Waking up in the early morning in my home in The Hague, I hear the birds singing. It is spring and a beautiful sunny day, the first of a long holiday weekend. The city looks lush and green and the trees are covered with fresh new leaves. It is May in The Hague, always the most beautiful month of the year.
Yet, this year…..everything is different. The streets are empty, cafes are closed, people stay at home. Every now and then, on weekdays, I hear the voices of schoolchildren who have started school again.
We have been in this so-called ‘intelligent’ lockdown due to the corona crisis for two months now. The ISS building is empty. Staff and PhD researchers work from home. Most students are in their student rooms, working on their courses, which are all provided online. Others have returned to their home countries and participate from there.
The crisis asks us to care for each other and to consolidate connections between one another which we do through virtual meetings on Teams, Skype or Zoom. The crisis also asks for solidarity and for contributions to those in need. We can do that through the SSH Student Emergency Fund, for example, for students and PhD researchers who have encountered sudden financial setbacks. The ISS Local Engagement Facility (LEF) supports projects on corona-related problems among vulnerable populations in The Hague. Staff, PhD researchers, MA students and inhabitants of The Hague will collaborate in four selected projects, details of which are on the ISS website.
Yet I realize how I privileged I am, we all are, in the Netherlands and the global North. What if you need to go into lockdown but you simply have no house to provide shelter? What if you lose your job overnight and your income becomes zero? And you do not know how and where to find food? What if you become ill and the health system is so weak that you cannot receive proper care? What if you live under a regime that simply denies the health effects of the virus? What if you live in a refugee camp and it is simply not possible to comply with a 1.5-metre policy?
On our online Corona file, ISS academic staff, PhD researchers and MA students share their experiences with and research findings on corona-related topics in both the global South and global North: they collect data and present visions of a post-corona society.
This is The Hague, May 2020: the city of peace and social justice …. and of solidarity.
‘Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice’ is the theme of the EADI conference that should have taken place in June at ISS but has had to be postponed until July 2021. I’m sure the theme will be even more relevant then!
Above all, I wish you good health! Please stay safe and be in touch!
Inge Hutter, Rector ISS