Crises have a way of exacerbating underlying vulnerabilities. Once the protective surface has been flayed from society, its pre-existing conditions are exposed and rendered more acute.
Many authors in this edition of the Crisis Response Journal warn how Covid-19 lays bare inequity, inequality and poverty; the virus is certainly not indiscriminate.
And when ingrained injustices reach a peak, righteous anger and frustration inevitably spill over into discord, presenting an opening for those who seek to profit from inflaming societal division, or who have their own agendas.
The Covid-19 crisis – which has taken so many lives and wreaked such misery, fear and pain – raises questions about humanity’s ability to work together against common, global threats. With a few notable exceptions, the crisis seems to have caught governments on the back foot, illustrated by a failure to understand the full cascading consequences and potential systemic nature of a pandemic.
Perhaps the first mistake of many was an initial inclination to treat this as a ‘health’ emergency, failing to appreciate how interdependencies allow the virus to rampage across all layers of a society – from individuals and communities, to livelihoods, businesses, economies and supply chains – calling our very values and global models of co-operation into question.
Another glaring omission is evident – where is resilience? Why is the voice of emergency management unheeded by so many at the top levels of governance and the public alike? On p8, Eric Russell attempts to find answers, while on p42 Paolo Garonna explores how science and its global institutions have been devalued and exploited – to the extent of making them viewed as irrelevant in some quarters.
How are we going to cope when larger, more interconnected and destructive crises sweep our way?
The answer must not lie in retreating into conflict and hostility. But we cannot come out of this as we were before, and this may be a good thing, as Marcus Coleman notes on p46. We can transform tragedy into opportunity for all. We can examine our global institutions, empowering them to act with authority and universal legitimacy, while maintaining vigilant oversight. We can place our resilience experts where they should be – trusted, experienced voices, whose knowledge is valued and respected at the very highest levels.
The alternative is to retreat into narrow, nationalistic opportunism, privilege and self-interest, sticking tiny plasters on the exposed, weeping wounds of our global society.
Surely we can do better than this?