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Coronavirus COVID-19: Let’s stay together – at a distance

COVID-19

 
Dear Globethics.net Participants
 
I address this message in the form of a personal letter to all of you, the 200’000 in 200 countries and territories around the globe who are registered participants in our global family of Globethics.net. The global pandemic of the Coronavirus is now hitting people on all continents, within only three months. 
 
I express first of all my compassion for and solidarity with those of you who have already lost a person close to you, who have lost your income and your job, who are separated from your family in another country or home, who suddenly have to teach your children at home, who fear to lose a semester of your studies, who do not have reliable electricity for online learning, you as university and business leaders who do not know how to overcome the financial challenge of your institution and you who tirelessly work in hospitals. 
 
“It is war” said the Swiss government yesterday. A global war against a common enemy, a virus. Borders are closed, people have to stay at home in ‘self-isolation’ and many companies may collapse if financial help by governments is not provided very soon. My generation and our children grew up without war. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all experienced war in their lifetime. Many of you live in countries where you have experienced epidemics, war, droughts and disaster. For all of us, a global pandemic with this speed is new.
 
What are the ethical challenges – and chances? How can we as a global network on ethics provide ethical leadership and orientation in promoting life, in higher education and in all the sectors that are affected? Let me share with you ten concerns from an ethical perspective and I invite you at the end of this letter to share your views: 
 
  1. The Responsibility to Protect: as expressed in the recent Globethics.net statement, responsibility is first of all an individual task for each of us in order not to expose others and ourselves to infection in an unnecessary way. It is equally a responsibility of employers, governments and all sectors of society. Two extremes have to be avoided: panic and trivialization. ‘Facts, not fear’ enables the right balance of calm and reason and at the same time tough and courageous decisions where and when necessary;
  2. Speed, Slowdown and Self-management: for action, every day counts in this explosion of the spread of the virus, as the curves show. We are thankful to the authorities who have the courage to make timely, although tough decisions. On the other hand, many personal and professional activities have to slow down. A chance for new life balances. We can exercise and appreciate the value of self-discipline. Home-office and daylong studies at home can much better be managed with a disciplined structure to the day;
  3. Transparency is Compulsory: facts are key. Hiding or exaggerating facts for personal, political or economic reasons is criminal. Fake news can lead to panic or trivialization and can cost lives. All in all, the quality and speed of information sharing is impressive. The pandemic confirms the key role of multilateral institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and is a warning not to further weaken such institutions as some governments have done over the years;
  4. Faith Matters: two thirds of humanity would describe themselves to some extent or other as religious. What does this pandemic mean for faith in God or for trust in karma as a way of existence? Many religious communities care deeply for the sick and lonely. Prayers, meditation and encouragement with hope matter. The worst thing religious communities could do now is to increase the suffering by preaching that such a pandemic is a punishment of God for individual or collective misbehaviour or a result of behaviour in former lives or if they disrespect state orders and continue worshiping, arguing that they place their trust only in God. So-called trust in God while disrespecting medical advice and caring is unethical and irresponsible. Medical staff and researchers who develop a vaccine are gifts of the Almighty;
  5. No Place for Conspiracy: uncertainty, lack of information and/or political interests often lead to all kinds of conspiracy theories, and this is the case also during this pandemic. Some already see the virus as a biological weapon of one of the superpowers to destroy the other power; others blame the 5G technology; others see some populations or ethnic groups as immune to the corona virus. Ethical behaviour means resisting such conspiracy theories, not sharing them on social media. Conspiracy ‘news’ – during and after the pandemic – undermine effective, facts-based solutions and can as a consequence lead to unnecessary persecution of political, ethnic and religious groups;
  6. Encouraging Innovative Solidarity: it is impressive how much solidarity is visible during this pandemic. The trade war is suddenly replaced by the need to help each other. Neighbourhood solidarity and young people helping older persons in buying food can be observed and encouraged;
  7. Economic Victims: the number of people who will die as a result of the economic turbulences caused among others by the pandemic may be much higher than the deaths caused directly by the virus. Political and economic decision-makers are now asked to contribute to innovative solutions to reduce and share the burdens of these economic effects;
  8. Globalization Revisited: The pandemic makes the positive and negative side of globalization a daily experience of billions of people. It shows our vulnerability through interconnectivity. The travel and trade restrictions show that we cannot depend only on a global economy, but need also local and regional supply chains. The pandemic will have a profound impact on future supply chains and will modify the way of globalization. On the other hand, the cyber world and internet connectivity offers fast adaptation to the new restrictions, e.g. by distant education, online conferences, tele-medicine etc. Let us learn from this pandemic to achieve a more healthy balance between the globalized and localized economy;
  9. Ethical Leadership: the pandemic shows the crucial importance of leaders who have integrity, honestly serving the people with the power entrusted to them and not primarily serving own political or economic interests. The pandemic shows the urgent need for such responsible leadership, which is something that we strive for and promote at Globethics.net;
  10. Lessons for other threats: this pandemic shows, that humanity is able to stand together and to act with speed and determination, characteristics that are often missing when facing other global threats. Climate change is a process as dramatic as the pandemic, but it is happening at a slower rate and therefore the political will to act in time is missing. Millions of children die every year of hunger and because of lack of clean water – why not act with the same determination and speed that is being used to tackle this pandemic to slow down climate change and to manage other global threats? 
 
Globethics.net is – fortunately in this situation – to a great extent a virtual community with our online library, online publications, online network and online academy. We invite you to use our platform as much as you can from home or wherever you have to stay, in a time where many universities are closed and online is the main way to continue studies, research and communication.
 
We wish you the necessary health and strength, ethical commitment and hope that we can overcome this challenge. Let’s stay together – at a distance. With physical distance and emotional proximity we can support each other. I invite you to share your values, experiences, thoughts, fears and hopes in this tough time of the global pandemic by sending a message to infoweb@globethics.net and we will upload a selection of them on our website www.globethics.net.
 
Take care, God bless you, paix avec vous, namasté, 安宁, kedamaian, мир, paz, amani, لسلام
 
 
Prof. Dr Dr h.c. Christoph Stückelberger, President and FounderProf. Dr Dr h.c. Christoph Stückelberger
Globethics.net President and Founder