The novel coronavirus pandemic can be the moment the world pushes back against fear and isolationism, and turns instead towards hope, solidarity and a shared sense of global community.
These are fearful times, to be sure. Some 3.55 million people have been infected by COVID-19 and nearly a quarter of a million have perished. Billions of people are on lockdown or in self isolation.
Yet this pandemic and the fear, dread, and anxiety that it has induced has not occurred in isolation. For years, we have existed under the constant and pervasive feeling that things are getting worse, that we are failing each other and that we are failing our planet. This isn’t helped by a daily news cycle that reads like an ever-escalating drumbeat of anxiety. Climate change, war and conflict, isolationism and trade wars; our world, at times, feels dark and lonely, and this despite the many, many positive news stories that exist but that rarely get attention.
No one doubts that COVID-19 is one of the most dire threats the world has ever faced. And yet, amidst the confusion and anxiety, there are ever stronger signs of hope and solidarity, a sense of, and desire for, togetherness.
It is this spirit of global togetherness that gives us hope. In this time of crisis, we are all neighbours in the world, and success will only be achieved when all people, in all countries, are protected.
Thankfully, this shared sense of responsibility has seen a world come together in ways that we have not seen for some time, and the examples are everywhere.
In the U.K., an army of volunteers has come forth to support their neighbors. As stated in the New York Times, “When the government appealed recently for 250,000 people to help the National Health Service, more than 750,000 signed up. It was forced to temporarily stop taking applicants so it could process the flood.”
In Somalia, where health infrastructure and traditional media have suffered under decades of strife, local storytellers are being equipped with the skills and tools to reach remote communities and educate them on best practices against COVID-19. The initiative is a collaboration between UNDP Somalia’s Accelerator Lab and experts from Australia’s Queensland University and Digital Storytellers.
And, as pointed out by Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Youth Envoy, young people from Syria to Peru to South Sudan are helping to tackle misinformation, raise community awareness and support the elderly.
Such examples are spreading like wildfire as people seek out a light at the end of the tunnel and work to show, to each other, that we all stand together. We see this in the towns and cities around the globe where citizens are painting hearts on windows, where crowds cheer for healthcare workers, and where everyday people perform songs on social media to help lift spirits.
Leaning into hope
Without ignoring the realities we face, it is clear that the world is reaching for a positive message. These words were echoed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to world leaders, as he emphasized the need for solidarity and global cooperation.
His call has resonated. Long sought-after partnerships with private sector companies are suddenly coming to fruition as everyone steps up to pitch in. UNDP has recently partnered with Variety on a global ad campaign. And UNDP’s new partnership with Heart17, a global initiative using creativity and innovation to accelerate the SDGs and light a spark of hope among the young generation, has brought together major players within fashion and popular culture, such as H&M Group and Spotify, to share their media space for messages around health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Certainly there will be many lessons learned once COVID-19 has passed, and UNDP’s Accelerator Labs has assessed some of the post-COVID-19 trends they see emerging. A key takeaway is this: COVID-19 has been a sort of reset across societies, across sectors. From telecommuting for work or school, to supply chain management, to support for health systems, and small and medium enterprises, to mental health support across borders or simply across the street, COVID-19 has forced us to look at how we work as a species on this planet.
Amidst the pain that we continue to endure, we should find comfort in the stories of hope and solidarity, and continue to see the value in the positive, encouraging lessons that are emerging for our post-COVID world.