It is not unknown to anyone that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way of doing business, the policy of governments, and even interpersonal relationships. That is why it is worth analysing what this means and how much it impacts today's world and the future.
Technological advances and its insertion into the field of work and also education means different things before and after the pandemic. It is no longer strange for anyone to agree to a whole series of meetings online, using infinitive platforms. Many of them were not conceived in the past, without a face-to-face relationship, in person, which has undoubtedly reduced exponentially the number of trips due to business. We think that this change is here to stay as even after the situation normalises, many of these new modalities will stay on to save time and resources. This present situation is impacting business tourism that has an important role in development of many countries but will also generate other job possibilities in technological areas - which will extend the range of possibilities. In the same way when we talk about education, it is undoubted that, especially for university education, online education is here to stay.
These resources are given to us by the use of technologies, which also imply modifications of habits, of ways of doing things, of strategies to attract attention and guarantee the understanding of those who are on the other side of the screen, of the city, the continents, of the world.
Human beings are animals of habits. It has been said on more than one occasion and the pandemic proves it once again by having imposed different ways of doing things, by requiring social distancing, the use of the masks, and of course, some of what we have mentioned, the remote meetings, the saturation of social networks and the exacerbation of the circulation of news that arrives with the speed of vertigo to any place on the planet.
The pandemic has also highlighted the monstrosity of exclusion, a painfully true theme. Especially when we look at places, like in many places in Latin America and in other places of the world, where a large part of children and young people do not have access to connectivity and, when they do, it is of very poor quality, unstable, and does not offer the necessary guarantees. The same happens with computers, laptops, iPads, iPhones, which cannot always be afforded by families and are not always compatible with those platforms that are required for studies or jobs.
These situations are leaving aside many, the popular sectors, the suburban and peripheral areas of the cities. Also, vast rural areas suffer from this exclusion to a superlative degree. There is a series of data that indicates that even before the pandemic, the exclusion of rural sectors, especially in the field of health and education, were the main causes of emigration to the cities, which thickens their misery belts - belts that become the breeding ground for reproducing and perpetuating the great gaps of inequality, exclusion, and social violence.
International organisations such as UNESCO announced that there will be a worldwide setback of at least ten years in educational processes, which will mean that a generation is left on the sidelines or has serious deficiencies in educational processes. In countries like those of Latin America, the setback will probably be even greater, which will undoubtedly bring serious problems for the development and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. Recovery will take years, perhaps decades, with serious consequences. The decline in educational levels and quality, school dropouts, will have, in addition to the dramatic human situation, a decisive impact on the decline in economic indicators and quality of life - especially in developing countries.
If the progress of the countries is based on a series of indicators that are being affected, we will have a widening of the gap between the developed countries and those that are not or were in the process of being so. The world will have to make an enormous solidarity effort if we want a lesser impact.
This analysis reveals the urgent need to invoke the principle of solidarity of the largest economies in the world with the poorest, the least developed, for example on the subject of immunisation, so that no one is left without the vaccine. It is logical to assume that this will result in a return benefit.
Efforts of this nature have already been made in the past. Let us recall the vaccination campaigns for the wild polio virus, in whose eradication the World Health Organisation and national governments had played a fundamental role through their Ministries of Health, organisations from civil society such as the Rotary Club worldwide or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in addition to the volunteer work of many people, young people, teachers, doctors in each country, city, and town.
There is also another requirement that cannot be underestimated, and that has to do with the care for the environment, the need to preserve the planet, to work on sustainability as an imperative.
It has been established that the current pandemic, like others that have been unleashed on the planet can be linked to the degenerating interrelation of human beings with the environment. It is undeniable that we must pay priority attention to that relationship and to the study of that complex and interrelated world with its various components and variables.
The other evidence we have is that other pandemics will appear in future. Diseases that will spread at great speed. We will have to look for solutions that come from science but in many cases will depend on the great natural pharmacy that constitutes forests and jungles.
One of the examples that we usually place on this side of the world is the one that brings us to the Amazon region, located in South America. A biome that covers an area of seven and a half million square kilometres, which is part of the territory of eight countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela, and also part of the territory of French Guyana. It constitutes the most extensive continuous tropical forest on the planet, with enormous biodiversity and with the largest water discharges of the world. But there are other forests and hydrographic basins of capital importance that can also be mentioned.
If we are aware of this relationship between man and environment, we must be much more careful, supportive, sensitive than we have been till now.
The future of humanity is closely related to what has happened in the past and what we do in the present. It is like an indissoluble chain, with certain breaks, but which always tend to bind, giving us predictable or sudden results. We cannot be impassive actors. We know that our action or inaction is going to leave a mark and we have to aim to be positive. This is where collective responsibility comes from which does not leave aside personal responsibility, which invokes all us to act, to build a better world, more humane and at the same time more intertwined with the environment. A world that emerges from the chaos, desolation, and death that the pandemic leaves us, but that has explicit signs of renewal, of change and hope.
The author is the Former President and Vice-President of the Republic of Ecuador, Minister of Education, General Secretary ACTO