By VOICE 20 April 2020
This article was republished from VOICE, an APC member organisation.
The attacks of coronavirus or COVID-19 have already taken over the world. Arguments and fears have now arisen that this epidemic is a by-product of a dire capitalist society in which utter consumerism and environmental degradation prevail over creation for the sole profit of companies. As consumption rates increase, the more pollutants in the environment, the more degradation of biodiversity, and the more increases in human catastrophe.
Governments around the world have been trying hard to minimize human casualties. And they undertake measures that can fight against the deadly virus. Initially, it was noticed that Italy like many governments including China tried to hide information – facts and figures of people who were affected and died in the beginning – which indicates the non-transparency to handle the virus. On top of that, governments tried to fight engaging their workforce with an approach, and now we may term this as the Whole-of-Government Approach. But this strategy has drawbacks and cannot comprehensively fight COVID-19 alone.
The Whole-of-Government Approach in an authoritarian manner to fight against COVID-19 may lead the country to a devastating consequence. None, even the political leaders, ministers, policymakers and powerful sections of the society are infallible. The coronavirus epidemic is the greatest threat not only against humanity, but it is also a threat to every element of the society including public health, social and political affairs, trade and economics, agriculture and food security, industry and employment, livelihood security, and many more. However, where strong government exists like Singapore and Vietnam, Whole-of-Government Approach works out as they took early measures through quarantine, isolation, providing medical types of equipment like PPE, etc. But it doesn’t work always as we have seen Italy and the United States where those countries didn’t take the threat of the virus seriously. In the case of weak governments with democratic deficit may suffer from having a Whole-of-Government Approach, as it is in the case of Bangladesh!
Anyway, the adoption of the Whole-of-Society Approach as a good way of responding to the pandemic can help to fight against the deadly virus. The Whole-of-Society Approach means to consider engaging multi-sectoral stakeholders and facilitate their active participation in the decision-making process to take appropriate measures together. WHO puts a whole-of-society approach, which means government engaging all stakeholders including the civil society, communities, academia, media, private sector, NGOs, other voluntary associations, families, and individuals to strengthen the resilience of communities and society as a whole.
This is about building mutual partnerships and networking not only with the stakeholders of top levels like city corporations, but it is also about building a partnership with the district and Upazila level and to the communities at the roots of a country like Bangladesh. And this approach will build strong confidence among the citizens that will ultimately help them not to be scared, rather, help each other to come out from the fatal consequences being aware of the virus and maintaining the instructions given by WHO, Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Government’s departments.
South Korea is an example that went beyond the whole-of-government approach. It undertook a broader Whole-of- Society Approach engaging all stakeholders of society in addressing socio-economic and livelihood issues including public health, education, food security, agriculture, power and energy, communications, environment, employment, industry, and social and economic development. This is not only to hold dialogue among the stakeholders but also about the formulation of common strategy and policy on how the partnerships can actively collaborate and stand on carrying out collective work to resolve the crisis and arrest the deadly virus. Bangladesh now stands at the end of the tunnel while it is the high time for the country to undertake common and comprehensive policy measures with Whole-of Society Approach engaging all of its stakeholders. The government alone is not at all capable of arresting the virus.
Nonetheless, Bangladesh may take certain other steps actively. Prior and informed information is the key to build a partnership in a Whole-of-Society Approach. Information provided by the Government didn’t avoid the question of transparency if it doesn’t engage stakeholders. The right information at the right moment helps to take appropriate measures not only by the government but also by other stakeholders understanding the gravity of the situation.
This is, therefore, a matter of considerable concern that fake information is widespread, while many assume the evidence and take steps. Like the Corona pandemic, infodemic is the threat as well that we all must respond. Through infodemic, groups or groups of people spread hate speech, misinformation, violence against women, violate the right to information and data privacy, etc. There is no end of the game so far, yet! The inclusive approach may help to stop rumors, but alone government can’t make protect everything.
Appropriate steps will allow the government to feel the crisis at the level of the country and, as a consequence, expand international cooperation if appropriate. A bright example is Cuba that provided training to the Chinese doctors and sends their `brigades’ to Italy as well. Also, Cuba accepted British cruise ship, Braemer, carrying around 700 passengers when Latin American countries refused out of COVID-19 fear. And they attended medically to of each passenger. Also, Bangladesh’s move towards supply PPE to the US and other European countries is a good example of solidarity. What Cuba did is indeed a great gesture of international solidarity of the highest order.
In order to save us from the attack, we need to maintain social distances, not the mental distance that separates us from responding to the problem. Rather, taking care of each other can save us from anxiety and fatality. Uphold the spirit of love is the source of energy for all of us to survive both physically and mentally sound.
Corona has created an enormous psychological tragedy. People are creating isolation from each other, hatred aroused; people are treating each other as enemies without thinking whether a person is positive or negative in the test. As suggested by doctors, quarantine and isolation can prevent the fatal coronavirus a great deal.
It’s a moment of tremendous tribulation. People can save people in the face of bigotry. People need combined strength, unity and efforts to fight the deadly virus. We can all together resist it in order to build an alternative social system against the consumerism capitalist society and play a role in building the society and state of the aspirations of the majority of people, in the coming days, collectively.
COVID-19 has offered us an opportunity to refresh our life and lifestyle. It makes us think to care about our environment, rearticulate our policies for health and education. In particular, our development policy must be aligned with the environment and health care policies. Also, it gives us a signal to stand together for building global solidarity and extend support for international cooperation.
Hence it is important to talk about the economic structure of the nation and of the planet. The financial and non-financial policies must be coherent with the sustainable survival of nature and its creatures. Otherwise, human beings will be an alien in Mother Earth and will not survive long in the future. Besides, it reminds us of our lifestyle that we made complex. It is the time to be simple, to be free of will for good causes. It makes us realize that we did a lot of wrongdoings being greedy to mother earth without caring for our own business and interest. We forgot to care about the place we live in. It is the nature that helps us rethink our life and style so that we can be much more caring not only for humans also for the greater nature and all of its creatures.
There is still time for the government to take the right steps and take effective action. The media can play an effective role in investigating the cases independently rather than too many dependencies on the govt. information about corona positive patients. People will get benefit a lot from the media’s performance. People and the media have often been placing pressure on the government to take the right steps. And all of our duty is to come out from the corona horror.
We should create universal unity in order to construct a better future. In this world of absolute consumerism and capitalist imperialism, the strong bandits of the corporate system have compelled us to become pure slaves and to treat ourselves as commodities. Now, it might be our capable weapon to build a world of equality and justice for all.