Morality and Law
What is the Value of the Lack of Freedom? Valdai Club Experts Sum Up the Results of the First Year of the Pandemic
Valdai Club Conference Hall (42, Bolshaya Tatarskaya, Moscow)
List of speakers

On January 28, 2021, the Valdai Club held a discussion titled “The First Year of COVID-19: The Pandemic’s Socioeconomic Aftermath, as Seen by Valdai Club Experts”, together with the presentation of the Valdai Club report of the same name.

Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club and editor of the report, when summing up the results of the experts’ work during the year of the pandemic, highlighted a number of key topics. In his opinion, the problem of new, and in many respects dangerous values ​​that have arisen amid the pandemic is especially significant. Among them, an important place is occupied by the paradoxical value of non-freedom, which in many cases causes public protests, as well as the revived value of the state. It is also possible to mention such geopolitical issues as the crisis of global solidarity and the growth of protectionism, which threaten to split the world.

The British perspective was presented by Richard Sakwa, professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent. He stressed that the pandemic, which is arguably the worst crisis since World War II, has exposed many social and political pathologies. However, the political scientist noted, after that war, a welfare state appeared, and now the question is whether the coronavirus pandemic gives an impetus to roll out some positive changes.

Valery Fyodorov, General Director of the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), demonstrated the dynamics of society's attitude to the threat of coronavirus and vaccination, as well as an assessment of the activities of the state and volunteers, based on the results of sociological surveys. He believes that the data provides strong grounds for optimism.

Kancho Stoychev, President of Gallup International Association, paid special attention to the problem of social fears and mental problems generated by the pandemic as a social factor. According to him, there is the formation of a new type of social consensus, where equality and freedom lose their former significance, and the role of the state increases dramatically. In such a situation, he sees a threat to democracy.

Apostolos Veizis, Director of the Medical Operational Support Unit (SOMA) of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), presented the position of the medical community. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the world did not prioritise healthcare and medical research, and this made it vulnerable, the expert said. This problem must take into account the possibility of new pandemics developing in the future. As for the present moment, the main problem is making the vaccine available to everyone, regardless of the country of residence.