Effective strategy to tackle COVID-19 calls for a global reset
On Monday 11 May, at the government's request, the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) published an emergency advisory report on how the Netherlands can make an effective contribution to the worldwide fight against the Corona virus. Together with companies, scientists and environmental, human rights and development organisations, Both ENDS is today presenting a response to this report, in which we make a number of suggestions for investing in countries and people with insufficient resources to tackle the crisis effectively.
If we make good, clear choices now, the report could act as a basis for a 'Green Recovery' that offers both developing countries and the Netherlands a resilient future. Now that the shortcomings of a strongly globalised and unequal world have been abruptly exposed, we have the perfect opportunity to reset the system. To repair some of the systemic faults that have helped bring us to this crisis. We sincerely hope that, in its response to the AIV's report, the government will grasp this opportunity.
Effective strategy to tackle COVID-19 calls for a global reset
On Monday 11 May, at the government's request, the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) published an emergency advisory report on how the Netherlands can make an effective contribution to the worldwide fight against the Corona virus. The report is a strong, crystal clear plea for international solidarity. The effort that the AIV advocates in the short-term offers an excellent opportunity to introduce support measures to make our society more sustainable and more social.
Solidarity doesn't stop at the border
The AIV rightly calls for support for vulnerable countries and groups worldwide. The crisis, it says, "touches our hearts and appeals directly to our sense of solidarity". It confirms that support for other countries is also in our own interests: "The coronavirus crisis will not be over in the Netherlands as long as it continues elsewhere in the world".According to the AIV, the Netherlands should allocate at least one billion euros in extra funds to support developing countries in the short term in combatting the direct impact of the virus on public health, the economy and inequality. It also calls on the government to maintain the current budget for development cooperation. This is an important signal; in times of falling GNP, the development budget too is under pressure. The AIV makes it clear that we cannot allow this to mean that the weakest link in the chain is, relatively speaking, the hardest to be hit. Development cooperation is also crucial in the medium term.
Support must reach the people who need it the most
The AIV rightlyindicates that the support is intended for vulnerable groups in developing countries.In times of crisis, it is essential that existing inequalities are not exacerbated further. It is crucial that the AIV's advice is worked out in clear detail. Within the support provided, there must be a focus across the board on ethnic and religious minorities, indigenous people, women and children, the elderly, LGBTI people, people with disabilities, slum-dwellers and refugees. Inclusive sustainable development is by definition political. Our support must therefore ensure that people on the margins of power also have a voice to help speed up inclusive development. At times of crisis, those voices and the organisations that support them come under added pressure and minorities are more likely to be exploited or seen as the cause of the problem – in other words, inequalities increase. Before the crisis, the Netherlands was a world leader in tackling inequality. Let us build further on our existing investments and ensure that the social networks that have been built up do not disappear. Thanks to those strong networks, we can make sure that crisis measures reach the right people and that green, sustainable recovery does not disappear from the agenda.
This means that support for human rights and environmental defenders, civil society organisations and social entrepreneurs is not only important in giving people socioeconomic prospects, but also in the other three areas mentioned by the AIV. When providing emergency aid or organising access to health care or clean water, extra attention should be paid to groups that are more vulnerable both to the virus and to the economic and social consequences of the restrictions that governments are being forced to take. Microcredit and liquid funds for entrepreneurs should also reach these groups, which have the least access to regular banks.
To achieve this, choice of partners and an inclusive decision-making process are essential. Besides cooperation on an equal footing, as the AIV advocates in the case of local leaders, it is important that local actors are involved in decision-making and consultations on support measures and are given a decisive role in their implementation. We have to avoid choosing only existing partners who can deal with large sums of money. We can easily build on what people and their organisations have already achieved locally through, for example, the existing Strategic Partnerships. By building on existing programmes, such an approach strengthens local leadership – a crucial requirement for sustainability. In addition, to support local SMEs it is important to work not only with development banks but also with impact funds and civil society organisations with a large network of local companies, as they are better able to reach and support smaller entrepreneurs and businesses.
Opportunity for a fair and green recovery
COVID-19 is not an isolated crisis that suddenly appeared from nowhere, but is the consequence of the degradation of ecosystems, globalisation and an economic model based on exploitation and extraction. There is a direct link between the social crisis caused by the virus and the crisis facing the health of the planet. Unfair trade and tax evasion are extracting more money from the economies of poor countries than is spent worldwide on development cooperation. So let us deploy the support measures that are now necessary to achieve fair and sustainable change. To prevent comparable crises in the future and to tackle the underlying causes at the roots. In that way, we include that other great crisis – the climate crisis and disastrous disappearance of species – in the solutions.
The AIV acknowledges that socioeconomic recovery "will not be able to get fully under way until all continents are [...] participating in sustainable global supply chains". It also points out that "the management of natural resources and the protection of natural habitats should also be organised in a way that minimises the risk of diseases being transmitted from animals to humans" and vice versa . This calls for a change from 'using nature' to 'respecting natural systems' and investing in the preservation of the natural environment in the long term, in the full understanding that we as people are part of that environment. It is of great importance to rediscover a balance between natural resources that we can use for our own direct prosperity and preserving biodiversity and natural processes as the foundation for our society as a whole. Here, a long-term vision is also possible. Investments in the recovery of the global economy must focus on a quicker transition to sustainable, climate-proof and inclusive societies in which new frameworks will have to be established.The investments and contracts required to achieve this will have to be open, inclusive and fair. That will generate substantial cost savings, reduce corruption and offer people the chance to influence and control these public expenditures.
The support measures that are now necessary can and must stimulate economic recovery in the direction of a global economy that respects the earth's carrying capacityand emits less CO2, offers green jobs and speeds up the transition to sustainable, resilient and ecologically tenable agricultural production systems. As the AIV advocates,this means focusing on water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health care and electricity in the short term. But it also means a focus on sustainable energy and vital, locally managed water and food supply systems by strengthening local and regional production and consumption chains. There is no place in this vision for investments in fossil fuels. And it is achievable, by supporting local SMEs through smart, sustainable impact-driven investment funds. Existing, innovative and often young companies have not yet built up sufficient reserves and are vulnerable in this crisis. If they fail, we will find ourselves many years back in the past.
The AIV has dared to advise the government that, in this pandemic of unprecedented proportions, we must not turn our backs on the world but invest in countries and people that do not have the resources to combat the crisis effectively. If we make good, clear choices now, the AIV's report could act as a basis for a 'Green Recovery' that offers both developing countries and the Netherlands a resilient future. Now that the shortcomings of a strongly globalised and unequal world have been abruptly exposed, we have the perfect opportunity to reset the system. To repair some of the systemic faults that have helped bring us to this crisis. We sincerely hope that, in its response to the AIV's report, the government will grasp this opportunity.
Coenraad Krijger, director IUCN NL
Danielle Hirsch, director Both ENDS
Edwin Huizing, director Hivos
Henk Willem van Dorp – director Van Dorp Installatietechniek
Jan-Bart Gewald, Prof. – director African Studies Centre – Leiden University
Jannelieke Aalstein - director ActionAid Netherlands
Joyeeta Gupta, Prof. – programme director, Governance and Inclusive Development, University of Amsterdam
Kees Zevenbergen, director Cordaid
Kirsten Schuijt, director WWF Nederland
Maria van der Heijden, director CSR Netherlands
Pieter Oudenaarden–acting chair of the executive board of the Christian University of Applied Sciences
Rina Molenaar, director Woord en Daad
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