As the world enters the next phase of COVID, where populations are increasingly fully vaccinated and social activities begin to take place again, it is critical to understand that there are more challenges and risks ahead. Governments are facing a difficult task in the post-pandemic landscape. The complex scenario includes potential social, economic, political and security problems. Unemployment, economic difficulties, socio-political frustration amongst others could easily develop at a time when some governments can offer little to counter these difficult and multifaceted problems.
It is also important not to forget that many governments applied harsh measures during lockdowns, while frustration and desperation were growing. While at the time these may have been important to manage the health risks, it could also lead to diminishing respect for government and authority. In the short-term, governments need to redouble their efforts to contain inflation that can have a massive impact on people’s lives and their ability to source goods for basic needs.
While in the mid to long-term, potential increases in unemployment and financial security could lead to risks around stability of government. It is, therefore, critical for governments to demonstrate concrete solutions for these social risks, as they could snowball to create risks around security, particularly terrorism and organised crime.
It is important to start paying extra attention to the symptoms of the emerging new wave of terrorist phenomena. Incidents across many countries demonstrate the impact of economic hardship through the spread of criminal and terrorist propaganda. These incidents do not necessarily involve confrontation with security services, but rather leverage social pressure and hardship to provoke instability, including protests and riots based on dissatisfaction with public policy and the political system. Not only they are fanning the flames of disenchantment, they are also using it to recruit and grow. The people of these cities are particularly valuable to these groups as in addition to growing in size, they assist in making national borders more porous.
This creates dual challenges for governments, with social frustration due to economic hardship combined with increased risk of terrorist and criminal activity trying to use porous borders to export their violence. The tactics of smuggling and exploiting land and sea borders have become more frequent and effective during COVID-19.
Therefore, any strategic thinking today should focus on the concept of redefining the role of the state by reshaping critical sectors related to the basic needs of people, such as health, manufacturing, agriculture, education and trade. It is critical that any approach to managing these risks and increasing societal resilience is based on a well-structured national narrative that gives people a future to believe in and brings them together to face challenging times based on the hope of a better future. This national narrative should be based on political inclusion and enhancing the societal roles of all people.
For a country like Jordan, the success of managing the vaccination challenge is important, but the next stage of the pandemic will require the state to deal with the new economic, political and societal challenges.
For Jordan to adopt an effective approach requires a clear communication strategy that highlights the roadmap to recovery. This is essential to help stress the difficulties ahead, even the sacrifices that must be made in order to contain the economic pressures and achieve the economic and societal growth that everyone is seeking.
The next phase might need a post-COVID government with a clear long-term vision and strategy of what is needed and what should be done to contain all these challenges while boosting national sentiment and a positive atmosphere of change. Therefore, it might be really useful to capitalise on the work of the Royal Committee to Modernise the Political System to be the first step of this long-road map of restoring trust, credibility and to give people hope that changes are taking place.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh