In the context of the current devastating pandemic affecting so many countries around the world, EMES would like to express its concern about the situation of many communities and individuals who are being shaken in the most dramatic ways. This includes the “working poor” and other workers who are seeing their jobs suddenly stop; disadvantaged children, women and families who see their daily chance of having something to eat suspended; homeless and migrant people who were already living hand-to-mouth and are now left with literally nothing; families and people at risk who see their caregivers suddenly disappear from their daily routine and existence; migrants crowded together in inhumane camps, where it is simply impossible to maintain basic health security rules; the impossibility of mourning our loved ones and the loneliness that now pervades many homes.
In sharp contrast to these situations of injustice and suffering, the responses from organized civil society, neighbourhoods, informal groups and individuals are lighting up our gloomy horizon. Initiatives have emerged that ensure our elders, children and dependent people are supported and cared for throughout these exceptional moments, that provide a listening ear and exchange opportunities for people in crisis. Community-based distribution of agroecological food, exceptional actions and strategies to support women suffering domestic violence, collective cooking and delivery, free cultural and artistic initiatives for special groups and the general public have come to the fore. The list goes on.
Accompanying concerns regarding the ramifications of the many difficult decisions being taken by political bodies in the face of this crisis, there is also hope and trust in what will come afterwards. Many decades of joint research and collaboration around the world have shown that solidarity and mutual help are not just some exceptions to human behaviour, but a consolidated way of being a committed member of society and a respectful inhabitant of our planet.
There will be a before and an after the COVID-19 pandemic. The way “after” looks will depend on how governments at all levels mobilize themselves, listen to and partner up with citizen-driven initiatives, research centres and scientific networks that have the values of justice, equality and respect for the planet ingrained in their DNA. Communities, organizations and individuals will, without a doubt, suffer and entering survival mode for a while is perhaps inevitable but a window of opportunity also opens up.
Numerous voices are calling for a profound change in the way in which health, food, energy, mobility, research and other crucial areas for lives “worth living” in this planet are organized and managed. The cry coming from physicians in a Bergamo hospital defending a community-based health system illustrates the collective consciousness we are gaining and experiencing as societies. In some countries, national governments and administrations are coordinating across departments and levels, also partnering with businesses, civil society and citizens, prioritizing health and wellbeing for all, including the most vulnerable. Regarding scientific research, hundreds of teams are currently working against the clock to come up with a vaccine that can stop the virus. Critical, collaborative and constructive research on how to reimagine and reorganize ourselves and how to govern in this ‘new’ post-crisis world will also be required. As for EMES, we are determined to contribute to these challenges through the paramount contribution of our members from around the world, alongside the wider community of individuals, organizations and institutions that support our mission and actions.
We believe coordinated societies, that revalorize collaboration, solidarity and pluralism in socio-economic initiatives, constitute one of the key paths for a sustainable, just future and a thriving humankind. To achieve this, our global and local institutions and communities alike must put in common material resources and prioritize the preservation of the most precious and valuable asset that we have – our people and our planet.
Illustration credit: original watercolour by Teresa Bolaños (Elastic).