Due to the impact of the Coronavirus much of the world is shut down. Flights are grounded, and many of us are at home, doing our best to follow our respective governments’ advice. It is therefore vital that during this difficult time we practice compassion and understanding. Though travel between countries may be curtailed for the time being, it is more important than ever that we continue to build bridges between nations and work together as a planet.

I’ve been encouraged by the recent signs of international cooperation. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness, an innovative global partnership that seeks to combat the spread of diseases, has been working with the UK and German governments, and funding research in Hong Kong and the University of Oxford to develop a vaccine. Meanwhile, the European Union has created the ‘rescEU’ – a stockpile of medical equipment to be shared out between member states, to ease the strain on struggling healthcare systems.

As chair of Hinduja Bank Switzerland, I keep a close eye on geopolitical currents and the trends that motivate them. Before the virus took hold, the rise of protectionism and nationalism around the world was straining the understanding and cooperation between nations that had steadily developed during the post-war period. On the domestic scene, political polarisation was tugging at the fabric of societies across the world. Communication technologies, which seemed destined to bring people closer together, had just as much served to divide us into echo chambers. Struggles for equality amongst different identity groups had generated a cacophony of dissent towards the status quo. We lived, as Indian academic Pankaj Mishra coined it, in the Age of Anger.

Now that we find ourselves in a new reality, to beat back the flames of anger, we must all rediscover the values that underpin our societies and that anchor a global economic system, which has helped lift more than a billion people out of extreme poverty since 1990. In short, we must start building bridges again.

We must understand the value of working together in a moment of crisis. While some countries have the capacity and resources to deal with the disruption, others are likely to be overwhelmed. It is thus vital for countries, companies, and individuals to work together, and ensure that the burden never falls on those that cannot bear it.

The past decades have seen major progress made on a wealth of issues, including women’s rights, inequality, and extreme poverty. These issues were combatted through international cooperation, through bodies like the UN and the World Bank, as well as the rise in impact investment in developing countries.

We all have a role to play in these efforts. I have seen the value in international cooperation for myself, both as a way to spread ideas and address issues that have long gone ignored.

Many of the year’s international events addressing important issues will have to be postponed, but their spirit of cooperation should live on in the coming months. If we can harness that spirit, then we can overcome anything. I know that we will be able to use it to make the world a better place.

When the time comes to move on from this crisis towards a time of reconstruction, with the many challenges and opportunities it brings, we must turn the page on the Age of Anger. Let us learn again to build bridges in the world, between peoples across the world and with each other in society. When we work in the service of each other, in the spirit of mutual understanding, we all benefit from a more equal society and a more prosperous world.

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