Almost all global crises have one thing in common; the poorest and the most vulnerable in our world will be the hardest hit. Be it recession, climate disasters, or the current COVID-19 pandemic, global crises disproportionately impact the lives of the poor and marginalized, sustaining and reinforcing global inequality.
For the poorest in the world facing a crisis there is a threefold impact:
- Their disproportionate exposure to the direct impact
- Their susceptibility to damage caused by the crisis
- Their lack of resource to cope and recover from the damage suffered
The devastating economic fallout of the current COVID-19 pandemic is now being felt across the globe and there is no doubt that the painful impact is being felt most deeply by millions of people burdened by poverty and oppression.
The poor, who already suffer from disproportionate levels of poor health, disability, unemployment or significant job insecurity are having to deal with limited access to health care, loss of income to buy food as well as significant disruption to the limited services they may rely on such as charity support and aid.
This latest threat compounds the challenge that Climate Change creates for the poorest in the world. Those that already struggle to earn a living, feed their families every day, and create safe and stable home is made more difficult by increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires, and droughts. The changing climate creates shortages in basic necessities like food and water, drives people from their homes, and jeopardises livelihoods.
But unlike climate change, COVID-19 has dramatically impacted everyone. We have all been forced us to radically change our behavior in order to protect ourselves and those around us, in a way most of us have never experienced before.
For those of us not previously affected by devastating climate disasters, this dramatic but temporary change could be the catalyst we need to make profound change.
Many of the crucial decisions our governments and businesses will need to make this year will shape our world for generations. This moment of crisis can be a moment of opportunity.
As we begin to look for ways to build our future, we must not look only to overcome the immediate threat but work to find solutions that promote equity and create a sustainable future for everyone across the world.
The governments that acted so quickly to implement social distancing, ground aeroplanes, and close borders must look to support the growth of clean technologies and new sustainable business models. As governments seek to recharge their devastated economies, we need explicit and tangible commitments to back clean technologies and invest in the green economy, to transition away from fossil fuel and see a clear end to subsidies for polluting industries.
Rebuilding our economy, we need a future with new business models that ensure companies can create and deliver value for all their stakeholders, not just the shareholders. Business models that treat all people and the natural environment as equal stakeholders and expand the perception of ‘value’ beyond the economic monetary meaning.
As we start thinking about the future we know that our new normal will look unlike any in the years preceding the Coronavirus; it will change everything. There is no doubt the road ahead will be difficult, however, we come out of this pandemic. Our work is to ensure we take this opportunity to rebuild a fairer, more sustainable world that reduces inequality and values more than money.