International expert cooperation in times of crisis – What can we learn from expert cooperation during World War II for today?

Europe is currently not at war, despite Macron, Johnson and Trump using
the term, and the European states are not at war with each other.
Nevertheless, it is a time of international crisis.
The reaction into it appears currently as follows: There are multiple
national responses by European states despite pleas for a more common
approach. Also, experts have suddenly come back into fashion again. The
Covid-19 health crisis also leads to calling into question out current
status quo: Which jobs are relevant for our system and how should they
be rewarded? President Macron went even so far as to doubt
neoliberalism. New possibilities arise as well: frequent home office,
more teleworking etc.

Our research project looks at expert behavior in a specific crisis,
World War II, but as others have shown the experts in the postal and
telecommunications administrations have a tradition of fighting against
the odds of non-coordinated or even hostile European states – they did
so during World War I and would do so again during the cold war.

So what can we learn from those experts? Maybe that it is more evident
to rely on one’s own nation in times of crisis but that some problems
will remain international. It takes courage and perseverance to act
differently and it is hard work to convince governments of the worth of
international cooperation in times of crisis. However, this might be
badly needed. Countries will need financial aid or will need to make
debts somewhere else, they will need medical supplies that their
country can’t produce on their own and experts will need to cooperate in order to
best treat the infected. And most importantly: If a cure is found, it
needs to be distributed quickly to the ones who need it most – and it
shouldn’t matter which nation they are from.

(Sabrina Proschmann)

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