What is a crisis, and how do we ensure we provide adequate support – social, economic, health and wellbeing – to those in need? How can societies distribute the burdens, as well as the benefits, fairly and equitably? How can a sense of solidarity help as a guiding principle, and how do we build resilience and resilient communities?
On 31st January 2023, the European Group on Ethics (EGE), Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) and Academia Europaea (AE) hosted a webinar named “Putting people first: how do we care for each other, build resilience and solidarity in a world in crisis?”. It was chaired by Ole Petersen, Vice-President Academia Europaea, and brought together a panel of experts to discuss the critical issues of solidarity and resilience in society, particularly considering both topics in the context of current crises and what is needed for the future. This event comes as a part of the outreach programme for the work of the European Scientific Advice Mechanism on Strategic Crisis Management in the EU. The Scientific Opinion of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors was handed over to Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and Commissioner Janez Lenarčič in November 2022, and was supported by SAPEA’s Evidence Review Report. The European Group on Ethics published a statement at the same time.
On our panel, we had the privilege of hosting members of the EGE, the SAPEA Working Group on the report, and the German Ethics Council:
• Barbara Prainsack MAE, Professor for Comparative Policy Analysis, University of Vienna; Chair of the European Group on Ethics,
• Professor Ortwin Renn, Member of the SAPEA Working Group on Strategic Crisis Management in the EU
• Professor Nils-Eric Sahlin MAE, Professor and Chair of Medical Ethics, Lund University, Vice-Chair of the European Group on Ethics
• Professor Sigrid Graumann, Professor of Ethics and Rector of Protestant University of Applied Sciences Rhineland-WestphaliaLippe, Member of the German Ethics Council and Chair of the Council’s working group on ‘Normative Issues of Dealing with a Pandemic'
During the webinar the panellists explored the role of values, scientific communication, transparency in policy-making, and economic incentives. The take-home messages were as follows:
• Values guide decision-making in policy, particularly at times of crisis.
• The process of policymaking has to be clear and transparent about the values that guide it and what scientific data is used to support it.
• Resilience is a key value that has to be applied on a societal level to prevent discrimination against individuals.
• Solidarity is one of the main criteria in strategic management, yet in recent crises it has been perceived as a punishment by some sectors of the population.
• Values have been influenced by economic perspectives of efficiency and effectiveness.
• Values and their interpretations have to be re-assessed to properly address current crises and developments.
• Many societal problems come from a lack of reflection on what the underlying assumptions and values are that underpin certain policies, especially economic ones.
If you are curious and would like to find out more, a recording of the webinar is available on YouTube, and a briefing paper that collates and elaborates on these key themes is available at aecardiffknowledgehub.wales. If you find this topic interesting, please keep an eye on the SAPEA website (https://sapea.info/) for more events and expert discussions.
Rafael Carrascosa Marzo
Postdoctoral Research Assistant
University of Oxford