We are in this rocky boat together

Development Policy21 Apr 2020Yannicke Goris

While the coronavirus is causing many nations to look inward and take care of their own, calls for global solidarity are becoming more numerous and louder. Over the last weeks, three impressive statements by Dutch networks were published, each calling upon our leaders to act in the spirit of international solidarity and collaboration, each with the aim of building a more sustainable, equal world.

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) heard the first reports of a new virus in Wuhan, Eastern China. Today, a mere four months later, everywhere around the world people know about the virus, corona, and COVID-19, the illness it causes. Our economies and societies have become reliant on the easy circulation of goods and people. It is this very globalisation, however, that has allowed for the breakneck speed with which the coronavirus has been able to spread. In a few months time it has become painfully clear that globalisation has pushed us all together in the same boat: The coronavirus does not know borders. It is a global virus, the combatting of which requires a collective, global approach and global solidarity for the most vulnerable people and communities that are hit hardest by this disease.

Support those that are hit hardest

On March 27th the Dutch NGO-sector wrote a strong statement, calling upon the government to support developing countries and their civil society organisations in this time of crisis. The statement draws attention to a harsh reality: If the impact of the coronavirus is already crippling the rich and developed nations of our world, it is barely conceivable what disasters it will cause in countries that have no adequate healthcare, where people are living in crowded slums or camps, and where there is a lack of electricity, clean water, or stable food supplies. How can we possibly combat the virus effectively in areas where people cannot even wash their hands, where people run the risk of starvation if they do not carry on with their daily business? As the Dutch NGOs collectively stress: Without taking care of the most vulnerable, without global solidarity, we will not only undermine the fight against this pandemic, we will also undermine the core values of our society.

Global solidarity and rethinking strategy

Like the NGOs, The Development Studies Community of Scholars in the Netherlands felt a responsibility to make an appeal to the Dutch government. In an open letter to the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, the experts underline the moral incentive as well as the global necessity for supporting the most vulnerable: “If the pandemic is not also addressed in poorer communities and in poorer countries, it is likely to affect global travel, trade, and investment for months, if not years to come. So is it also in our interest to promote a global COVID-19 resistant development strategy.” To develop this strategy, what we need is “intensive cooperation and mutual learning [that goes] beyond simple transfers of ideas from the North to the South”. And, as the scholars point out in their statement, there are a number of steps the Minister can take to stimulate such global collective action and knowledge exchange.

Resilience and equality after corona

Academics also spoke out about the future after corona and, more particularly, about the linkages between globalisation, economic development, and COVID-19. Over 170 academics from various fields signed a manifesto in which they present five clear policy recommendations for moving forward through and after this crisis. In their plea the signatories call for collective efforts that go beyond immediate responses to the coronavirus and suggest interventions that will lead to a healthier development model that creates “more sustainable, equal and diverse societies based on international solidarity.”

Undoubtedly, more statements, open letters and manifestos like the ones presented here have been and will be published in days and weeks to come. What is clear, however, is that no country can deal with corona and its far-reaching consequences alone: We are all in this rocky boat together. Collective action and global solidarity, now and in the future, will be indispensable if we want a world that is fair, resilient, and can better prevent and manage major shocks such as the coronavirus.