In global sign-on, more than 150 groups demand COVID-19 response also address climate, justice issues
As the full public health, societal and economic fall out of the COVID-19 pandemic just begins to be realised around the world, an coalition of more than 150 organisations released the first of its kind global set of demands, launched on Earth Day, to guide the international pandemic response.
The coalition, convened by the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, issued the demands as means of addressing both the pandemic and the interlinked climate crisis. While there have been many national demands and subsequent political responses, this is the first set of global demands that sets forth a collective vision of how all governments, locally to globally, can respond to both crises.
The first of its kind sign-on letter calls for “a bold response to the COVID-19 pandemic that simultaneously helps address the wider climate crisis, and transform the unequal economic system that has led to both.”
The demands to national governments and international policymaking bodies include:
- Prioritise the health and wellbeing of people. People must always be valued over profit, for an economy is worthless without its people. Fully fund and resource health services and systems, ensuring care for all. Prioritise robust investment in other essential public services, such as safe shelter, water, food and sanitation.
- Guarantee the protection of marginalised populations. Provide aid, social protection, and relief to rural populations and the families that compose them, who are at the forefront of feeding our world. Special protection must also be guaranteed for the social and human rights of those in situations of homelessness, people in prison, refugees and migrants, elders in home care, orphans, and especially environmental defenders.
- Issue immediate economic and social measures to provide relief and security to all. Protect labour rights and guarantee protections for all workers, from the formal to the informal economy, and guarantee a universal basic income. Stop subsidies for fossil fuels and reorient public funds to ensure access to clean energy, water, and important utilities and public services. Immediately cancel debt payments by Southern countries due in 2020 and 2021 with no accrual of interest nor penalties. Transform tax systems, abolishing fiscal holidays for multinational corporations which undermine revenues, and abolish value-added tax and goods and services taxes for basic goods.
- Support a long-term just transition and recovery out of this crisis, and take the crisis as an opportunity to shift to equitable, socially just, climate-resilient and zero-carbon economies. We cannot afford bailouts that simply fill corporate pockets or rescue polluting industries incompatible with a living planet. Rather, we need an economic recovery that builds resilience, dissolves injustices, restores our ecosystems, and leads a managed decline of fossil fuels and a justice-oriented transition towards a fair & sustainable economy.
- Reject efforts to push so-called “structural reforms” that only serve to deepen oppression, inequality and impoverishment, including by international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, who may use the pandemic to push schemes in the Global South under the guise of “shortening the time to recovery.”
- Bolster international cooperation and people to people solidarity. Transferring technology and finance from the richest to the poorest countries is crucial. Facilitate instead of hinder the efforts of people’s movements, citizens groups, Indigenous peoples and civil society organizations to link up across borders and countries for mutual support. We also call on governments to honor their historical responsibility and stop using tactics that dismiss that responsibility and delay a strong international response, such as withholding funding from the WHO and other institutions in a time of crisis.
- Collaborate on the development of and unrestricted access to vaccines and any medical breakthroughs of experimental therapy drugs, led by principles of international cooperation and free distribution. We need to ensure that any COVID-19 vaccine will reach all and that no country will be able to become a monopoly buyer, and no entity a monopoly producer.
- Immediately cease extractive projects, from mining to fossil fuels to industrial agriculture, including extraterritorial projects undertaken by corporations, which are accelerating ecological crises, encroaching on Indigenous territories, and putting communities at risk.
- Reject any and all attempts to waive liability of corporations and industries. The actors that are responsible, in so many ways, for this multifaceted crisis and the broken system absolutely cannot be granted loopholes that allow them to escape responsibility for their abuses at home and across the world.
- Governments must not take advantage of the crisis to push through draconian measures including the expansion of police and military powers that undermine workers’ rights, repress the rights of Indigenous peoples, restrict public participation in decision-making, restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services, or institute widespread surveillance under cover of the crisis.
The demands will be used as a basis for organizing and pressure at the local, national and international levels in the weeks and months to come. Below, are quotes from participating organizations, with those based in the Global South listed first.
“The COVID-19 crisis is clearly showing us the enormous inequalities that are causing the majority of the population to suffer. It is also clearly showing us the complicity of states that, to protect the interests of corporations and financial elites, are promoting policies that only benefit big business and criminalize local activities. We are facing a dangerous moment of the emergence of facist states. The solution to climate crisis and this pandemic can only come from the power of the people.” Martin Vilela, Head of Climate Change, Extractivism and International Advocacy, Plataforma Boliviana frente al Cambio Climático/Bolivian Platform on Climate Change
“The impacts of the pandemic as well as responses to it are exposing the gross inequalities of our societies and the global system. Amidst intensifying challenges to survival, we are reminded that we need a profound transformation of the system if we are to have a better world for our families and communities. The current system does not offer hope. In this moment, when our interdependence and connection to each other and to nature could not be any clearer, we must realize that justice-based solutions led by movements are the only way forward. Hope lies in the power of people.” –Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator, Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development
“The Covid-19 crisis clearly lays bare the injustices that Africans have already been facing as a result of the colonial and neo-colonial economies, climate change and other prolonged social and economic crises, constructed by the racist patriarchal capitalist system. Africans did not cause the Coronavirus crisis, as we did not cause the climate crisis, but, just as with the climate crisis, our people will likely be severely impacted. Africans have the least access, globally, to basic services such as water, electricity, healthcare which are necessary to shelter them through these crises. Working class and peasant women in Africa carry the burden of all the crises because they are the primary household food producers, caregivers and harvesters of water, energy and other basic goods needed for the reproduction of life and the well-being of people. But these roles also place them at the frontlines of the defence of nature and its right to exist, without which the survival of all beings would not be possible.” — Trusha Reddy, Programme Head: Energy & Climate Justice, WoMin African Alliance
“The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing what the global majority has known all along: that the dominant economic system prioritises profits over people and planet. With each new day of infections, deaths and destroyed livelihoods, the pandemic is exposing the gross injustices of our existing systems. But the pandemic has also shown our enormous collective strength, and the possibilities that emerge when a crisis is taken seriously, and people join together.– Sara Shaw, Climate Justice & Energy Program Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International
“This pandemic, just like the climate crisis, knows no borders and no justice. Only a response that is beyond borders and centers justice can address either crisis. But corporate interference has contributed to the inexcusable failure of governments to respond with the urgency and people-first mentality required. We are at a crossroads where systems change is the only way forward. The demands released in unity by more than 150 global organizations make clear how we can rise to the occasion of this moment, address the broken system, and do right by people, not the corporations that have contributed to systemic injustice in countless ways.” – Rachel Rose Jackson, Director of Climate Research and Policy, Corporate Accountability
“The impacts of the corona pandemic have further exposed the existing inequalities of neoliberal capitalism and climate injustice which the poorest and most vulnerable are already paying the price for. But amidst these multiple crises the call for justice is ringing louder and louder from every corner of the world. The rich can no longer be allowed to sacrifice the global South or the poor in the global North in the name of their economic recovery. At this pivotal moment in history we must do more than tinker around the edges. We must seize this moment to dial the world forward and ensure that we have both a just recovery and a just transition that guarantees everyone the right to a dignified life.”— Asad Rehman, Executive Director, War on Want