While the virus itself may not discriminate, our global economic system does – and the impact of the pandemic has fallen unevenly along gender, race, and class lines across the world. If we are to create a fairer and more sustainable world after the pandemic, we must urgently embrace bold ideas to transform how the global economy operates – and in whose interest.
Some key priorities for an internationalist Covid-19 response are follows:
(1) Preventing a wave of corporate lawsuits against states for emergency COVID-19 measures that have saved lives, under Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms. Researchers have identified dozens of corporate law firms that are already offering services to mount such legal cases, which would seek compensation from states for measures that have negatively impacted company profits – including lost future profits. Measures that could face legal challenges include the state acquisition of private hospitals; steps introduced to ensure that drugs, tests and vaccines are affordable; and relief on rent, debt and utility payments. Fighting such cases could cost governments billions and undermine efforts to contain COVID-19, particularly in the Global South. It is essential that international pressure is applied to governments to take practical steps to restrict and suspend the use of ISDS during the pandemic, and put an end to ISDS cases forever.
(2) Preparing the ground to launch a coordinated Global Green New Deal to stimulate the economic recovery; bring economic activity within sustainable environmental limits; and decolonise the global economic architecture. Once the pandemic subsides, attention will inevitably turn to how the global economy can be rebooted. But we cannot afford to return to business as usual: our economic system has pushed our environment beyond safe operating zones, threatening the foundations upon which civilisation depends. At the same time, the global trade and financial architecture is rigged in favour of wealthy countries and corporations – ensuring that wealth flows from the Global South to the Global North. Restoring the status quo would not be a neutral act – it would be an active decision to deepen prevailing social, economic and environmental injustices. The pandemic has shown the governments can radically restructure how economies operate in a relatively short space on time. The same sense of urgency must now be directed towards coordinating a Global Green New Deal to stimulate the economic recovery; bring economic activity within sustainable environmental limits; and decolonise the global economic architecture.
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