Coronavirus COVID-19: Let’s stay together – at a distance

Dear Globethics.net Participants

I address this message in the form of a personal letter to all of you, the 200’000 in 200 countries and territories around the globe who are registered participants in our global family of Globethics.net. The global pandemic of the Coronavirus is now hitting people on all continents, within only three months.

I express first of all my compassion for and solidarity with those of you who have already lost a person close to you, who have lost your income and your job, who are separated from your family in another country or home, who suddenly have to teach your children at home, who fear to lose a semester of your studies, who do not have reliable electricity for online learning, you as university and business leaders who do not know how to overcome the financial challenge of your institution and you who tirelessly work in hospitals.

“It is war” said the Swiss government yesterday. A global war against a common enemy, a virus. Borders are closed, people have to stay at home in ‘self-isolation’ and many companies may collapse if financial help by governments is not provided very soon. My generation and our children grew up without war. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all experienced war in their lifetime. Many of you live in countries where you have experienced epidemics, war, droughts and disaster. For all of us, a global pandemic with this speed is new.

Coronavirus: Challenges and chances

What are the ethical challenges – and chances? How can we as a global network on ethics provide ethical leadership and orientation in promoting life, in higher education and in all the sectors that are affected? Let me share with you ten concerns from an ethical perspective and I invite you at the end of this letter to share your views:

  1. The Responsibility to Protect: as expressed in the recent Globethics.net statement, responsibility is first of all an individual task for each of us in order not to expose others and ourselves to infection in an unnecessary way. It is equally a responsibility of employers, governments and all sectors of society. Two extremes have to be avoided: panic and trivialization. ‘Facts, not fear’ enables the right balance of calm and reason and at the same time tough and courageous decisions where and when necessary;
  2. Speed, Slowdown and Self-management: for action, every day counts in this explosion of the spread of the virus, as the curves show. We are thankful to the authorities who have the courage to make timely, although tough decisions. On the other hand, many personal and professional activities have to slow down. A chance for new life balances. We can exercise and appreciate the value of self-discipline. Home-office and daylong studies at home can much better be managed with a disciplined structure to the day;
  3. Transparency is Compulsory: facts are key. Hiding or exaggerating facts for personal, political or economic reasons is criminal. Fake news can lead to panic or trivialization and can cost lives. All in all, the quality and speed of information sharing is impressive. The pandemic confirms the key role of multilateral institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and is a warning not to further weaken such institutions as some governments have done over the years;
  4. Faith Matters: two thirds of humanity would describe themselves to some extent or other as religious. What does this pandemic mean for faith in God or for trust in karma as a way of existence? Many religious communities care deeply for the sick and lonely. Prayers, meditation and encouragement with hope matter. The worst thing religious communities could do now is to increase the suffering by preaching that such a pandemic is a punishment of God for individual or collective misbehaviour or a result of behaviour in former lives or if they disrespect state orders and continue worshiping, arguing that they place their trust only in God. So-called trust in God while disrespecting medical advice and caring is unethical and irresponsible. Medical staff and researchers who develop a vaccine are gifts of the Almighty;
  5. No Place for Conspiracy: uncertainty, lack of information and/or political interests often lead to all kinds of conspiracy theories, and this is the case also during this pandemic. Some already see the virus as a biological weapon of one of the superpowers to destroy the other power; others blame the 5G technology; others see some populations or ethnic groups as immune to the corona virus. Ethical behaviour means resisting such conspiracy theories, not sharing them on social media. Conspiracy ‘news’ – during and after the pandemic – undermine effective, facts-based solutions and can as a consequence lead to unnecessary persecution of political, ethnic and religious groups;
  6. Encouraging Innovative Solidarity: it is impressive how much solidarity is visible during this pandemic. The trade war is suddenly replaced by the need to help each other. Neighbourhood solidarity and young people helping older persons in buying food can be observed and encouraged;
  7. Economic Victims: the number of people who will die as a result of the economic turbulences caused among others by the pandemic may be much higher than the deaths caused directly by the virus. Political and economic decision-makers are now asked to contribute to innovative solutions to reduce and share the burdens of these economic effects;
  8. Globalization Revisited: The pandemic makes the positive and negative side of globalization a daily experience of billions of people. It shows our vulnerability through interconnectivity. The travel and trade restrictions show that we cannot depend only on a global economy, but need also local and regional supply chains. The pandemic will have a profound impact on future supply chains and will modify the way of globalization. On the other hand, the cyber world and internet connectivity offers fast adaptation to the new restrictions, e.g. by distant education, online conferences, tele-medicine etc. Let us learn from this pandemic to achieve a more healthy balance between the globalized and localized economy;
  9. Ethical Leadership: the pandemic shows the crucial importance of leaders who have integrity, honestly serving the people with the power entrusted to them and not primarily serving own political or economic interests. The pandemic shows the urgent need for such responsible leadership, which is something that we strive for and promote at Globethics.net;
  10. Lessons for other threats: this pandemic shows, that humanity is able to stand together and to act with speed and determination, characteristics that are often missing when facing other global threats. Climate change is a process as dramatic as the pandemic, but it is happening at a slower rate and therefore the political will to act in time is missing. Millions of children die every year of hunger and because of lack of clean water – why not act with the same determination and speed that is being used to tackle this pandemic to slow down climate change and to manage other global threats?

Globethics.net is – fortunately in this situation – to a great extent a virtual community with our online library, online publications, online network and online academy. We invite you to use our platform as much as you can from home or wherever you have to stay, in a time where many universities are closed and online is the main way to continue studies, research and communication.

We wish you the necessary health and strength, ethical commitment and hope that we can overcome this challenge. Let’s stay together – at a distance. With physical distance and emotional proximity we can support each other. I invite you to share your values, experiences, thoughts, fears and hopes in this tough time of the global pandemic by sending a message to infoweb@globethics.net and we will upload a selection of them on our website www.globethics.net.

Take care, God bless you, paix avec vous, namasté, 安宁, kedamaian, мир, paz, amani, لسلام

Prof. Dr Dr h.c. Christoph Stückelberger
Globethics.net President and Founder

Related: Corona Virus – the Agape Response

Corona Virus – The Agape Response

It is threatening. The Corona Virus has changed–within days and weeks–life on the whole globe: over 1400 deaths (as of 13 Feb), over 60,000 people infected, and hundreds of millions of others are confined to their homes. Fear is growing and the economy in China and internationally have been negatively affected, as travel, communication, business, and teaching etc. are limited.

The positive side: I am really impressed by the enormous speed of measures taken in China. In my country Switzerland it would be very difficult -with all respect to critique- to handle 1.4 billion people, 175 times the population of Switzerland. It is an immense task and I deeply respect the Chinese efforts. The World Health Organisation (WHO), whose headquarters in Geneva can be seen from my GAF office, is also very fast and indispensable for coordinated research, action, and standards. Such a crisis shows that the multilateral UN system is absolutely necessary for humanity. This pandemic also makes us aware that life remains very vulnerable, even with all technologies and modern medicine.

The negative side: International solidarity actions are still limited. If America supports China with a hundred million dollars, it is good, but this (in fact modest) help would be linked with the political remark that US is the greatest contributor among the helpers, although the US has cut the budgets of most of the UN agencies, including the WHO. Governments, NGOs, and philanthropic initiatives must abstain from exploiting humanitarian catastrophes for their own political or economic gain. “Hunger as weapon” was used throughout history but does not justify this abuse.

Corona Virus – The Agape Response: Agape – the lead value in the name of the Geneva Agape Foundation – means unconditional love, compassion, and empathy. Agape means to place the needs of the other, the suffering, and the Common Good at the center–not one’s own short-term interests. Agape means to abstain from the temptation to exploit the dependency of the other in a situation of disaster and despair for one’s own benefit. Agape means reciprocity to love the other as oneself: It then creates the confidence that others would also unconditionally support me if I need them. Agape does not mean to forget about my own needs, but to be assured that my own long-term interests will be reached best when I serve the other in the best possible way. Agape for Christians means to remain aware of the vulnerability of life even with all technological progress, but that confidence and hope remain vital as we trust that we can fall, but only in God’s hand. We already know that climate mitigation and disaster management will require much of this attitude and value. Agape Climate Action will be a motto for Geneva Agape Foundation. But firstly, we want to express our compassion with our dear GAF friends in China and all people suffering from this situation.

Further Reading

Globethics.net President awarded among top 100 leaders in education

Globethics.net President and Founder, Dr Christoph Stückelberger, received an award among the ‘Top 100 Leaders in Education’ at the Global Forum for Education and Learning (GFEL) that took place in Dubai from 16-18 December 2019.

GFEL, now in its 2nd year, strives to unveil groundbreaking innovations and to delve into the depths of knowledge sharing to build the future of imparting education.

The conference featured over 50 speakers, composed of educators, CEOs and consultants from around the globe working in the domain of education.

In accepting his award, Dr Stückelberger gave recognition to Globethics.net’s global community’s engagement with ethics in higher education and its motto “Together to the Top”.

Further Information

First International Conference on Ethics in Higher Education in Latin America

Globethics.net and the Catholic University of Argentina (la Universidad Católica Argentina, UCA) organised the First International Conference on ‘Ethics as a transversal dimension in higher education: Challenges for Latin America’ at UCA in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 21- 22 October 2019.

Latino America covers more than 13% of the Earth’s land surface area and has a population of more than 642 million people. According to the Transparency International Perception of Corruption Index (PCI), the ratings of a number of Latin American countries in 2018 have declined. There is particular concern about levels of corruption in the political and economic spheres. The Conference took place as Argentinians were set to go to the polls for a national election on 27 October with the middle-class shrinking due to evaluation and better governance and values-driven leaders in demand.

It was against this background that Globethics.net and the UCA organised the two-day Conference on Ethics in Higher Education in Latin America, with speakers from government, civil society and academia to address the needs of society and the desire for change.

The first day was open to the public and focused on the interdisciplinarity of ethics and its role in different sectors of society, such as governance, the economy, education and technology. The conference was organised around discussion panels with a moderator accompanied by well-known experts on each area for each group.

Dr Pavan Duggal, Globethics.net Board Member, brought up the right to be forgotten on the Internet. The importance of ethics evolving in the process of regulating the Internet, highlighting the work Globethics.net on this field with its last book on Cyber Ethics 4.0: Serving Humanity with Values.

The programme on the second day led to a more in-depth conversation on ethics in education. Globethics.net President, Christoph Stückelberger and colleagues from the Latin America Regional Office (Deivit Montealegre) and from Head Office (Academic Dean, Amélé Ekue) had the opportunity to listen to the challenges that universities and institutions are facing in their attempt to build values-based learning environments. They shared information on how Globethics.net integrates ethics in the different topics discussed during the two-day conference through its resources.

Further Reading:

Reaching technoutopia through cyber ethics

Cyber Ethics: Humanity is living between technoutopia and technophobia. Technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) drive daily human lives, and it is causing ethical dilemmas: is AI being used to protect human beings or can it harm them? How can we reduce the risks of military applications of AI and improve the cause of peace through global governance on AI and technology within an ethical framework? Are ethical considerations brought into play when decisions on the development and deployment of technology and AI are being made in an attempt to strike the balance between beneficial progress and actual and potential harm?

Globethics.net organised a workshop panel moderated by the Executive Director, Dr Obiora Ike, on ‘Cyber Ethics, Education and Security: Serving Humanity with Values to address some of these questions at the 10th World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva, Switzerland on the morning of 11 April 2019.

Humanity has to use technology and AI as a tool to teach decision making and critical thinking skills. Society has to make ethical use of technology and governments have to provide the correct frame for that to happen. It is interesting that, both when it comes to giving up personal freedom and privacy as well as environmental sustainability, the public tends to ‘stick their heads in the sand’ and is compliant with legal and commercial practices that are sometimes violating human rights or contributing to global warming. Moving from ‘money-driven’ to ‘ethics-driven’ investments in technology and AI as well as having a critical dialogue to discuss the impact of technology and AI innovation have on humans, and on the planet will move humanity from technophobia to technoutopia.

These were some of the conclusions reached by the six panellists from four continents representing business, academic, legal and NGO sectors speaking to a full room at the WSIS Forum 2019.

The workshop was based upon the issues raised by contributors to the book ‘Cyber Ethics 4.0: Serving Humanity with values‘ published by Globethics.net in 2018. Panellists addressed the topic from their particular perspectives, from the point of view of ethics, law, education and/or security. The workshop ended with a book launch and an open invitation to the participants present at the the workshop to contribute to the next volume on cyber ethics.

Further Reading

More information: