Leadership in a time of need
This is 2021. And it a New Year like no other. The world’s peoples are in turmoil, from Covid-19 to climate disruption, from racial injustice to rising inequalities. The world has revealed more clearly than ever its fragilities. Pandemics are clearly at centre stage. New waves of the virus are being reported every week. UNICEF, the United Nation’s agency for children, warns that the future of an entire generation is at risk. Clearly, these are needy times and they call for courage and determination. As Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) wrote: You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2017).
The agency reports that as many as two million children could die in this New Year, 2021. And, there could be an additional 200,000 stillbirths. Also, there is evidence that school closures did little to slow the spread of the virus. They failed to lessen COVID-19 infection rates. But, those closures have caused long term harm through the interruptions in basic services. Those have led to increasing poverty because of the resulting wide scale unemployment especially among lower socioeconomic families (Santora, 2020).
UNICEF warns that the problems facing the world are not just about health emergencies. Millions of people are losing trust in political establishments and institutions. Witness, for example, the current civil unrest in several Asian countries, in Europe, in South America, and the massive unrest in the U.S. which is occurring since that nation’s recent presidential election. The pandemic has exposed severe and systematic inequalities both within and between countries and the failure of governments to deal with such problems including the many other crises (Santora, 2020).
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Anthoni Guterres, in an earlier statement, declared ‘The (COVID-19) emergency is compounded by many other profound humanitarian crises: conflicts that are continuing or even intensifying; record numbers of people forced to flee their homes, swarms of locusts in Africa and South Asia; looming droughts in southern Africa and Central America; all amid a context of rising geopolitical tensions. In the face of these fragilities, world leaders need to be humble and recognise the viral importance of unity and solidarity’ (Guterres, 2020).
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Parker, C. (2020). 20 views on the biggest opportunity for change after the pandemic. Downloaded on 11/21/2020 from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/whats-the-biggest-opportunity-for-change-after-the-pandemic/
Santora, M. (2020). UNICEF warns of a ‘lost generation’ and finds school closures are ineffective. New York Times, November 20, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/19/world/unicef-warns-of-a-lost-generation-and-finds-school-closures-are-ineffective.html
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2017) Aristotle’s Political Theory. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-politics/
World Economic Forum. (2020). 2030Vision - partnering together to scale technologies for the global goals. https://www.weforum.org/projects/frontier-2030
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