Letter to the editor

What one can learn from Fridtjof Nansen for the help against Covid-19

"In the advanced economies of the world, compassion should be a sufficient motivation to support a multilateral approach" wrote Joseph E. Stiglitz in Current Concerns No 8 of 28 April 2020. "World leaders must unite against Covid-19." He calls for economic support for developing and emerging countries which are and will be more affected by the Covid-19 pandemic than the Western world because of global economic interdependence. I find Josef E. Stiglitz’s broad view refreshing – as he recognizes the misery of the pandemic not only from the internal perspective of his country. Every individual and every state is affected by the economic and social distortions of the crisis.
Time and again, courageous people have spoken out in the wake of catastrophes in order to support the people in their misery - hunger, displacement, loss of their neighbours. After the First World War, Nobel Peace Prize winner Fridtjof Nansen was a model of humaneness in the way he was committed to helping people. On behalf of the League of Nations, he returned approximately half a million prisoners from the Soviet Union to their home countries. However, he was refused financial support for starvation aid to Soviet Russia by the states of the League of Nations. Nevertheless, with many private donations, he and others succeeded in saving many people from starvation. It is impressive that Fridtjof Nansen provided immediate quick, but he also always wanted to secure the lives of the people in the long run. Free prisoners and also secure their independence in the future. Avert death by starvation and initiate the improvement of living conditions for later.
Fridtjof Nansen helped people of different religions and nationalities. One of his guiding principles was: "Charity is the only true Realpolitik."
In Joseph E. Stiglitz's Current Concerns portrays this compassion and this charity for the whole world. States often focus on economic action for their own country. But even before Corona an economically strong, dominant West and indebted, exploited developing and emerging countries existed. Before Corona, however, there were also attempts to put humanity before, not alongside the economy. Joseph E. Stiglitz mentions an attempt to refinance sovereign debt at the UN General Assembly in 2015 which unfortunately failed because of lack of "the necessary approval of the most important creditor countries".

Compassion is needed, not only during the pandemic, but also in the continued development towards a humane world. "You, your family, your class, your nation are but tiny parts of a greater whole. The world forgets this all too often," Fridtjof Nansen told students.
The roads to solidarity, which many fellow human beings are pursuing today, were presented in the last issues of Current Concerns. The calm tone is welcome.

Margret Kleine-Pauli, Zurich

(Translation Current Concerns)

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