The Coronavirus pandemic has confirmed what many have been saying for decades now; we live in a system that is based on inequality and values the market more than humanity. Here are some (but by no means all) of the lessons we’ve learnt so far:
The way our economies function is weak and crumble the moment we stop spending money on things we don’t need.
The destruction of natural habitats creates ideal conditions for the spread of infectious diseases.
The most vulnerable and marginalised communities are the ones worst hit.
We have learnt something about what jobs are essential to society and how, very often, they are not paid or valued as much as they should be.
Air quality increased significantly and nature bounced back in the absence of human activity.
Despite this, carbon emissions will only drop by about 5.5% compared to 2019 which is nowhere near enough to have any real impact in the fight against climate breakdown. This highlights the chasm between individual emissions and those by big industry.
Renewable energy is much better equipped than dirty energy to see us through a crisis.
Human interaction and natural spaces are vital for our mental health.
As many countries around the world are still trying to get the virus under control and many that have are now struggling with a “second wave”, it is hard to grasp just how much of an effect this pandemic has had and will continue to have on our societies.
In the meantime, people are coming together to insist that governments and decision-makers develop recovery plans that are a lot more effective than the response to the 2008 financial crisis. Here, the culprits were bailed out with public funding putting the world back onto the same course of economic inequality leading to another inevitable downfall.
A recent study found that any reductions in emissions during the “lockdown” period will barely make a dent to the global warming effects of the climate crisis in the absence of longer-term action. The study also emphasised the importance and the opportunity a green recovery holds post-COVID 19. By not bailing out the fossil fuel industry and cutting global emissions to net-zero, we have a 55% chance of staying below 1.5℃ by 2050.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), national recovery plan recommendations were already put forward by civil society.
“The pandemic has only made what was apparent to many, extremely obvious to all - our country is barely keeping it together. The response to the virus was indeed completely illustrative of the state that BiH is in - plagued by unprofessional and poorly made decisions of party-affiliated stakeholders which only exacerbated the situation, as well as corruption affairs.”
The civil society organisation, Center for Environment together with another 26 organisations under the Eko-BiH Network, presented the local government with a list of recommendations for a sustainable recovery and public policy reform as a way forward post-COVID 19 and well into the future.
Nataša Crnković, president of Center for Environment, insisted that the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina “must rely on an economy that will be more fair and less destructive for the planet and our communities”. The recommendations tackle multiple areas including transport, urban mobility and public spaces, energy transition with an emphasis on the just transition principles, the protection of the country’s biodiversity and food sovereignty.
The recommendations were presented on the 13th of July 2020 to stakeholders and decision-makers at various levels throughout the country including relevant ministries, agencies, the EU delegation, several embassies and international organisations. So far, the coalition has only received a handful of replies and have had one meeting with the country’s ministry of transport and communications but Mr Kalaba is hopeful that their message will be heard and acted upon; “we are definitely hoping that more recipients will understand the urgency of our letter and the importance of the crucial first step in any strategy, especially of such gravity as this one - open and meaningful public dialogue.”
A Green and Just Recovery for the Balkans
Over the past few weeks, activists and organisers around the region have come together to kickstart a collaborative exercise to design a post-COVID 19 Green Recovery plan which will lay the foundations for a Balkan Green Deal.
Young Friends of the Earth (YFoE) Macedonia and SEENET have just launched a call for movements, initiatives and organisations across the Balkans to “share specific policy recommendations informed by their lived experiences and voices of the communities they work in, with and represent” which will lead to the creation of a Green and Just Recovery Plan and Open Letter to be presented to policymakers in the region.
“The Balkans are very unstable in terms of legal frameworks and government regulations coupled with huge bureaucracy as well as corruption. This region has a reputation for having ‘too much legislation and too little implementation’ and desperately needs a bold recovery plan that will help our economies and societies rebuild” explains Sofija Getova from YFoE Macedonia.
Over the next few weeks, Balkan-based groups will be able to contribute towards this “living document” as well as take part in a Regional Balkan Forum. This online event will span three days providing a space “for informal learning and skill-sharing, ensuring knowledge and experience exchange as well as gather visions and concrete steps and actions to implement the vision of the Just recovery plan and exercise the creation of the Balkan Green Deal contours.”
The process will be based on the following five principles:
Putting people’s health and wellbeing first, no exceptions.
Provide economic relief directly to the people.
Prioritise the needs of workers and communities, not corporate executives.
Create resilience for future crises.
Build solidarity and community across borders.
Any movements, initiatives or organisations interested in submitting their input to the open letter are encouraged to do so via this link. They can register for the Regional Balkan Forum here (and check out the Facebook event here). The outcomes of the open letter and forum will be presented to government institutions and media platforms across the Balkan Peninsula, as well as to relevant EU institutions.
The Author: JD Farrugia | Translation & adaptation: Simona Getova
JD has been working in project and campaign management roles since 2010, mostly within civil society but also in the private sphere, as well as the arts and culture sector. Some of these roles include: directing a CSO focused on sustainable fisheries, setting up and coordinating civil society programmes, and coordinating the programme of a community theatre. JD has an M.Sc in Environmental Management & Planning and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, both from the University of Malta. He is currently involved in various projects related to environmental causes as well as artistic projects in Malta, North Macedonia and on a European level.