Summer 2020 ….an exceptional period for most of us. We lost many people due to Covid-19; elderly people and others who were vulnerable because of underlying health conditions, their precarious social situation or because they were frontline workers. After several months of trial and error we are beginning to understand what needs to be done to avoid a spreading of the virus and to protect ourselves. But an end of the pandemic is not in sight and there are still so many unanswered questions. Are we going to find a vaccine? Will we find reliable treatments to reduce the severity of infections? And if so, when?
All of this has obviously had a major impact on our daily lives and I’m fairly certain it’s far from over. As far as I am concerned, I truly am privileged with my terrace, small public parc just below and a supermarket around the corner, so I’m sure many of you suffered more than I did.
I discovered Zoom, Meet, Teams ; Skype was familiar before but I used it mainly for private conversations, normally between just two people. These new platforms are of course much better than « conference calls » on the telephone but after a day of teleworking I feel more exhausted than after a day as they used to be, with travel by bus, physical meetings and lunch in a restaurant. Whatever, we have no choice.
But life goes on and, importantly, the beneficiaries of the organisations I work for are particularly hard hit by the circumstances; e.g. small entrepreneurs who had just started building up a business based on a microcredit. In many cases they had to stop working, meaning no income whilst still having to cover their fixed costs. MicroStart is taking action and has redefined its modus operandi (www.microstart.be) in order to help its clients. Most of the people who were vulnerable before and have been receiving support from SIREAS for almost 60 years are finding themselves in an even more precarious situation now; the teams have mobilised a lot of energy to find the best possible solutions in this situation (www.SIREAS.org and www.lesitinerrances.com ). The staff of Emergency who are on the spot in Italy have also taken action, helped by their experience of longtime presence in countries mainly in Africa but also in Asia (www.emergency.it and www.emergencybe.org ).
As to the other organisations where I try to lend a helping hand, the lockdown period was more or less complicated. Our association of former students of the European Schools had no problem carrying on the job by teleworking (www.alumnieuropae.org). However, EMMI had to take some serious measures, mainly of a technical nature, to be able to continue supplying the money market with EONIA and EURIBOR references. The teams worked mainly from home ; the organisation did an excellent job (www.emmi-benchmarks.eu ) and managed to fulfill its task without any interruption. The activities of APO.G had to be suspended as physical meetings were impossible and experts were not available during that period (www.apog.be). We hope to be able to revert to our normal way of functioning in September/October.
Will this experience enable us, at a global scale, to reconsider our role as humans on this earth or shall we do everything we can to return to «as it was before»? Given the current tensions in international relations we are unlikely to see joint action being taken at world level; but the recovery plan agreed by the European Union contains some interesting avenues and pointers for the use to be made of the grants or loans. We need to act and push exemplary policies at the European level, without forgetting that the responsibility for implementing these policies lies with the local and regional levels. This will inevitably strengthen the local level as new forms of solidarity have evolved there, notably by local trading and short circuits. In recent elections (e.g. in France) the people and notably city dwellers have quite emphatically expressed their wish to change our society towards less pollution, less use of energy, more nature conservation and more sustainable consumption habits. Teleworking was something companies and organisations had tried to avoid in the past but now it was found to be highly efficient, certainly for “office” type jobs. This experience will transform the world of work and improve it sustainably: car traffic to large cities where the big companies are will diminish for good and even more markedly once people are no longer afraid to use public transport. That’s what I hope at least….
Finally, being allowed to play tennis and sing again, albeit in smaller groups, also helped Barbara and me to overcome this gloomy period.
So, Olivier, nothing really new in your newsletter this time ! Well yes, I, too wonder what next but as you know I am an inveterate optimist and I hope this shock will help to save the planet in the long run. Let’s all do our bit to shape this new and better future together!!
Take care and stay alert !
Olivier July 2020
NB: former newsletters on www.brissaud.info