2020 will go down in history as the year that put a hold on daily life around the globe. We have an opportunity to make sure it will also be remembered as the year in which the fight for more inclusive, transparent and green societies gained a new and inspired push. The actions that we take today will be judged by generations to come.
The Covid-19 pandemic brutally uncovers the greatest challenges of our time. It points to the predicted collapse of an economic model that exploits people and the planet and is the result of the degradation of ecosystems and globalization. The pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities and will undoubtedly confront us with a whole new spectrum of exclusion.
Marginalized and poor communities are bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s consequences.
Our partners and the people they represent are facing this every single day. We see how marginalized and poor communities are bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s consequences. Women workers at the bottom of supply chains have lost their jobs without any form of social security. A horrifying global surge of gender-based violence is reported and multiple famines of biblical proportions are looming. Our colleagues see how discrimination of LGBTI communities is on the rise. And more and more groups struggle to access public health care and emergency support.
The detrimental impact of the pandemic on our lives, our economies and societies is an indication of what will happen if we fail to address the climate crisis with appropriate measures.
The eagerness of some governments to take restrictive measures and put their citizens under severe surveillance to prevent the spread of Covid-19 does not come as a surprise. It is rooted in systems of governance and examples of leadership that suffer from a lack of accountability, inclusion and sustainability.
Conservative forces and the crackdown on freedom
The social contract between people, their governments and corporations has been under severe pressure for a long time. Hivos has witnessed how the space for civil society has decreased, forcing people to deal with the oppression of their desires and hopes.
Hivos will do whatever is in our power to call for international solidarity and structural change.
Sexual minorities are intentionally targeted by conservative forces for political gain. The misuse of algorithms and artificial intelligence increasingly poses a threat to privacy and freedom of expression. Indigenous environmentalists in the Amazon are met by violence when they attempt to protect their lands and the biodiversity of the rainforest. Unsustainable food systems are destroying the resources we hold so dear and need to survive. Climate change, or environmental degradation in general, threatens sustainable development and our fundamental human rights to water, food and energy.
In all these cases, we see a democratic deficit where governments, institutions and corporations are not accountable to the many, but only to the few. A system in which governments have left the protection of the public domain to market forces.
Voice and choice: unlocking the potential of people
From our over fifty years of experience, we know that a world of anxiety and complexity offers attractive conditions for conservatism, dogmatism, authoritarianism and polarization. At the same time, we see a growing recognition amongst citizens, scientists, progressive businesses and politicians that we need to turn the tide and work towards a more sustainable and just society. That is why we have to join forces and answer the following question: How can we seize this moment to ensure this global crisis becomes a motor of change?
For Hivos, the capacity of people and their organizations to push for social change lies at the heart of the answer. They have the right and ability to shape the recovery of this crisis. Their voices need to be heard and they have to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives and societies.
The transition needed towards a more liveable future requires dedicated involvement of all citizens in close consultation and participation with governments and companies. All actors have a task in this unprecedented time. Governments are called upon to abandon years of laissez-faire approaches and take equitable crisis mitigation measures that include and benefit all. The billions governments in OECD countries allocate to economic recovery need to be spent in an equitable and accountable way. Corporations, in turn, as recipients of economic aid, play a crucial role in the quid pro quo: taxpayers’ money needs to be spent in a sustainable, inclusive and life-sustaining way. That means that companies receiving support should take workers at the bottom of their supply chains just as seriously as their boards, and they should produce their goods and services in ways that are beneficial for humanity and the planet as a whole.
Hivos’ track record shows we are well-equipped to foster dialogue and collaboration within and across different sectors and groups amidst polarization and fragmentation.
We have helped build women’s movements and LGBTI communities. We stood side by side with farmers’ associations fighting for independence from large agro-industrial companies and championed creative young entrepreneurs eager to change their communities. We supported activists, journalists and artists who dared to defy authoritarian regimes. Central to our approach was and continues to be the strength of civil society.
Together, we will work to ensure we find a sustainable and inclusive way out of this crisis. We will amplify inspiring initiatives that lead the way, while at the same time addressing systemic malfunctions that caused the pandemic’s destructive hold on the world.
The advent of Covid-19 has shown once again how interdependent the world is. We must not allow it to feed isolationism or short-sighted policymaking. Hivos will do whatever is in our power to call for international solidarity and structural change.
We will stand together with our civil society partners around the world whose survival is at stake due to repressive governments, dwindling funds and the overemphasizing of economic growth over human and planetary well-being. We simply cannot afford to lose their commitment, courage and creativity on our path to an inclusive, transparent and green recovery.
We will stand together with citizens and their organizations across the world to help redesign our societies and economies in ways that will make us more resilient for future challenges and crises.