Coronavirus should be the war to end all wars – our survival is all that matters

Covid-19 should compel global leaders to put aside the trade and military wars that have plagued the 21st century

Ali Mehdi
Sunday 05 April 2020 14:47
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Timelapse shows transformation of ExCel centre into 4,000 bed NHS Nightingale Hospital

It’s amazing that a nanoparticle – the coronavirus – has potentially created repercussions that could change the world forever. This is something that kills thousands, stirs up global hysteria, causes nations to shut down, ravages the world economy, brings borders up, disrupts supply chains and creates market turbulences in one fell swoop. Military and trade wars may not have even achieved lockdowns on the scale that this pandemic has.

With that said, has the time finally arrived for us to accept the reality that together as mankind we are facing a threat to life as we know it? Regardless of who we are, what we do, how much we earn and where we are, this crisis has made us all fear for the future. Is this the last time this type of pandemic will happen? Probably not. We know the virus’s capacity to cause the havoc; what capacity we have to cope with it – healthwise, socially and financially – we do not yet know.

The climate emergency did not register in the public conscience as this crisis has. The common ground of survival against disease and socio-economic hardship has gripped the world. We have reached a critical time that could make or break the future. This pause should provide us with the time to reflect on the future ahead and the need for a reset of individual and global priorities.

The 21st century has seen technological advancement enabling connectivity, consumer luxury and travel on a scale in a short period of time like never before. The paradigm has been about measuring individual achievement and organisational success through financial return and material acquisition.

But Covid-19 should compel global leaders to put aside the trade and military wars that have plagued the 21st century. For decades, environmental campaigners have called for sustainable living. Financial return and material acquisition have been key barriers to progress in moving towards more sustainable living and protecting our planet effectively.

The under-resourcing of healthcare and the reluctance to suffer economic loss means that quarantine measures may have been delayed – resulting in economic meltdown on a scale not experienced before.

Popular wisdom holds that if an organisation looks after the interests of people, it empowers them and achieves sustainable financial success through social capital.

It is now the time to reflect on what future we would like to have. Britain’s welfare state was conceived during the Second World War. Looking after wellbeing will need to be paramount when the time to recover comes. Spending more on the causes than effects will need to be taken account of. We will have to move away from factory models of healthcare with workers run through command and control systems under bureaucratic models. Grassroots innovation pushing new ways of staying healthy to prevent illness that mounts up the cost of healthcare and target driven care will have to be harnessed. Fundamentally, healthcare will have to be encouraged along with models of preventative care, rather than the treatment of illness.

Now is the time that organisations need to ensure a balance of social value, wellbeing, sustainability and employee satisfaction as much as profit are the paradigm to measure success for people, organisations and nations that governments need to legislate into action.

An international consensus similar to that of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1944 that established the financial paradigm after the Second World War is necessary. The current crisis is the war that should end all conflict in the interest of our sustainable survival.

A move back to greater international collaboration against the nationalism and tribalism of the 2010s is needed. Globalisation of sustainability and social value should be the core mission. World leaders must show responsible leadership that serves the interests of all legitimate stakeholders, the environment and the future.

Ali Mehdi is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon​ for the NHS

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