How will future generations evaluate our response to Covid-19?
Covid-19 exposes deep rifts of inequality within and between countries, showing how precarious are many lives and livelihoods. It does not just intensify old ills, but creates new forms of indignity and invisibility, which are a scandal in the twenty first century. It demonstrates the fragility of societies built on the intensive exploitation and spiralling circulation of people, energy, and the earth’s resources. And it exacerbates pre-existing generational inequalities.
Covid-19 shows that universal access to basic goods and services is vital, including food, shelter and health care. Achieving this requires that commercial interests serve public priorities, and not the other way around. It will involve a new social contract and forms of collaboration between the people and those who govern in their name. It will demand new levels of trust, solidarity and cooperation across as well as within borders. And it will require us to move beyond GDP as a measure of national progress, to establish robust alternative systems that value human security, wellbeing, dignity, and social and ecological justice.
Covid-19 has created a sense of possibility as radical government action has transformed the social, economic and political landscape worldwide. Many have proposed ways to build back from, and better, after this crisis. We join in calling for a revitalised global movement towards a better shared future. We believe that this will need to ask a particular question, and ask it not just once but repeatedly and at multiple levels – of ourselves, universities, businesses, governments, local and national communities and global institutions:
How will we know whether the rebuild has been successful?
The UN Sustainable Development Goals already provide targets and indicators for progressive change, including the commitment to ‘leave no-one behind’. We recognise that the coronavirus is having a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable and excluded within societies, as well as on societies that lack power globally and stress the importance of an inclusive approach to countering the effects of Covid-19. We suggest that a successful rebuild should show:
- GDP and economic growth are no longer the key measures in public policy
- Public policy is assessed against measures of equality and dignity; basic needs and wellbeing; and sustainable use of resources
- Processes for delivering policy are monitored to ensure that they promote the dignity and respect of all involved
- Public finance to the private sector supports the progressive restructuring of economies to make them more socially and ecologically sustainable
- Substantial international debt relief from multi-lateral and bi-lateral lenders for poorer countries
- Re-vitalised institutions of global governance and co-operation provide a common platform for combatting global challenges, such as public health and climate change
- Global, national and local conversations about our shared future become more inclusive and diverse, to enable radical new alternatives to emerge
In understanding whether new moves are being made in these directions, we will work with others to establish and employ measures and indicators. These may not be exciting, but they are vital. We get what we measure so the things that get counted need to be the things that matter. We undertake to monitor progress towards the rebuild proposed here, and to report back at our Annual Conference.