Statement from the Board President and CEO of Arcus Foundation Regarding COVID-19
Dear friends and partners,
We are all facing a global situation that is unprecedented in living memory. But it is not the first time in history that we have come face-to-face with the fact that we humans are part and parcel of nature itself. At the Arcus Foundation, we are very concerned for the many people who are facing uncertainty and challenging situations for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting communities around the world, and governments and authorities are grappling with measures to control the spread and severity of the outbreak, and to limit risks to populations who have not yet been exposed. Protecting vulnerable groups and not overwhelming the healthcare systems, while helping one another manage the many challenges and impacts of the outbreak, is paramount. It is unquestionable, however, that enormous numbers of people will be affected directly by the disease in some way. Many will experience some economic or mental health effect, with their lives and livelihoods severely impacted.
As you know, the Arcus Foundation is focused on the wellbeing of all, human and nonhuman, as well as the wilderness and environment on which we all depend. The new coronavirus (officially known as SARS-CoV-2) and the disease it causes (COVID-19) affect humans, but can potentially also affect many other beings, such as great apes and gibbons, and the risk to already highly endangered and vulnerable populations of apes is enormous. Two-thirds of human infectious diseases—including Ebola, SARS, MERS, and now COVID-19—originate from wildlife, and the vast majority of human diseases also affect nonhuman animals. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance has emphasized that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be acquired or transmitted by cats or dogs; however, ape species are generally susceptible to the same diseases as humans. In parts of Central Africa, 80 percent of gorillas and chimps died of Ebola.
We at Arcus are deeply concerned about the immediate and longer-term impacts on people and nonhuman animals, and want to assure our grantees and partners that we will do everything possible to continue our support and partnership in the vital work of protecting the world’s apes and LGBTQ people.
The foundation has put a number of measures in place to support the safety and wellbeing of our staff, our partners, and our communities, and to support efforts by governments and communities around the world to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. These are based on recommendations from the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) and urge best practice in social distancing, hygiene, and self-care.
All Arcus Foundation staff are now working remotely from their homes, and the organization’s work will continue as normal, with meetings and interactions through email, phone, and audio-visual conferencing. This is to enable effective social distancing and to avoid exposing staff and partners to risk while commuting to and from the workplace. We encourage you to contact staff at the foundation, and we are committed to keeping the work moving forward as much as possible, prioritizing the payment and review of grants and grant applications. Staff can be reached by email, mobile phone, and, in most cases, their office phones, which have been forwarded to their remote locations. All travel and attendance at conferences and in-person meetings have been canceled. Where possible, site visits, conferences, and meetings will be postponed or carried out through remote means like videoconferencing.
These measures will remain in place until at least the end of April, or until we are able to assess the longer-term needs with respect to mitigating the effects of the outbreak. Please do not hesitate to be in touch with our program contacts if you have any questions or updates for us.
Grantees and partners
Arcus has a strategic approach to grantmaking, with strategies developed in deep consultation with partners in the movements we support, reflecting the priorities and needs that partners have identified. We work to drive change through partnerships with diverse people and organizations in many different parts of the world. As a consequence, it is important to remain focused on those priorities, especially at a time when resources are being redirected to support other, emerging needs. That said, the foundation is deeply concerned about the ability of the communities we serve to overcome the enormous challenges they will inevitably encounter during this global health crisis. For this reason, we emphasize the following priorities to support grantees facing the diverse challenges related to COVID-19:
• Flexibility to enable no-cost extensions for work that is currently funded by Arcus
• Flexibility and relaxation around reporting requirements and deadlines, upon consultation with program officers and grants managers at the foundation
• Maintaining funding levels to ensure that the goals we all share can advance, and that organizations can survive and continue to operate
• Remaining strategic and data-driven
• When requested, helping organizations coordinate, build relationships, and work together
• Maintaining a strong focus on diversity and equity, particularly across the world, as this emergency is affecting people of all nations, ethnicities, and backgrounds, especially those most vulnerable
• Maintaining our strong partnerships with grantees to ensure there is flexibility, transparency, and understanding, and that we are keeping lines of communication open to ensure that we can best understand how this situation is affecting organizations and communities
In doing so, we join with philanthropic communities across the world who have also identified and recommended these measures.
We have learned from history and from different parts of the world how emergencies can affect communities and exacerbate the many difficulties that people face on a day-to-day basis. We know that crises can disproportionately affect people who are already struggling with entrenched institutional and structural inequalities. We also know, however, that in the face of crises, people often show enormous courage, kindness, and compassion, and we want to encourage all to think of the many vulnerable beings around us, and how we can help and support one other. Our humanity and our empathy can be our greatest strengths.
Arcus was founded in the belief that people can live in harmony with one another and the natural world. This is more than some naïve aspiration; it is rather the articulation of what will be required for our survival and the perpetuation of all that we know. We must all embrace the possibility of realizing this vision and reach for it together like never before.
Wishing you all safety and the health and wellbeing of your loved ones,
Jon Stryker and Annette Lanjouw