Ethics handbook for Caribbean policymakers and leaders – Part IV
In the fourth and final part of this special initiative, we reproduce a chapter from the ethics handbook highlighting the need for solidarity. This handbook, written by Professor R. Clive Landis, chair of the task force, and Dr Anna Kasafi Perkins, ethicist and member of the task force, is part of the attempt to provide accurate and reliable information in the spirit of partnership, particularly to decision-makers, who bear different ethical burdens than the ordinary citizen, especially in the responsibility to make rules and impose policies that affect the lives of entire nations and peoples. The hope is to encourage ethical commitment and action among such persons as well as the ordinary citizen, who will also find the handbook useful.
REPRODUCTION OF THE ETHICS HANDBOOK
Conclusion: “We’re all in this thing together, we’re gonna work it out”
Ethics do not go out of the window in times of crisis. Indeed, there is need for greater vigilance on how decisions are made and in whose interest. Timely and tough decisions need to be made in a transparent manner in a time of pandemic. At the same time, we recognise that given the magnitude of the issue, we must be prepared for mistakes to be made and for there to be fallout from unintended and unforeseen consequences from policy (in) action. Importantly, too, leaders must be prepared to be honest with the people and spend the time to explain in clear terms approaches being pursued to fight the pandemic – approaches that are liable to change as new information becomes available. At the time of publishing, the Caribbean region shines as a beacon of containment in a crisis that has overwhelmed our larger and wealthier neighbours to the North and South. This speaks to an outstanding level of leadership and community spirit to ward off such a deadly virus in the first wave.
It is imperative that going forward, we can marshal that same spirit of resilience and togetherness as we manage financial fallout and build on opportunities for all going forward - with a view to saving lives while sustaining livelihoods. The pandemic provides us with the opportunity to rebuild our societies in a more equitable fashion. Caribbean people possess significant socio-economic, political, cultural, and scholarly resources on which we can draw in charting our way to a better society as various impressive displays of solidarity among our people demonstrate time and again.
- Recognise that policy-decisions taken in the name of public health affect the lives of entire nations and peoples.
- Everyone should be given an opportunity to participate in the response to the pandemic and not simply be the objects at whom policy is directed.
- A right to healthcare and proper nutrition must be safeguarded at all times.
- Different levels of responsibility inhere to different positions of power; political leaders and public officials have a particularly impactful role.
- Recognise that the health of society is as strong as its weakest link. Take particular care of the most vulnerable, including migrants, women, children, the elderly, prisoners, and the sick as a foundational commitment.
- The dignity of the human person is paramount but takes on a specific acuity during a pandemic. Guard against any statements or policies that lead to persons losing their dignity for being infected with a virus.
- Adhere to sound public-health principles in order to arrive at decisions on matters of treatment, prevention, and reopening.
- Securing livelihoods and saving lives are not in conflict with each other. Both are necessary to restore our economies and contribute to the full flourishing of every Caribbean citizen.
- Ethics Amidst COVID-19: A Brief Ethics Handbook for Caribbean Policymakers and Leaders. Published by Anna Kasafi Perkins and R. Clive Landis at Smashwords. Copyright 2020 Anna Kasafi Perkins and R. Clive Landis
The handbook can be downloaded at:
Link to COVID-19 Taskforce website – https://www.uwi.edu/covid19/