Edited by Mely Caballero-Anthony and Jose Ma. Luis Montesclaros
Foresighted and pragmatic policymaking requires acknowledging the constancy of change, and the fleetingness and perhaps inadequacy of having any fixed notion of normalcy.
For better or worse, the world has seen significant transition over the past decade. It saw the rise of new leaderships in the United States, India, China, Russia, the European Union, North Korea, and the ASEAN countries, among others. This brought about new opportunities such as talks for a Korean peace, new challenges such as growing US-China contestation over trade and technology, and armed conflicts, both fought and pondered. Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine is the latest manifestation of such tensions. They have contributed to growing ideological divisions within countries and among nations in an increasingly multipolar world.
The world also saw the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and widening influence of social media and technology companies, alongside the spread of fake news and cybersecurity threats, among others. These developments have been discussed in various RSIS publications and research initiatives.
Amid these changes, what remains constant is the need to prioritise the welfare of the people — the individuals living in every part of our planet. All states must be concerned with addressing issues that present existential threats to various societal groups even if these do not emerge from military sources, but from what are called non-traditional security or NTS issues. From this perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has arguably been the most impactful over the past decade, even if it unravelled internationally only two years ago.
The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a litmus test of the stability and readiness of the global healthcare system. The number of infections recorded exceeded 450 million cases as of the middle of the first quarter of 2022, with more than 6 million deaths. The pandemic has also tested the international economic system, with negative rates of economic growth, much worse than the 2007–08 global financial crisis.
Beyond its direct impact, COVID-19 has led to further knock-on disruptions to NTS concerns such as food security, climate security, civilian use of nuclear energy, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, among others. This monograph seeks to provide a brief assessment of the new normal that is unfolding, particularly within Southeast Asia, and to translate what this means for policymakers as they seek to navigate and prepare for novel threats going forward.
Ambassador Ong Keng Yong
Executive Deputy Chairman
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)
Nanyang Technological University