The Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens Co-chairs Ban Ki-moon and Heinz Fischer have co-authored an article for the Austrian newspaper Die Presse on COVID19 and the challenging tasks that lie ahead. You can access the German version of the article here and read the English version below.
It is in Our HandsDie Presse, 3 June 2020 by Ban Ki-moon and Heinz Fischer
6 months ago – in December 2019 – the term Covid-19 was, at best, only familiar to a small group of scientists.
Today, the term has captured the attention of the world, bringing with it fear and tension as well as influence on politics, the economy, culture, sport, and most importantly, the lives of individuals. At the same time, it has also raised many questions.
In the first months of this year, while the number of individuals infected by the virus and death tolls rose sharply, many trivialized Covid-19 by comparing it to the annual wave of influenza. On the other hand, others over-dramatized the situation and overstated the actual number of victims. Slowly, a more realistic picture has emerged.
The tasks we are now facing are huge, but not impossible to achieve if we work together and act in solidarity.
The key terms that matter are COOPERATION, SOLIDARITY, RESPONSIBILITY, DISCIPLINE, and COMPASSION FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE.
Let us start with a concrete example: Austria and Korea are two countries with excellent relations which uphold the basic principles of the United Nations. These two countries have had decades of close political, economic, and cultural cooperation and now have been similarly affected by Covid-19. With well-developed healthcare systems, both countries have acted quickly, their populations have behaved responsibly and with great discipline. Fortunately, this can also be said of several other countries which are willing to cooperate, exchange experiences, and provide mutual support.
It should not be overlooked that many countries have also reacted differently, namely by not taking the pandemic seriously enough or withdrawing into a narrow nationalistic mindset and deviating from the principle of solidarity and cooperation.
In addition, the USA and China, superpower G-2 countries, are currently fatally divided.
This does not change the fact that, overcoming this pandemic through medical research, improved healthcare systems and international cooperation, remains a major issue and a global task.
The challenges we face now require a strong commitment to the Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, whereby goals number 1 (No Poverty), number 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), number 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), number 13 (Climate Action) and number 17 (Partnership for the Goals) must be tackled and pursued much more vigorously. It is encouraging to note that many countries are taking action for these goals and that G-20 leaders have committed to taking all necessary steps to stop the virus from spreading and to provide the global economy, particularly the global South, with appropriate resources.
The EU is currently working on an extensive reconstruction package with a volume of about 750 billion Euros. An interesting and important discussion is taking place regarding what portion of the package should be spent on grants and what portion should be issued as loans for repayment.
The world is closely watching the process and discussions within the EU which we hope will demonstrate solidarity and compassion based on our common values in a difficult situation.
After the Second World War, Europe benefited greatly from the economic assistance and solidarity shown by the United States in the form of the Marshall Plan.
This plan benefited everyone involved.
Why don’t the G-20 and OECD countries show the same support to the global South now? Why should stronger countries in Europe not show their solidarity with countries that have been badly affected by the pandemic? This principle must be applied worldwide. The poorest countries in the world are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the Coronavirus. These countries have already suffered from humanitarian crises, conflicts, food insecurity, inadequate healthcare systems, and more. Therefore, the verbal and theoretical commitments to solidarity must also be reflected in concrete actions.
At this time, it is also important to consider how to handle border controls to allow medical devices and urgently required materials to be transported to places where they are most needed.
Covid-19 sheds light on the many profound inequalities that still persist on our planet. The inequalities between and within certain countries have also been exacerbated by the pandemic. Restrictions imposed over the past weeks and months on producers and consumers and their freedom of movement, travel and assembly, have been necessary and expected. However, governments and legislators must take into account that these important and well-intentioned measures should not further marginalize vulnerable groups and individuals, and that due consideration of various points of view should be given in order to find the best possible way forward during each phase.
Even before Covid-19 captivated our attention, we were preoccupied with the existential threats of nuclear weapons and climate change. Covid-19 and its economic and social implications bear consequences that make everyday life harder than ever before.
Together we must have the necessary courage, wisdom, and solidarity to meet these global challenges. We live in a world that is changing rapidly and it is up to us to chart the right course for a better future for all.
Heinz Fischer is the 11th President of Austria and Co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens based in Vienna, Austria.
Ban Ki-moon is the 8th Secretary-General of the UN and Co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens based in Vienna, Austria.
May 27th 2020, marked the start of an influential partnership between the Ban Ki-moon Centre and the Bildungsdirektion fur Wien. (Directorate of Education).
The cooperation between the BKMC and Bildungsdirektion Wien aims to promote and advance the SDGs education in secondary schools in Vienna. Today, Heinz Fischer, the BKMC Co-chair joined Director of Education Mag. Heinrich Himmer at the newly established Bildungshub that serves as a platform to share creative impulses and innovative learning practices where teachers and students discuss new ideas and implement projects. Through the video recorded today Co-chair Heinz Fischer will address teachers and students to express the importance of the SDGs to tackle today’s challenges .
Times of crisis like the COVID19 pandemic highlight the utmost importance of education and knowledge about the interconnectedness of global challenges.The joint mission of education for the Sustainable Development Goals leads to a synergetic pathway between the BKMC and Bildungsdirektion Wien.
The collaboration will start with an online kick-off event on the topic of “The relevance of the SDGs in Viennese schools” on June 18th . Experts from the education sector will discuss ways of integrating the SDGs into the existing curricula.
“Even if the the SDGs might not be entirely perfect, they are currently the best instrument to indicate the diverse situations of each country and stress that each country must do its share to achieve a world in which peace and prosperity is a given, leaving no one behind.”In subsequence, the panel discussion, moderated by Ms. Mona Khalil, provided more detail on how international institutions mobilise to advance the SDGs. The speakers included
- Ms. Katrin Harvey, Chief Operating Officer, Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens
- Mr. Gautam Babbar, Chief of Strategic Planning and Interagency Affairs, United Nations
- Mr. Walid Mehalaine, Head, Grants and Technical Assistance Unit, OPEC Fund
“This course was so insightful on such an important topic that we, unfortunately, do not talk about enough in our current education… It highlights topics that are so important in current events and link them together back to how there are so many ways, shapes and forms of innovative acts of global citizenship in our current environment.” – Hana Abdelatty
“This will enhance global participation towards sustainable development goals amongst youth across the globe.” – Samod Kadiri
“It is very helpful for us on how to create better solutions to fight against the problem in this world. This course is very important and teaches us to become a global citizen of our own.” – Cedrix Rodriguez
“This course has made me have a deeper understanding of what GCED is and am really encouraged take other courses in relations to global citizenship education.” – Glays SakaulaThe second collaborative online course on “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Pathway to Sustainable Development” is also out now on GCED Online Campus featuring amazing international figures including UN Youth Envoy Jayathma wickramanayake, Chair of The Elders Mary Robinson, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-ngcuka and more. Check it out!
“On January 3rd, 2018, the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens was officially inaugurated at the Austrian Chancellery. What a journey it has been since then?”
“We supported our co-chairs’ leadership, built lasting partnerships across the globe, spread the information on the SDGs and their implementation, and most importantly, touched the lives of hundreds of women and young people to support them and give them a voice, a seat at the table, and opportunities they did not have before.”
“We are grateful for all the support we received on our journey and are humbled by the vast tasks ahead to enhance global citizenship. But as an old Chinese proverb says, ‘No road is too long with friends at your side.’ Thanks to all global citizens for being with us on that journey!”
“The world needs to heal from trauma.” – Elena Castellucci, Past-President Juvenilia Club Vienna, Soroptimist International Austria, founding member TANKA Solutions.On the occasion of the UN Women campaign “Orange The World”, the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens brought together an event Orange the World 2019: Evolving Beyond Trauma with partners Juvenilia Club Vienna, Soroptimist International Vienna on December 3, 2019. Every fifth woman in Austria – around 20 percent of all women – is exposed to physical and/or sexual violence from the age of 15. One in three women had to experience some form of sexual harassment since they were 15 years old. Every seventh woman is affected by stalking from the age of 15. Many women experience traumas that accompany them throughout their lives. The events included keynote speeches and a panel discussion on trauma of female victims of violence against women including domestic violence. This topic was addressed by a jury of internationally acclaimed experts who will speak openly about their personal, unfiltered stories and share their knowledge and valuable insights into this complex topic.
Co-chair Heinz Fischer delivered a keynote speech and stressed three important points:
- Education and Information
- Safe space (which should be funded by the government)
- Awareness (which should create solidarity, help, understanding, and courage)