Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Now?

WHO delivered medical supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in
the Republic of Congo in April 2020. Credit: World Health
Organization (WHO)

By Lawrence Surendra
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jun 4 2020 (IPS)

In the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, the much-anticipated 73rd
World Health Assembly (WHA) of the WHO concluded without any major
controversies or disagreements.

The landmark WHA resolution to bring the world together to fight
the COVID-19 pandemic, co-sponsored by more than 130 countries, and
adopted by consensus, called for the intensification of efforts to
control the pandemic, and for equitable access to and fair
distribution of all essential health technologies and products to
combat the virus.

Basically, a message that any vaccines produced should not be
privatised by corporate capitalist greed.

Pandemics have been with us for a very long time. Medical
science and public health focus on infectious diseases spanning the
pre-antibiotic and post-antibiotic era, has tried to keep pace with
the newer forms and zoonotic variations and shown us that reducing
the emergence of a virus to a single source is futile.

The eminent flu epidemiologist, late Dr Louis Weinstein,
commenting on the 1968 Hong Kong Flu epidemic that appeared
simultaneously all over the world, observed that such epidemics do
not spread from a single source. Humans have constantly battled
with new infectious diseases.

Post COVID, anti-bacterial treatments for what are called
‘sick-car’ and ‘sick building’ syndromes are now
flourishing. Though, however much we sanitise and keep our
immediate environment clean, will that help in the fight against
infections and infectious diseases?

Dr. Zinsser in , ‘Rats, Lice and History’, wrote in 1935,
“ Infectious disease is one of the few genuine adventures left in
the world … however secure and well-regulated civilized life may
become, bacteria, protozoa, viruses, infected fleas, lice, ticks,
mosquitoes and bedbugs will always lurk in the shadows ready to
pounce when neglect, poverty, famine or war lets down the

About the only genuine sporting proposition that remains
unimpaired by the relentless domestication of a once free-living
human species is the war against these ferocious little fellow
creatures which lurk in the dark corners and stalk us in the bodies
of rats, mice and all kinds of domestic animals; which fly and
crawl with the insects and waylay us in our food and drink and even
in our love”.

His work was considered a classic with the NYTimes calling it,
“one of the wisest and wittiest books that have come off the

Looking for the source of the viruses is a distraction in
understanding the causes. The destruction of our natural
environment, clearly, has been the major cause for the pandemics
that humanity has faced.

COVID 19 forcefully brought this truth home; while forcing a
lock down on the activities of humans, it allowed the natural world
to breathe again.

Rene Dubos, the pioneer of Ecological Medicine, who was awarded
a Pulitzer in 1969 for his classic work, ‘So Human an Animal: How
We Are Shaped by Surroundings and Events’, brought to us long
back the connection between the state of our natural environment
and our pathologies.

Writing in the Scientific American (1955) an article titled,
“Second Thoughts on the Germ Theory’, he wrote, “During the
first phase of the germ theory the property of virulence was
regarded as lying within the microbes themselves. Now virulence is
coming to be thought of as ecological. Whether man lives in
equilibrium with microbes or becomes their victim depend upon the
circumstances under which he encounters them”.

He was the one who coined the expression, “think globally, act
locally” which nowadays is used like a fashion statement, without
knowing the origins or the deep philosophical significance Rene
Dubos attached to an expression that he first coined. The current
COVID world has forcefully shown the importance of “thinking
globally and acting locally”.

Where do we go from here in managing this global public health
crisis and repairing the relationship of humans to the planet and
its sentient beings? The question ‘What now?” is posed as a
query for action, for a road map, in the way, the Dag Hammarskjöld
Foundation Report ‘What Now: Another Development ‘
posed it in 1975.

Another Development: Approaches and Strategies was launched in
1976, as an independent contribution to the Seventh Special Session
of the United Nations General Assembly on Development and
International Cooperation. With a print run of 100,000 copies in
six languages, the Report came to play a significant role in the
development debate during the following years.

The ‘What Now Report’ was envisaged as a “tribute to the
man, Dag Hammarskjöld, the UN Secretary-General 1953–1961 and
one of the last century’s most remarkable international leaders,
who more than any other, gave the United Nations the authority
which the world (now) needs more than ever”.

The five principles of ‘Another Development’ in 1975 stated,
Need based – Development geared to meeting
human needs, material and non-material; Endogenous
– stemming from the heart of each society which defines in
sovereignty its values and the vision of its future;

Self-reliant – implying that each society
relies primarily on its own strength and resources in terms of its
members’ energies and its natural and cultural environment;

Ecologically sound – utilising rationally the
resources of the bio-sphere in full awareness of the potential of
local ecosystems as well as the global and local outer limits
imposed on present and future generations.

And based on Structural transformation – so
as to realise the conditions required for self-management and
participation in decision making by all those affected by it, from
the rural or urban community to the world as a whole, without which
the goals above could not be achieved.

These five principles are even more relevant today and could be
the new Panchseel of a new commitment we should make for mutual
co-existence between peoples and between humans and nature.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, delivering the
prestigious Dag Hammarskjold Uppsala Lecture on Earth Day in 2018
and titled, ‘Twenty-first century challenges and the enduring
wisdom of Dag Hammarskjöld’, stated that, “The problems of our
time are global problems that can only be solved with global

Pointing in his lecture that Hammarskjold, “was a man of
culture”, Guterres said, “that allowed him to have a universal
view, a universal perspective; to consider diversity as a richness;
to be able to understand others; to promote tolerance; to promote
dialogue and to find solutions for the most difficult and intricate
diplomatic problems of his time”.

“This is what, indeed, is sometimes lacking today” and that,
“the proof that this translated into a vision of the world that
remains as accurate today as during his lifetime is very well
captured” he said in what Hammarskjold had said then, ‘Our
world of today [of course many decades ago] is more than ever
before, one world. The weakness of one is the weakness of all, and
the strength of one – not the military strength, but the real
strength, the economic and social strength, the happiness of people
– is the strength of all. Through various developments that are
familiar to all, world solidarity has been forced upon us. This is
no longer the choice of enlightened spirits, it’s something which
those whose temperament leads them in the direction of isolationism
have also to accept’.

Almost five decades later, organizations with the history,
prestige and authority like the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation are
uniquely placed to draw upon the wisdom of the past and
cooperatively navigate Earth and humanity to a safe place.

Reviving the spirit of ‘What Now’ as the new Panchsheel that
works beyond nation states and the strong men that lead these
nations states lies the future.

The Foundation needs urgently to take initiatives, using the
current crisis as an opportunity to create new global institutional
platforms for solidarity based on the principle of ‘planetary
citizens’ away from the hyper-nationalists of the present who in
history, have “goose stepped” us into disasters.

New generations are looking for such answers. The world must
move away from the strong-man politics of men who are also no
‘men of culture’.

Former US President Barack Obama in his Nelson Mandela speech in
South Africa, commenting on strong man politics dominating the
major large nations of the world, said, “Look around. Strongman
politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some
pretence of democracy are maintained—the form of it—but those
in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives
democracy meaning”.

Fortunately, both in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern
hemisphere we now have women in power who are bringing a different
quality to national and global leadership.

From Asia, and in small countries like South Korea articulate
women of such clarity and depth of experience in international
leadership, like Madam Kang, Kyung-wha Korea’s Foreign Minister,
are leading with such finesse the Foreign Policy of a nation wedged
between big powers. These resources of leadership need to be
harnessed for the global good.

The theme for World Environment Day (Friday June 5), is ‘Time
for Nature’. Humanity has ‘Time for Nature. Nation states and
strong men who lead them have no time for nature which is why we
are in the mess we are in and why we need ‘Another Development’
led by this new generation of women leaders currently managing
national and global affairs with such wisdom.

The post Beyond
the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Now?
appeared first on Inter Press Service.


Lawrence Surendra is a Chemical Engineer and
Environmental Economist and has been a Scholar-in Residence at the
Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Uppsala, Sweden

“Before there can be truth there must be a true man‖

The post Beyond
the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Now?
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Now?