignorance, illiteracy, disease, high rates of unemployment, disadvantaged children, dilapidated infrastructure, crime, and endemic corruption.

Fortunately, development partners like Canada (through CIDA), China, Denmark (through DANIDA), France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan (through JICA), The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden (through SIDA), the United Kingdom (through DFID / FCDO), and the USA (through USAID) voluntarily and continually render their support in different fields and sectors of the economies of developing countries.

Such fields and sectors include agriculture, decentralization, education, energy, gender, governance, health, HIV/AIDS, housing, macroeconomics, private sector development, social protection, science and technology, tourism, water, transportation infrastructure, and the environment.

2.2 Altruism by Wealthy Nations:

The following summi¬ts convened by local and national governments in industrialized coun¬tries reflect the North’s greater enthusiasm to participate more actively in redressing the socioeconomic ills facing much of contemporary Africa:

(a) The first Tokyo International Conference on African De¬velopment (TICAD I) held in October 1993 and its runner-up (that is, TICAD II) held in October 1998 (M. Nwagboso, 1998:842-848).

(b) The summit of leaders of G-7 countries and Russia’s Boris Yeltsin held in Denver, Colorado, in June 1997 to discuss the prospect of “spreading the wealth” worldwide, among other things.

(c) The G-7 countries’ annual summit (including Russia) held in Cologne, Germany, in June 1999 to initiate a plan for providing greater and swifter debt relief to poor coun¬tries, among a host of other things.

(d) Summits convened in several American cities during 1999 by the U.S. National Summit on Africa organization to gene¬rate strategies for working with African governments in their quest to improve the quality of life on the economically beleaguered continent.
(A diversity of themes was explored at these summits. The Moun¬tain/South-west Regional Summit on Africa held in Denver, for example, included the following themes: (i) economic development, trade, investment, and job creation; (ii) democracy and human rights; (iii) sustainable develop¬ment, quality of life and the environment; (iv) peace and security; and (v) education and culture.)

(e) In 1999, the G-20 (Group of 20) nations was created, comprising the members of the G-7 nations—that is, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and 12 additional countries and the European Union. Currently, the G-20 (Group of 20) nations consist of the G-7 nations, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.

(f) In 2016 between August 27 and August 28, TICAD-6 Summit—the first-ever Summit to be held on the African continent—was hosted by Kenya in Nairobi to discuss issues and challenges relating to industrialization, healthcare and social stability, among other things. And
(The Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD) was launched in 1993 by Japan to promote peace and security and sustainable socioeconomic development through greater bilateral relations and partnership between Japan and African countries.)

(g) The 7th TICAD summit was held in 2019 between August 28th and August 30 in Yokohama city, Japan, to discuss economic transformation and improvements in Africa’s business environment and institutions through private investment and innovation.

2.3 President Clinton in Africa:

Between March 23, 1998 and April 2, 1998, Mr. Bill (William J.) Clinton went on record as having been the first incumbent Ameri¬can president to have officially visited Africa on a noble mission in two decades. Although he visited only six of Africa’s fifty-four countries (that is, Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, and Senegal), his message cast a gleam of hope over the entire continent (B. Ankomah, 1998:8):

“My dream for this trip is that together we might [accomplish great] … things so that a hundred years from now, your grandchildren and mine will look back and say this was the beginning of a new African renais¬sance.”

2.4 The Marshall Plan:

The “Marshall Plan” or “European Recovery Program” was an initiative mooted by the United States government and implemented from April 1948 to December 1951 in an effort to rebuild allied countries in Europe after widespread obliteration and devastation of the economies and institutions of such countries caused by the 1939-1945 Second World War. The other main reason for the initiation of the Plan was to prevent the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from spreading socialism and communism in Europe.

The plan was named after George C. Marshall, who was then U.S. Secretary of State. Countries which benefitted from the economic aid provided through the Plan included Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (Holland), Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey.

2.5 Dealing with Pandemics:

By and large, pandemics—that is, outbreaks of contagious and deadly diseases or viruses across national and regional borders—compel affected countries, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to collaborate in efforts aimed at seeking the most effective ways and means of diagnosing, treating and preventing such diseases, and/or serving communities impacted by the diseases.

Among the most deadly of such diseases have been cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, HIV/AIDS, and novel forms of influenza. A brief description of some of these dreadful diseases or viruses follows.

2.5.1 The 1918 Spanish Flu. The Spanish Flu, which haunted the world between 1918 and 1920, is chronicled as having been among the most brutal killer-diseases in human history; around 500 million people worldwide were sickened by the virus, out of which 40 to 50 million lost their lives.

2.5.2 The 1968 Flu Pandemic. The flu pandemic of 1968 caused the deaths of over 1 million people worldwide. The first case regarding the flu was reported on July 13, 1968 in Hong Kong. This was followed by reports of outbreaks of the virus in both Singapore and Vietnam. Within the next three months, the virus had spread to Australia, Europe, India, The Philippines, and the United States.

2.5.3 The HIV/AIDS Pandemic. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) surfaced during the early 1980s. The first case of the pandemic was diagnosed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in a patient in San Francisco, California, and was designated as HIV/AIDS by the agency in June 1981 (Sully S. Hughes, 1995).
The following information excerpted and adapted from data compiled by UNAIDS portrays the mind-boggling statistics regarding the impacts of the HIV/AIDS pandemic (UNAIDS, 2020):

(a) 37.9 million people worldwide were living with HIV by the end of 2018;

(b) 1.7 million people worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2018;

(c) 770, 000 people worldwide died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2018;

(d) 74.9 million people worldwide had become infected with HIV from the beginning of the pandemic during the early 1980s to the end of
2018; and

(e) 32 million people worldwide have died from AIDS-related illnesses from the beginning of the pandemic during the early 1980s to the end of 2018.

2.5.4 The Covid-19 Pandemic. “Covid-19”—the shortened form of “Coronavirus disease of 2019”—was originally referred to as “Coronavirus.” It is a novel type of pneumonia detected in Wuhan, China, and was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office in China on December 31, 2019. It was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO on January 30, 2020.
The virus spread worldwide within a few months, within which it triggered an immediate and considerable reduction in economic activities in China and other countries worldwide, as portrayed by Dylan Gerstel and Stephanie Segal (2020) in the following excerpt:

“Surveys of China’s manufacturing and services sectors plunged to record lows in February, automobile sales sank a record 80 percent, and China’s exports fell 17.2 percent in January and February. The official data confirmed a widespread slowdown in economic activity foreshadowed in low pollution levels and depressed shipping traffic, among other informal barometers.”

The virus also infected more than half a million people worldwide within a few months, within which it caused nearly 30,000 deaths, and caused the deaths of over 1 million people by the end of September 2020.

According to Mr. António Guterres (2020), UN Secretary-General, some countries are reportedly making side deals exclusively for their own populations instead of working hand in hand with other countries in devising ways and means of dealing with the economic and health-related effects of the pandemic, an effort which he has branded as being ill-advised in the following words:

“Such ‘vaccinationalism’ is not only unfair, it is self-defeating. None of us is safe until all of us are safe. Everybody knows that.”

He is right, because no country can seal itself from the dour economic and health-related effects of the pandemic, or from the global movement of goods, services and humans which can essentially be a vector of the pandemic.

2.6 Resolution of Conflicts:

The military and/or politi¬cal external interventions by coalitions of countries in such incidents as the Iraq-Kuwait conflict in August 1990, the bloody struggle for power among war-lords in Somalia in 1995/1996, the restora¬tion of civilian rule in Haiti between 1990 and 1995, the ethnic conflicts in both Burundi (1993) and Rwanda (1994), and the civil war in the Feder¬al Democ¬ratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire) during the 1990s provide factual examples of an earnest effort, desire and moral obligation by national governments worldwide to work together in addressing issues, challenges and crises facing humanity.


On September 22, 2020, then U.S. President Donald J. Trump said the following at the UN General Assembly:

“As [United States] president, I have rejected the failed approaches of the past, and I am proudly putting America first, just as you should be putting your countries first. That’s okay. That’s what you should be doing.”

3.1 The “America First” Mantra:

According to Rick Gladstone and Jason Gutierrez of The New York Times, “Mr. Trump has been a longstanding critic of the United Nations and has challenged its multilateral diplomacy as an impediment to his ‘America First’ policy.”

It is common knowledge and commonsense that national leaders are expected and supposed “to put their countries first” before they devote their time and resources to the resolution of global issues, challenges and crises alongside the leaders of other countries. Therefore, to say so publicly is to state the obvious. But as it is often said, “commonsense is not common to all.”

There is no disagreement that every normal person—national leaders included—puts his or her family first, community second, municipality third, state or province fourth, country fifth, and the world sixth. For an ordinary citizen, “to put one’s country first” is to recklessly disregard one’s other vitally important stakeholders.

Mr. Trump, understandably, was leader of a country, the United States of America—arguably the most advanced country in the world, economically and militarily. Therefore, one would appreciate his emphasis on “putting his country first” to the exclusion of his family and other important, locally based stakeholders.

But what could be the source or sources of the current and contentious squabbles between the United States and China which have tended to be characteristic of U.S.-Sino relations—squabbles that have even overshadowed the international community’s quest to collectively resolve pressing global issues, challenges and crises?

Well, the squabbles or disputes could as well be a result of national leaders jostling for their countries’ global hegemony, particularly in political and economic spheres. They could also be a result of the two countries’ disparate socioeconomic systems—the free enterprise system in the United States and the centrally planned socioeconomic system in the People’s Republic of China.

Moreover, they could be a result of any one of the two countries’ leaders’ envy or jealousy of the other country’s economic success and global competitiveness. And/or they could as well be a result of an unquenchable desire by the two countries’ national leaders to fulfill or satisfy their personal egos for global eminence.

Unfortunately, the current and direct confrontational tactics by the two countries can potentially result in unnecessary and disastrous conflict—conflict that can ultimately imperil global peace and stability.

Suggestively, the squabbles between the two countries—and between and among any other countries as a matter of fact—would best be resolved by any countries involved to invest their time, energy and resources in enhancing their competitive and comparative advantages rather than by engaging in direct confrontational tactics.

Besides, there is a need for all countries worldwide to resolve their trade-related (and other) issues with other countries through established global institutions, such as the World Trade Organization. Resorting to unilateral actions in, and solutions to, the resolution of international issues and problems can be a recipe to the creation of a chaotic and anarchic world.

As experience and observation have taught us, national leaders who scorn, challenge or are disrespectful of global rules and norms of conduct tend to have a similar attitude regarding their own countries’ rules and norms of conduct.

3.2 Mr. Trump v. Mr. Biden:

In August 2018, Mr. Donald J. Trump, former United States President, embarked on an initiative designed to pull his country from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in preference for bilateral treaties between the United States and Mexico, and between the United States and Canada.

And on October 1, 2018, Canada, Mexico and the United States of America agreed to replace NAFTA with a new trade deal provisionally referred to as the “U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement,” abbreviated to “USMCA.” The U.S. Senate approved the agreement on January 16, 2020, and President Donald J. Trump signed it into law on January 29, 2020 although Canada had not yet assented to it.

On January 23, 2017, the U.S. President withdrew his country from the now-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) bloc of countries, which is currently referred to as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which incorporates most of the provisions of the TPP and which entered into force on December 30, 2018.

According to former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, TPP was expected to level the playing field for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries imposed on U.S. products. It would have included the strongest commitments on labor and the environment of any trade agreement in history—commitments which would have been enforceable unlike past agreements.

It would have promoted a free and open Internet, and strengthened U.S. strategic relationships with its partners and allies in a region that is vital to the U.S. in the 21st century. It would have been an agreement designed to put American workers first and would have helped middle-class families in the U.S. to broaden their socioeconomic vistas (The Obama Whitehouse).

The unilateral decision by the executive branch of the U.S. government to withdraw from TPP (now CPTPP) will ultimately result in the disruption of regular flows of imports, exports and investments between the U.S. and its former TPP trading partners—flows which are likely to be re-established by the country’s importers, exporters and investors at great cost.

And in April 2020, Mr. Trump suspended his country’s monetary contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) for 60 to 90 days as his administration reviewed the institution’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic—a move that was likely to undermine international cooperation in the fight against outbreaks of deadly diseases.

WHO was founded in 1948 and functions as the directing and coordinating authority on health-related international matters within the United Nations (UN) system.

Examples of other inter-governmental institutions from which former U.S. President Donald J. Trump withdrew his country’s involvement are cited in ensuing paragraphs.

3.2.1 The President announced in May 2018 that he was withdrawing the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal negotiated in 2015 during former President Barrack Obama’s administration between Iran and the UN and several countries, including China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom bloc of countries, and the United States.

The Deal required Iran to halt its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and to allow for international checks on its nuclear facilities, in exchange for a relaxation of sanctions that had crippled its economy.

3.2.2 In June 2018, the U.S. President withdrew his country from the UN Human Rights Council in protest of its frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The 47-member Council is the world’s most important human rights agency; it is an inter-governmental body (established in 2006) within the UN system that is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world.

3.2.3 In a letter to the United Nations in November 2019, President Trump formally initiated the process of withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement assented to in 2015 by his predecessor’s administration—a decision that was rescinded by his successor, President Joseph R. Biden. The Agreement was ratified by 186 other countries.

Essentially, the Agreement is designed to spearhead the reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars, trucks and power plants. Greenhouse gases are the major causes of global warming and climate change—factors which have continued to pose a serious threat to the fragile natural environment upon which humans and other living things depend for their survival.

President Biden, Mr. Trump’s successor, narrated his administration’s decision to revert to working with other countries in addressing global challenges and crises in his inaugural speech at the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021 in the following words (Kathryn Watson and Melissa Quinn, 2021):

“We’re back at the table in international forums, especially the United Nations, to focus attention and to spur global action on shared challenges. We are reengaged at the World Health Organization, and working in close partnership with COVAX to deliver life-saving vaccines around the world. We rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, and we’re running to retake a seat on the Human Rights Council [in 2022] … at the U.N. And as the United States seeks to rally the world to action, we will lead not just with the example of our power, but God willing, the power of our example.”

Disclaimer: The content of this article is excerpted and adapted from Kyambalesa, Henry, The Size and Functions of Government (LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2022), pp. 305–323.

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