Karolina Dreszer-Smalec: "Coronavirus: lessons learned"

In March 2020, we started to realise that the COVID-19 pandemic was not only a health crisis; it would influence many aspects of our lives. It was also clear for associations and activists that we would face new challenges in our ordinary work. As it turned out, the situation was even worse than we expected.

In May 2020, we organised a "virtual drink". After two months of the lockdown and online work, we decided to meet up and discuss our initial thoughts about this period.

Together with colleagues from the European Civic Forum, a transnational network that brings together over 100 associations and NGOs across 27 countries in Europe, actively working on issues such as citizenship education, the defence of human rights and advocacy for democracy, we spent a few hours in an impassioned debate. Everyone had his or her national perspective, but the conclusions were similar.

On the basis of these discussions, we drafted the following lessons…

Lesson one: Our security depends on other people's security
We need universal health and social protection for everybody in our society and all over the world.

Lesson two: We are all vulnerable and our destinies are interwoven.
Solidarity, equality, rights and caring must be at the base of international relations and of people's daily reality.

Lesson three: The common good exists
Public institutions must serve, protect and implement the common good, not specific interests.

Lesson four: Democracy is the crucial antivirus we all need
Citizens’ awareness, civic participation, trustworthy information, public research and education and transparent institutions all ensure the public good.

Lesson five: The global market system has failed
We have to relocate production, implement the circular economy and have a universal basic income for all.

Lesson six: We are the earth’s custodians, not its owners
Nature is using our lockdown to recover from the damage we have caused. We must restore environmental justice to the world.

Lesson seven: Essential workers are real heroes. Women are at the forefront
Women's contribution has to be recognised in the social hierarchy, those who are invisible must be able to fully access their rights.

Lesson eight: Time has to slow down
Lockdown forced us to give full place to social bonds, patience, compassion: we have to keep this in the long run.

Lesson nine: We need human, social, ecological security
We commit ourselves to a just recovery and a just transition in our country, in Europe and all over the world.

Lesson ten: The future must be different from the past
We need to learn from these lessons and act together.

Do we have a chance to learn more after the crisis? Are we able to turn the crisis into a new chance?
I am convinced that the future must be different from the past.