The COVID-19 pandemic demands swift and unprecedented action from all governments. The depth of the crisis and the scope of the response mean that choices being made right now will shape our society for years, if not decades to come. As policymakers take steps to ensure immediate relief and long-term recovery, it is imperative that they consider the interrelated crises of wealth inequality, climate and ecological decline and governance democracy, which were in place long before COVID-19, and now risk being intensified.
This is a time to be decisive in saving lives, and bold in charting a path to a genuinely healthier and more equitable future through a just recovery. We think that COVID-19 relief and recovery will be addressed by upholding these five principles:
HEALTH IS THE TOP PRIORITY, FOR ALL PEOPLE WITHOUT EXCEPTIONS
PROVIDE ECONOMIC RELIEF DIRECTLY TO PEOPLE
RESCUE WORKERS AND COMMUNITIES, NOT CORPORATE EXECUTIVES
CREATE RESILIENCE TO PREVENT FUTURE CRISIS
PROTECT DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND BUILD COMMUNITY SOLIDARITY THROUGH BORDERS
(1) HEALTH IS THE TOP PRIORITY, FOR ALL PEOPLE WITHOUT EXCEPTIONS
We support the calls of community leaders, public health organizations, unions, and others for free and accessible testing, treatment, and protective equipment; expanded hospital capacity, including in rural areas. Critically, the governments must ensure such health protections cover all people, including low-wage workers, health workers, independent contractors, family farmers, undocumented immigrants, people who are incarcerated, people who are homeless or housing insecure, and others likely to be hit first and worst by COVID-19 and the economic downturn. (2) PROVIDE ECONOMIC RELIEF DIRECTLY TO PEOPLE As with expanded public health measures, there is an urgent need for economic measures to be implemented to ensure coverage for workers and communities that are likely to be affected by the economic recession due to COVID-19. The public food aid network, the expansion of housing assistance, the expansion of childcare for working families, the stoppage of evictions and foreclosures, and the water and electricity cuts must be strengthened.
(3) RESCUE WORKERS AND COMMUNITIES, NOT CORPORATE EXECUTIVES Any financial assistance directed at specific industries must be channeled to workers, not shareholders or corporate executives. Specifically, any government loans must be used to maintain payroll and benefits, not executive bonuses or stock buybacks. In addition, such funds should come with pro-worker conditions, such as payment of prevailing wages and always use of project-labor agreements. (4) CREATE RESILIENCE TO PREVENT FUTURE CRISIS While we urgently need a large, short-term stimulus to protect the health and economic security of those on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative that policymakers also plan for a large, medium-term stimulus to counteract the economic downturn and ensure a just recovery. This stimulus should create millions of good, family-sustaining jobs with high-road labor standards; counter systemic inequities by directing investments to the working families and to any vulnerable communities. At the same time, aid should also address and tackle the climate crisis that is compounding threats to our economy and health. All three goals can be achieved simultaneously with public investments to rebuild our infrastructure, replace obsolete technologies, expand renewable energies, promote and enhance mobility and sustainable construction, and ensure the functionality of ecosystems that support key ecosystem services for our climate well-being and resilience. Finally, both regenerative agriculture aimed at family farmers and industries must be supported to implement measures that help workers and, at the same time, allow for a neutral impact on the environment and ecosystem services. The response to one existential crisis must not fuel another.
(5) PROTECT DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND BUILD COMMUNITY SOLIDARITY THROUGH BORDERS
People must not be forced to choose between exercising their rights as citizens and protecting public health. State governments must support regional governments, providing funds and technical support where necessary. The continuity of democratic governance must be guaranteed at all levels, from state to local governments, with the necessary and secure technical means of online communication. The crisis cannot be used as an excuse to trample on human rights, civil liberties and democracy.
The UNESCO Chair on Sustainability at the UPC is working with different groups and networks, especially with entities and institutions in Latin America, to be able to shortly make a joint letter as broad as possible, which includes, among others, these 5 principles.
We will inform you soon