This is a call to establish the first global bank holiday: Together Day. A day to remind us that humanity needs to act together in the fight against COVID-19 and all future crises.
A Global Pandemic, Collectively and Simultaneously Experienced
In the midst of this pandemic – in the summer of 2020 – I walked into a tiny food market in Italy, where a lady in her 70s welcomed me warmly. Through her face mask, she chatted with her local customers, ensuring everyone was well-served so that daily life could continue. As is the case with most profound moments, the veneer was simple, but the reality ran deep – here was a person risking her life to secure her livelihood and serve her community and shining all the while.
For the first time in history, humankind is experiencing a truly global moment. From presidents and CEOs to the world’s most vulnerable communities and everyone in between, the COVID-19 pandemic has spared no one from its touch. Has there ever been a time in which humanity has been so collectively and simultaneously affected by a catastrophe?
Certainly, the world’s disparities and injustices have differentiated how this pandemic has made landfall, and how (much) it has put people at risk. A lockdown in a South African township comes with more severe implications than one in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. An infected farmer in a rural community confronts a different reality when seeking healthcare or social security than a young professional in a major city.
And yet, the global commonalities of life during the pandemic have become so apparent. Mass media and social networks have allowed us to see that the challenges being grappled with are identical everywhere. Around 3 billion people – every third person – were under lockdown in early April 2020. Between 1 and 2 billion children have been subjected to school closures. Confinement. Infection. Loss of loved ones. Loss of jobs. Domestic violence. A mindboggling magnitude of suffering. The virus strikes the heart of the human condition, meaning we all understand one another, and we can all empathize.
Let Us Come Together
In Germany, one year into the pandemic, we now count 50,000 deaths. Responding to this depressing record, Angela Merkel seized the idea of a national commemoration ceremony – a proposal first put forward by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier last September. As, due to safety measures, many people have not been able to properly mourn those who have been lost to the virus, this ceremony shall provide an opportunity to do so. It is a powerful gesture, and the right one to make at this moment. However, as the suffering has been global, such a ceremonial day should be global, too.
Several International Days are already being observed each year (e.g. International Worlds Women’s Day, World Free Press Day, and more). However, until today it has never been possible to introduce an international holiday. Now might be the right time.
Let us bring humanity closer together, on a first global bank holiday: Together Day. In addition to providing us space to mourn those we have lost to the virus, this day will also give us the opportunity to honour those who have risked their health for others: frontline workers in hospitals, supermarkets, transport, and all the other essential lines of work.
Let us come together, once a year, not only to remember how we have suffered together, but also to remind us all that we live on this planet together – and that we, as humankind, face issues no single state or community can overcome alone.
Let us come together as never before to learn from our experiences, to fix this crisis’ root causes and to strengthen our joint, multilateral efforts. Let us ensure that our reaction to all current and future crises is shared and global in nature.
On Together Day, we will need to also look at the challenges ahead. It is a call for action, a call to join forces in the fight against climate change and other threats to the survival of humanity, a day that shall unite us all – the elderly lady in her Italian supermarket, and everyone else.
As the virus is still raging, the time of specifying a date for this first global bank holiday might not yet have arrived. Let us wait the vaccines are widely distributed and the global daily infections are declining substantially. We can use this interim period to engage our partners, to identify a date that fits well into the calendars of many states, and to prepare for the first #TogetherDay.
An article by Michael Strautmann, YGC 2018.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Solutions Initiative.
Michael, a Young Global Changer of 2018, is an inclusive team leader at the UNDP who leverages the potential of frontier technologies for a more effective United Nations system. He has academic and professional expertise in both international cooperation and strategic management.