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COVID-19 has shaken the world. It has already led to the loss or devastation of countless lives, while many people in vital professions are working day and night to attend to the sick and stop further spread. Personal and social losses, and the fight to stop these, demand our continued respect and support. At the same time, it is critical to view this pandemic in historical context in order to avoid repeating past mistakes when we plan for the future.

The fact that COVID-19 has already had such a major economic impact is due, amongst other factors, to the economic development model that has been dominant globally over the last 30 years. This model demands ever-growing circulation of goods and people, despite the countless ecological problems and growing inequalities it generates. Over the last few weeks, the weaknesses of the neoliberal growth machine have been painfully exposed. Amongst other issues we have seen: large companies pleading for immediate state support once effective demand falls away for even a short time; insecure jobs being lost or put on hold; and further strain placed on already underfunded healthcare systems. People who recently confronted the government in their struggles for recognition and decent salaries are now, remarkably, considered to have ‘vital professions’ in healthcare, elderly care, public transport and education.

A further weakness of the current system, and one that is not yet prominent in discussions of the pandemic, is the link between economic development, the loss of biodiversity and important ecosystem functions, and the opportunity for diseases like COVID-19 to spread among humans. These are lethal links and could become much more so. The WHO has already estimated that, globally, 4.2 million people die each year from outdoor air pollution, and that the impacts of climate change are expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. Experts warn that with further severe degradation of ecosystems – a scenario that is to be expected under the current economic model – chances for further and even stronger virus outbreaks on top of these unfolding catastrophes are realistic.

All this requires drastic and integrated action and makes it critical to start planning for a postCOVID-19 world as soon as possible. While some short-term positive social and environmental impacts have emerged in the crisis—such as community support, local organizing and solidarity, less pollution and GHG emissions—these changes will be temporary and marginalized without concerted efforts for broader political and economic change. It is therefore necessary to envision how this current situation could lead to a more sustainable, fair, equitable, healthy, and resilient form of (economic) development going forward.

This brief manifesto signed by 170 Netherlands-based scholars working on issues around development aims to summarize what we know to be critical and successful policy strategies for moving forward during and after the crisis.

We propose five key policy proposals for a post-COVID-19 development model, all of which can be implemented immediately and sustained after this particular crisis has subsided:

1) a move away from development focused on aggregate GDP growth to differentiate among sectors that can grow and need investment (the so-called critical public sectors, and clean energy, education, health and more) and sectors that need to radically degrow due to their fundamental unsustainability or their role in driving continuous and excessive consumption (especially private sector oil, gas, mining, advertising, and so forth);

2) an economic framework focused on redistribution, which establishes a universal basic income rooted in a universal social policy system, a strong progressive taxation of income, profits and wealth, reduced working hours and job sharing, and recognizes care work and essential public services such as health and education for their intrinsic value;

3) agricultural transformation towards regenerative agriculture based on biodiversity conservation, sustainable and mostly local and vegetarian food production, as well as fair agricultural employment conditions and wages;

4) reduction of consumption and travel, with a drastic shift from luxury and wasteful consumption and travel to basic, necessary, sustainable and satisfying consumption and travel;

5) debt cancellation, especially for workers and small business owners and for countries in the global south (both from richer countries and international financial institutions).

As academics, we are convinced that this policy vision will lead to more sustainable, equal and diverse societies based on international solidarity, and ones that can better prevent and deal with shocks and pandemics to come. For us the question is no longer whether we need to start implementing these strategies, but how we go about it. As we acknowledge those groups hardest hit by this particular crisis in the Netherlands and beyond, we can do justice to them by being proactive in ensuring that a future crisis will be much less severe, cause much less suffering or not happen at all. Together with many other communities, in the Netherlands and globally, we believe the time is right for such a positive and meaningful vision going forward. We urge politicians, policy-makers and the general public to start organizing for their implementation sooner rather than later.

Signed:

  1. Murat Arsel, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  2. Ellen Bal, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  3. Bosman Batubara, IHE, Delft Universiteit en Universiteit van Amsterdam

  4. Maarten Bavinck, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  5. Pascal Beckers, Radboud Universiteit

  6. Kees Biekart, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  7. Arpita Bisht, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  8. Cebuan Bliss, Radboud Universiteit

  9. Rutgerd Boelens, Wageningen Universiteit

  10. Simone de Boer, Leiden Universiteit

  11. Jun Borras, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  12. Suzanne Brandon, Wageningen Universiteit

  13. Arjen Buijs, Wageningen Universiteit

  14. Bram Büscher, Wageningen Universiteit

  15. Amrita Chhachhi, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  16. Kristen Cheney, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  17. Robert Coates, Wageningen Universiteit

  18. Dimitris Dalakoglou, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  19. Jampel Dell’Angelo, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  20. Josephine Chambers, Wageningen Universiteit

  21. Freek Colombijn, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  22. Tine Davids, Radboud Universiteit

  23. Sierra Deutsch, Wageningen Universiteit

  24. Madi Ditmars, Afrika Studiecentrum Leiden

  25. Guus Dix, Leiden Universiteit

  26. Martijn Duineveld, Wageningen Universiteit

  27. Henk Eggens, Royal Tropical Institute

  28. Thomas Eimer, Radboud Universiteit

  29. Flávio Eiró, Radboud Universiteit

  30. Willem Elbers, Radboud Universiteit

  31. Jaap Evers, IHE Delft Universiteit

  32. Giuseppe Feola, Utrecht Universiteit

  33. Milja Fenger, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  34. Andrew Fischer, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  35. Robert Fletcher, Wageningen Universiteit

  36. Judith Floor, Open Universiteit en Wageningen Universiteit

  37. Des Gasper, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  38. Lennie Geerlings, Leiden Universiteit

  39. Julien-François Gerber, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  40. Jan Bart Gewald, African Studies Centre Leiden

  41. Sterre Gilsing, Utrecht Universiteit

  42. Cristina Grasseni, Leiden Universiteit

  43. Erella Grassiani, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  44. Joyeeta Gupta, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  45. Wendy Harcourt, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  46. Janne Heederik, Radboud Universiteit

  47. Henk van den Heuvel, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  48. Silke Heumann, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  49. Thea Hilhorst, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  50. Helen Hintjens, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  51. Geoffrey Hobbis, Groningen Universiteit

  52. Stephanie Hobbis, Wageningen Universiteit

  53. Barbara Hogenboom, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  54. Michaela Hordijk, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  55. Sabine van der Horst, Utrecht Universiteit

  56. Henk van Houtum, Radboud Universiteit

  57. Edward Huijbens, Wageningen Universiteit

  58. Kees Jansen, Wageningen Universiteit

  59. Freek Janssens, Leiden Universiteit

  60. Rosalba Icaza, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  61. Verina Ingram, Wageningen Economic Research en Wageningen Universiteit

  62. Rivke Jaffe, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  63. Shyamika Jayasundara-Smits, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  64. Joop de Jong, Amsterdam UMC

  65. Rik Jongenelen, African Studies Centre, Leiden

  66. Joost Jongerden, Wageningen Universiteit

  67. Emanuel de Kadt, Utrecht Universiteit

  68. Coco Kanters, Leiden Universiteit.

  69. Agnieszka Kazimierczuk, African Studies Centre Leiden

  70. Jeltsje Kemerink-Seyoum, IHE Delft Universiteit

  71. Thomas Kiggell, Wageningen Universiteit

  72. Mathias Koepke, Utrecht Universiteit

  73. Michiel Köhne, Wageningen Universiteit

  74. Anouk de Koning, Leiden Universiteit

  75. Kees Koonings, Utrecht Universiteit en Universiteit van Amsterdam

  76. Stasja Koot, Wageningen Universiteit

  77. Michelle Kooy, IHE Delft Universiteit

  78. Martijn Koster, Radboud Universiteit

  79. Rachel Kuran, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  80. Arnoud Lagendijk, Radboud Universiteit

  81. Corinne Lamain, Erasmus Universiteit

  82. Irene Leonardelli, IHE Delft Universiteit

  83. Maggi Leung, Utrecht Universiteit

  84. Yves van Leynseele, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  85. Janwillem Liebrand, Utrecht Universiteit

  86. Trista Chich-Chen Lin, Wageningen Universiteit

  87. Andrew Littlejohn, Leiden Universiteit

  88. Mieke Lopes-Cardozo, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  89. Erik de Maaker, Leiden Universiteit

  90. Žiga Malek, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  91. Ellen Mangnus, Wageningen Universiteit

  92. Hans Marks, Radboud Universiteit

  93. Jemma Middleton, Leiden Universiteit

  94. Irene Moretti, Leiden Universiteit.

  95. Esther Miedema, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  96. Toon van Meijl, Radboud Universiteit

  97. Miriam Meissner, Maastricht Universiteit

  98. Adam Moore, Radboud Universiteit

  99. Tsegaye Moreda, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  100. Oona Morrow, Wageningen Universiteit

  101. Farhad Mukhtarov, Erasmus Universiteit

  102. Nikki Mulder, Leiden Universiteit

  103. Mansoob Murshed, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  104. Paul Mutsaers, Radboud Universiteit

  105. Femke van Noorloos, Utrecht Universiteit

  106. Martijn Oosterbaan, Utrecht Universiteit

  107. Meghann Ormond, Wageningen Universiteit

  108. Annet Pauwelussen, Wageningen Universiteit

  109. Peter Pels, Leiden Universiteit

  110. Lee Pegler, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  111. Lorenzo Pellegrini, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  112. Yvon van der Pijl, Universiteit Utrecht

  113. Liedeke Plate, Radboud Universiteit

  114. Fernande Pool, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  115. Metje Postma, Leiden Universiteit

  116. Nicky Pouw, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  117. Crelis Rammelt, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  118. Elisabet Rasch, Wageningen Universiteit

  119. Marina de Regt, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  120. Ria Reis, Leiden Universiteit Medical Center

  121. Andro Rilović, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  122. Tobias Rinke de Wit (Universiteit van Amsterdam

  123. Claudia Rodríguez Orrego, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  124. Eva van Roekel, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  125. Mirjam Ros-Tonen, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  126. Martin Ruivenkamp, Wageningen Universiteit

  127. Ary A. Samsura, Planologie, Radboud Universiteit

  128. Annemarie Samuels, Leiden Universiteit

  129. Ton Salman, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  130. Younes Saramifar, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  131. Federico Savini, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  132. Joeri Scholtens, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  133. Mindi Schneider, Wageningen Universiteit

  134. Lau Schulpen, Radboud Universiteit

  135. Peter Schumacher, Utrecht Universiteit

  136. Amod Shah, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  137. Murtah Shannon, Utrecht Universiteit

  138. Karin Astrid Siegmann, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  139. Sven da Silva, Radboud Universiteit 140. Giulia Sinatti, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  140. Lothar Smit, Radboud Universiteit

  141. Marja Spierenburg, Leiden Universiteit

  142. Rachel Spronk, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  143. Antonia Stanojevic, Radboud Universiteit

  144. Nora Stel, Radboud Universiteit

  145. Marjo de Theije, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  146. Louis Thiemann, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  147. Lisa Trogisch, Wageningen Universiteit

  148. Wendelien Tuyp, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  149. Esther Veen, Wageningen Universiteit

  150. Lieke van der Veer, Radboud Universiteit

  151. Courtney Vegelin, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  152. Hemalatha Venkataraman, Radboud Universiteit

  153. Willemijn Verkoren, Radboud Universiteit

  154. Gerard Verschoor, Wageningen Universiteit

  155. Hebe Verrest, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  156. Bas Verschuuren, Wageningen Universiteit

  157. Mark Vicol, Wageningen Universiteit

  158. Oanne Visser, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  159. Anick Vollebergh, Radboud Universiteit

  160. Roanne van Voorst, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

  161. Pieter de Vries, Wageningen Universiteit

  162. Vincent Walstra, Leiden Universiteit.

  163. Maaike Westra, African Studies Centre Leiden

  164. Mark Westmoreland, Leiden Universiteit

  165. Niekkie Wiegink, Utrecht Universiteit

  166. Saskia Wieringa, Universiteit van Amsterdam

  167. Angela Wigger, Radboud Universiteit

  168. Han Wiskerke, Wageningen Universiteit

  169. Margreet Zwarteveen, Universiteit van Amsterdam


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