We need international cooperation more than ever, yet too many countries are led by populist nationalists more interested in blaming foreigners for a pandemic that knows no borders.
Anti-poverty campaigners Global Justice Now have called for international coordination to secure an unprecedented package of measures to build public healthcare capacity, especially in low-income countries which stand most exposed to the pandemic threat.
Their call comes as the G20 group of major economies plan an emergency coronavirus summit that will take place online on Monday.
The campaign group claimed that decades of market-driven reforms have created a deeply unequal global economy which needs to be ‘reset’ in the light of the Covid-19 crisis. This means unprecedented levels of public funding, as well as constraints placed on big business interests and intervention in the market to protect billions of people from the repercussions of the pandemic.
Global Justice Now further claimed that nationalist and racist rhetoric from Donald Trump and other right-wing leaders was undermining the coordination needed, and thereby risking millions of lives.
The group called on the G20 to back a set of measures including a significant, coordinated emergency package to help low income and vulnerable countries deal with the crisis by building up public sector capacity, emergency welfare and protecting jobs. Testing and treatment for all affected by Covid-19 must be provided free to those who need it and the World Health Organisation needs a huge funding boost
The G20 should also agree on international collaboration for a Covid-19 vaccine, which will not be patented by any one corporation or country, and will be distributed free to all who need it in every country, starting with those most at risk
Major economies should pledge to support a massive global stimulus package aimed at supporting green industries, rather than unconditional bailouts to the fossil fuel, aviation and other polluting industries, and with a special focus on building public healthcare systems
Global Justice Now also argues that we must initiate a process of structural financial reform including agreement on action against tax dodging, debt cancellation for countries at high-risk of debt distress, and changes to trade rules to build resilience to health emergencies
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now said: “The world stands at an incredibly dangerous moment. We need international cooperation more than ever, yet too many countries are led by populist nationalists more interested in blaming foreigners for a pandemic that knows no borders.
"Donald Trump’s attempts to buy up a vaccine for America and stir up anti-Chinese rhetoric are a chilling sign of the path we are heading down. This week the G20 has a chance to change course and begin to fund a massive global health plan that prioritises those most at risk.
“Many developing countries lack the infrastructure and the economic resilience to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, a situation exacerbated by forty years of market-orientated policies which undermined public health institutions.
"Now, governments are being forced to intervene, but they need to go further and think global. As markets fail, we need to build strong public services, paid for by debt cancellation and clamping down on tax dodgers.
"Let’s make sure this time around, the money we spend goes into developing universal public services, especially healthcare, building a fossil fuel-free economy and sharing out the phenomenal wealth of the global economy so it meets the needs of all of humanity, rather than adding to the abundance already enjoyed by a tiny few.”
Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from Global Justice Now.