In the last few months, the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable our globalised and interconnected societies are, how inseparable national and international policies are, and that such a crisis can affect almost all policy areas and departments. Social, economic and labour market policies have been just as important as education and financial policies. But the crisis has not only exposed weaknesses. It also provides us with opportunities: for global knowledge cooperation, to come up with new approaches to sustainable development, promoting global public welfare and collective learning processes.
The initial reactions to the crisis had a strong national orientation and caused many countries to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Borders were shut, economic ties were put on hold and policy was controlled by the health of a country’s citizens. In the period of economic recovery and revival, however, global cooperation, dialogue and agency formation as a world society is key. For even during the crisis, we were able to observe how policy in many countries was based on scientific findings and how it adapts guidelines when new scientific findings become available. National policies were also based on the (often unfortunately traumatic) experiences of other countries. Statistics on infection rates, and whether other measures implemented had been successful, dominated the daily press. Rarely have national governments been so dependent on comparing the effects of policies in other countries in order to make the right decisions for their own policies. Countries that have managed to justify restrictions on individual’s lives with scientific evidence, and that have clearly communicated the message that a collective effort is key to collective safety, have been most successful in fighting the virus up until now. Countries that were willing to learn from the experiences of other countries were able to reduce infection rates and keep economic and social costs at a minimum.
As we move forward beyond the Coronavirus crisis, we should have the courage to learn from and with others - including issues such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, transforming our energy systems, digitalisation or redesigning our transport systems. Let’s value the experience of other countries, scientific expertise and translational role of multi-scalar networks as infrastructures of knowledge dissemination and contextualisation. The Coronavirus crisis has painfully highlighted just how vulnerable marginalised groups in society are; the crisis should encourage us to do more to fight for global justice. In this respect, research and cooperation are not a one-way street - they must be carried out in equal measure and in mutual exchange. Our experiences in dealing with the Coronavirus, along with the 2030 Agenda, can be used as a collective point of reference for transforming our economic and social systems, our financial and working world, and our education and health systems, in order to ensure sustainability that – in line with the Brundtland Report from 1987 – meets the needs of us today, while securing the possibilities to meet the needs of future generations. Let’s indeed make use of this global opportunity and let’s do so together.