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Friday, January 15, 2021
NEW YORK and MANILA, Apr 22 2020 (IPS) - The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created an unprecedented human and economic crisis. Governments are taking strong actions, enforcing quarantines to reduce contagion, testing populations, building emergency intensive care units. Governments have also launched large fiscal stimulus plans to protect jobs and the economy, as well as temporary social protection programs such as income/food support, subsidies to utilities and care services.
But in many countries, even stronger actions are needed if we are to protect lives and jobs. States must respond adequately to this public emergency. Citizens must question if the measures implemented by their governments are sufficient and adequate.
The following are important issues for citizens and civil society organizations (CSOs) to watch out at the country level:
Additionally, it is important for citizens and CSOs to push for the following measures at the global level:
The coronavirus pandemic has provided stark evidence of the weaknesses and extreme injustices of our world. We must not return to “normality”, a world where half of its population is living below the poverty line of $5.50 a day. We must move away from an inequitable model based on unregulated finance and corporate power, blind to harmful social and environmental impacts. We must back away from a system that disregards the work of health staff, cleaners, garbage collectors, farmers, and instead reward with huge salaries corporate managers, football players, and others who do not perform any essential activity. Now citizens have the opportunity to move forward.
As countries and enterprises recuperate from the crisis, they will have to rethink their economic model, including fewer links with global supply chains, and more links closer to home. It will be an important time for citizens and CSOs to press for “deglobalization”, making the domestic market again the center of gravity of the economy by preserving local production with decent jobs and green investments, and question global supply chains based on taking advantage of cheaper wages, lesser taxes and environmental regulations elsewhere.
Now is the time for citizens to ensure that world leaders forcefully respond to the COVID-19 crisis, in accordance with human rights. This time it cannot be like many earlier crisis experiences, where insufficient support was provided, or ended in the wrong hands, bailing out banks not the population. Citizens and CSOs have a very important role to play to ensure that governments respond to people.
Isabel Ortiz is Director of the Global Social Justice Program at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University, and former director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF.
Walden Bello is senior analyst at the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South and the International Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Binghamton.
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