WFEB launches Think Tank on addressing ethical dimension of the Covid-19 pandemic.

To help us make sense of the ground shifting beneath our feet as this crisis unfolds and to discuss on how Ethics, Wellbeing and successful Business can be combined, The World Forum for Ethics in Business (WFEB) on 8 April 2020 launched a Think Tank with global leaders on “Shaping a new World together – Navigating the Wellbeing, Ethics & Business now and post Corona”.

The Think Tank discussion was hosted by WFEB founder and global humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and brought together leading thinkers from around the world to share their wisdom on how we as a global community can best deal with the pandemic and how we can shape a good tomorrow.

The Think Tank deliberated on ethical COVID-19 response and on how to empower citizens with accurate information to curb contagion, support doctors forced to choose among patients, fight corruption in emergency supplies through open contracts, tackle domestic violence and on how to reduce fear through mindfulness.

Think tank participants commonly agreed that in the current situation there is a lot of focus on how to cope with the virus, there is also a lot of focus on how to cope with the economic impact. But what is this crisis doing to the human being, to the wellbeing and emotional state of an individual? How can we help the individual to find the inner strength and resilience to cope with this crisis?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of WFEB and The Art of Living Foundation, highlighted the tremendous psycholocial pressure on health care professionals and called for solidarity, and to give attention to the importance of taking care of the mental health of people at this junction.

Shortly after the Think Tank discussions, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, together with WFEB’s sister organization The Art of Living Foundation, launched a free of cost online stress management and resilience program for frontline workers across Europe and the USA. This program enables the participants to better cope with the stress, tension and anxiety that they are currently experiencing.

Dr. Katarina Barley, Vice-President of the European Parliament, underlined the problem of domestic violence that increased during the lockdown in many parts of the world. She also pointed out that the European Parliament is currently engaged in finding quick solutions for the situation of refugees in Greek refugee camps where the virus has begun to spread and the situation worsened.

Dr. Mohamed Moncef Marzouki, Former President of Tunisia and a former medical doctor himself with many years of experience of working in hospitals urged that once the crisis is over we have to ‘reconstruct the health system’, and pointed on the current ventilator shortage that forces doctors to make hardest decisions on the allocation of ventilators for patients in need, for example. Dr. Moncef Marzouki also expressed his gratitude to ‘the heroes of life’ – nurses, doctors, paramedics and other health workers – who now, as a side effect of the global pandemic, receive the visibility and respect they deserve in their profession.

Bishop Dr. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in the Vatican called on all religions to work together in this crisis and urged that only in the spirit of togetherness and brotherhood this crisis can be solved.
He also pointed on the power of prayer and finding solace through it in these uncertain and hard times.

Tim Ryan, Congress Member in the USA, highlighted that a proper education on ethics is very integral to every society in particular around social and emotional learning. This teaches not only how one deals with conflicts but also what is going on inside of oneself that makes one act a certain way, which may not be in line with our values, and how to get out of this.
He continued that ethics need to be cultivated in our day to day activities. Trying to develop ethics in the middle of the crisis and emergencies poses major challenges.

Dr. Sanjay Pradhan, CEO of the Open Government Partnership, sees 3 levels of impact of losses of the current crisis on the individual, which is 1) loss of lives, 2) loss of livelihood and 3) loss of peace of mind. He shared that “From the perspective of the Open Government Partnership, which is a collective of 78 countries, we are looking at solutions where citizens are empowered by the government and businesses with transparent information so that they can take life-saving actions.’ He highlighted the need to transparently and timely share information with citizens.
Dr. Pradhan also warned that while addressing the loss of livelihood and the need of massive safety nets by governments, we have to be cautious of corruption and misuse in these emergency spending programs, both in safety nets and in the procurement of medical supplies.

Dr. Alojz Peterle, Former Prime Minister of Slovenia, shared that he never experienced this amount of solidarity as this current crisis is bringing along. He pointed out the chances in the current circumstances as it brings the individual to a state of self-reflection, gives time to introspect and reconsider choices in life and in behavior, and enables to look for a new sense of togetherness.

Jo Leinen, Former Member of European Parliament from Germany, urged that we have to take care that the virus does not separate us but that we use the momentum and the chance that it unites us in the spirit of solidarity and empathy. He further highlighted that in the current lockdown opposed by the government, trust and transparency are important factors for the measures to be successful.

Representing the voice of sports, Heinz Günthardt, Coach of the Swiss Fed Cup Team, Former professional tennis player and Wimbledon Winner, warned that this crisis will have a profound impact on the quality of the athlete in every single individual sport. Many professional athletes can be considered as a small business owner and there is no one coming to their financial rescue, they will need to look for other sources of income. For upcoming talents it means that this is the time where they usual develop the most, but as they are not able to practice currently it will be much harder for them to reach their level. Heinz Günthardt however emphasized that sports plays an important role in getting through this crisis as more and more people start discovering sports and related mindfulness practices to feel good and healthy.

Erik Solheim, Former Head of the UN Environment Program, drew attention on the chances in this crisis. He said that ‘The word ‘together’ is the word of the hour. We need to be together in this. All countries, all people. Together we can form the common humanity we need after this crisis. The virus has shown us that we are one humanity. And we need to come out of this crisis as one humanity. Let’s get out better as we went in. Let’s aim to have a greener world, fairer world at the end of the crisis.’ He highlighted the need for good political leadership and collaboration between countries and continents to build a better world for a common humanity.

Rajita Kulkarni, President of the World Forum for Ethics in Business, thanked all speakers for coming together as different stakeholders to identify how we can foster and nourish a sense of wellbeing in the society, mentally and physically, and what are the ethics we are navigating and shaping this world with.

The way forward

As an outcome of this first online Think Tank it was decided to open up topic-focused platforms for advocacy and action to further address specific Covid-19 issues and the post Covid-19 scenario.

The World Forum for Ethics in Business has so far teamed up with the Art of Living Foundation and hosted a dedicated public online forum on domestic violence with women leaders from Europe, Asia, Africa, USA and South America on 17 April 2020. This online forum was watched by around half a million viewers and sought to bring awareness and examples on addressing this issue from leaders of different backgrounds.

The World Forum for Ethics in Business is due to host another online event with global experts, focused on the environmental impact of Covid-19 on 4 May 2020.