UNRISD | Creating Crisis-Resistant Policies and Institutions Post-Covid-19: Learning from UNRISD Research

Every day, we’re faced with torrents of news and research articles about the causes and consequences of Covid-19. The pandemic is revealing the weakest links and blind spots of health, social and economic systems within countries, and shining a spotlight on the differences between them. The news and analysis are touching upon diverse aspects, but in a nutshell, they talk about how systems are functioning/dysfunctioning, and how to re-produce them, or transform them, post-crisis. Regarding the latter question, there seem to be two broad camps: “Go back to normal with a quick fix” (normalization camp) and “We mustn’t go back to normal because normal was the problem” (transformation camp).

Those in the normalization camp focus on operational emergency measures to contain virus spread, quickly identify a vaccine, and find medicines to treat and cure the disease. This camp tends to highlight equality before the virus (as well as the law), and puts emphasis on individual responsibility to contain the spread of the virus, rather than government response or the health system as a solution.

For the devasting consequences of Covid-19, the transformation camp places the blame at the feet of the vile politicians, on the wrong policies and institutions. Right-wing populism or authoritarianism, nationalism, and public health systems strained by neoliberal cost-containment and austerity policies over the last three decades are held up as the culprits of the crisis.

The world post-Covid-19, be it a normalized or a transformed one, won’t be the same. The experience, not least for the half of the global population who is, at the time of writing, on coronavirus lockdown, will influence key aspects of our lives, such as participation, work, exercise, shopping, socialization, health services and provision of care. It will consequently change the ways political, social, economic, environmental and cultural systems are functioning. Whether it will transform them forever and for the better remains to be seen.

New openings for reintegrating “the economic” and “the social” post-Covid-19

Global crisis often unsettles basic ideas and assumptions about both meanings and drivers of development. And once we are past the current global crisis, there may well be new openings for activism, social pacts, public policy and debate on many critical issues associated with how to reintegrate “the economic” and “the social” through a democratic process. How and with what policy ideas and options can we move away from the ideologies, doctrines, policies and institutions that generate and reinforce inequality and vulnerability? What new directions in policy can we propose to help countries onto transformative pathways? What ideas and policy alternatives can mobilize social forces to form political coalitions supportive of progressive change? What insights can UNRISD contribute to transforming the systems that are vulnerable to pandemics into ones that are more resilient in times of crisis because they are more just, equitable and sustainable every day?

Post-Covid-19 policies and institutions to fight for

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Source: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Ilcheong Yi, 14 April 2020