The Great Reset after COVID-19 must put people first


(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Amol Mehra, Director of Programmes, Laudes Foundation

• COVID-19 has exposed many underlying structural and institutional inequalities.

• Social movements are pushing for action on putting people first.

• Governments, business and the philanthropic sector must lead in creating a fairer world.

Much has been written in recent months around the challenges and responses to the pandemic of COVID-19. The debate originated with the relative preparedness of our healthcare and crisis systems to deal with unexpected disasters, but quickly morphed into a discussion of the underlying structural and institutional inequities that have been revealed. These conditions – poverty, marginalization and social exclusion – are not themselves products of the coronavirus, but magnify its impact.

This highlights an aspect of our current market system, where those that are marginalized face the highest risk precisely due to the nature and consequences of their exclusion. Farm workers, factory workers, migrant workers and platform workers toil with minimal or no protections, including access to healthcare. The Brookings Institution has explored the differential impacts of the pandemic on class divides in America, noting the wide gaps by income class in both the risk being posed by infection and levels of response. The World Bank has also released a thorough study on south Asia, noting the impact of the pandemic will hit hard on low-income people, especially informal workers in the hospitality, retail trade and transport sectors who have limited or no access to healthcare or social safety nets. Even further, the study reveals that a protracted crisis may threaten food security, particularly for the most vulnerable.


This is the core of the challenge, and moreover the opportunity, that the COVID-19 crisis presents. Ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment are urgently needed, but alongside these efforts, deep structural reforms predicated on putting “people and the planet” at centre stage and supported by social movements are the necessary building blocks for transformation.

For governments, this translates into the full spectrum of interventions, from macroeconomic policy and bailouts, to public procurement criteria and processes. Each area where governments can set, condition, incentivize or buy in the market must be examined, and reforms must be promoted that build environmental and labour standards at their core. At the same time, social protection schemes must be built and supported to address economic and social risks exacerbated by the crisis. Work is underway with organisations like GIZ in Bangladesh, building worker advocacy for employment injury insurance as factories reopen with minimum protections in place. The need for more such efforts is glaringly apparent in countries where reliance on export markets has increased risks of poverty and inequality due to their disruption.

The reputation of business has suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic
The reputation of business has suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic
Image: Edelman

Businesses are also beginning to understand that the focus on short-term profit maximization is no longer tenable. The recent Edelman Trust Barometer notes that only 38% of people believe that business is doing well or very well at putting people before profits. Businesses must therefore work to address and be accountable to the broad range of impacts that their operations have across stakeholder groups and the environment. Doing so must be a condition of doing business, not simply a competitive factor between business. This may soon become reality with European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, announcing in April 2020 that he will introduce legislation on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence for companies as part of the Commission’s 2021 work plan and the European Green Deal.

Philanthropy too has a unique opportunity to contribute to this effort. We must remember that policy, without people, has no power. Therefore, philanthropic resources should support communities, workers and social movements more than ever to drive demand for reforms and ensure their implementation. Donor collaboratives, including Funders Organized for Rights in the Global Economy (FORGE), bringing together the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Laudes Foundation and others, are moving in this direction and collaborating to address short-term needs and build long-term solutions towards a rights-based economy.

These efforts and more are showing early potential in building an inclusive, just economy. The World Economic Forum has recently launched “The Great Reset” – an initiative to build a more fair, sustainable and resilient future that addresses the underlying structural and institutional inequities that have been revealed. As this initiative scales and the global community responds to the pandemic and economic consequences it has wrought, we must continue to seize the opportunity to transform our systems. Prioritizing “people and the planet” and supporting communities, workers and social movements can ensure we do just this.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

The Indian author Arundhati Roy writes: “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.” Our fight against this global pandemic must also be, as Roy suggests, a fight for another world.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

UN human rights chief warns of women’s rights complacency

UN summit tackles climate change-induced threat to mountain water supplies

Companies ‘failing’ to address offline harm incited by online hate: UN expert

Iceland’s slowdown underlines the need to fix structural issues

UN ‘stands in solidarity’ with cyclone-hit India – Secretary-General Guterres

I have a rare disease. This is my hope for the future of medicine

How LA plans to be 1.6°C cooler by 2050

Why the internet is yesterday’s news in China’s digital leap forward

A Sting Exclusive: “Asia-Pacific response to COVID-19 and climate emergency must build a resilient and sustainable future”, by the United Nations Under-Secretary-General

7 ways for businesses to capture the youth dividend

How I met the Panda Woman

The von der Leyen Commission: for a Union that strives for more

Remarks by President Juncker at the joint press conference with President Tusk ahead of the G20 Summit

Coronaviruses: the truth against the myths

On Brexit: the outcome of UK elections next May to be based on false promises?

Brain Drain remains a crucial and unresolved issue

Food supply chain: A step closer to ending unfair trading

‘Water-forecasting’ and fish farms fed on waste: how innovation is driving the blue economy

Canada leading the way on women’s inclusion and empowerment, says OECD

These 4 trends are shaping the future of your job

Here are 4 of the most politically charged World Cup games ever played

A Europe that protects: EU reports on progress in fighting disinformation ahead of European Council

Africa’s inspiring innovators show what the future could hold

Zero carbon buildings are possible following these four steps

Partnerships with civil society and youth ‘essential’ for a future that leaves no one behind: General Assembly President

Facebook wins EU approval for WhatsApp acquisition; just a sign of the times

How leaders can use ‘agile governance’ to drive tech and win trust

A Sting Exclusive: “Seize the opportunity offered by Africa’s continental free trade area”, written by the Director General of UNIDO

Look Mom, even the House of Lords says the #righttobeforgotten is not right

Women’s work faces the greatest risk of automation, says new research

Electronic cigarette: a still controversial qualitative imbalance

Earth Hour 2019: switch off your lights, and become an innovator

New Disability Inclusion Strategy is ‘transformative change we need’, says Guterres

Combat against devastating effects of tobacco can only be won ‘if the UN stands united’ – UN health official

Everyone’s ‘buy-in’ needed to restore peace in Kosovo, UN envoy tells Security Council

These 5 start-ups are shaping the future of Africa’s cities

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate Change needs to be demystified”, Anneli Jättenmäki Vice President of European Parliament underscores from Brussels

When is Berlin telling the truth about the EU banking union?

FROM THE FIELD: India’s plastic waste revolution

Mediterranean and Black Seas: Commission proposes fishing opportunities for 2020

European Commission calls on national political parties to join efforts to ensure free and fair elections in Europe

Britain’s Brexit election is its most volatile in memory – and 3 other superlatives about the snap poll

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Poverty report reveals ‘vast inequalities’, measles compounds DRC Ebola woes, Guterres visits Mozambique, Bangladesh update, freedom of expression online

Foreign direct investments the success secrete of Eurozone

The technologies – and thoughtful collaborations – that can build resilience in the food system after COVID-19

Britain in chaos: May stays as Tory leader and PM but none can defuse the Brexit time bomb

The EU will always have a stable partner in Montenegro, says President Đukanović

The refugee crisis brings to light EU’s most horrible flaws and nightmares

MWC 2016 LIVE: Freemium MVNO model a success, claims FreedomPop head

Which country offers the cheapest mobile data?

UN working to prevent attacks on civilians in eastern DR Congo

Moving from commitment to action on LGBTI equality

Children are forgetting the names for plants and animals

Bureaucracy in the member states again the obstacle for long due strong European Hedge Funds

How one traumatised child survived genocide and started a movement for mental health

EU budget: Stepping up the EU’s role as a security and defence provider

Work Together to Build a New Type of International Relations and a Community with a Shared Future for Humanity

One billion people have preventable eye conditions, increasingly linked to lifestyle choices: UN health agency

Counting spillovers from the fast track EU-US free trade agreement

These are the world’s most fragile states in 2019

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s