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

14 Apr 2020

Creating Crisis-Resistant Policies and Institutions Post-Covid-19: Learning from UNRISD Research
This blog post is part of the UNRISD Covid-19 series, in which authors explore the uneven distribution of impacts of both the pandemic and the crisis response, as well as the social, political and economic drivers of these disparities. The series will engage UNRISD’s networks and draw on its vast body of social development research to provide evidence-based responses to the current crisis as it develops and suggest viable strategies for a future where similar crises are not only less devastating, but also less likely to happen.

The world won’t be the same

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).

The motivation for those in the "normalization" camp is to bridge the chasm opened up by the pandemic as quickly as possible, so that previous production and consumption patterns can be re-installed. This has allowed those typically identified with the right to align behind policies designed to help families and smaller businesses – furloughing, wage support, and even money for those in the gig economy. Their main aim is to avoid irreparable damage to the capacity of producers and consumers.

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 over the last three decades are held up as the culprits of the crisis. This camp draws attention to the structural and systemic issues that have made countries and governments less prepared for the crisis – austerity, inequalities, insufficient investment in essential services and social protection – and wants to push for change that improves resilience, fairness and sustainability.

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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About the Author
Ilcheong Yi is Senior Research Coordinator at UNRISD. Read his bio here.
The original post was revised for clarity and re-posted on 15 April 2020.


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This article reflects the views of the author(s) and does not necessarily represent those of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.