The ‘Team Europe’ approach should be a rallying point for the active engagement of EU member states and financial institutions, to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. While keeping its priorities, notably towards a value-based approach, resilient health systems, a greening of the recovery and digitalisation, the EU should put greater emphasis on food security and sustainable food systems. Moreover, women should have a central place in the EU’s global response 2.0.
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all of us, but to differing extents. Overstretched health care systems, curfews, unemployment and school closures are posing challenges and pushing people beyond their ability to cope. The consequences of the pandemic will be felt in both, the short and long term. However, the longer term health, economic and social impact can only be estimated at present.
The Covid-19 pandemic not only threatens to undo development gains and reverse progress in achieving the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda. It also presents an early and serious test for the reform of the UN development system (UNDS), where major reform decisions were taken in 2018 to reposition the UNDS for improved, integrated and strategic support in line with the 2030 Agenda’s interlinked nature.
European Commission published its Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system, one of the Green Deal’s 11 components. In its general principles, the strategy sets an ambitious course for the transformation of the entire sector, in line with recent scientific findings modelling sustainable food systems. Achieving the drafted objectives will, however, require going a step further by making this strategy the reference framework for the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the deployment of industrial strategies in the food sector (particularly in the context of the negotiations of the post-Covid-19 crisis recovery plans) and the (re)negotiation of international trade agreements.
Governments around the world have restricted basic democratic rights such as freedom of assembly, stepped up state monitoring of citizens, muzzled the media with new laws and arrests, and expanded their own powers as part of their Covid-19 policy. Those making foreign and development policy must monitor this carefully. The Covid-19 pandemic is a catalyst for democracy’s demise.
COVID-19 triggered a collapse in oil prices from approximately 60 to 20 dollars per barrel between January and April 2020. Signs of a rebound are visible but prices remain well below the breakeven for many producers. If prices stay this low for long, or if they fall again after a partial rally in a relapse scenario, the world may witness a crisis within the crisis, with even further adverse effects on the world economy.
Debt relief is back. Again. The “once-in-a-generation” debt cancellation of 15 years ago has returned to the agenda as indebted countries struggle to finance their response to Covid-19. Suspending collection of debt repayments is one practical thing – among others – that rich countries can do relatively quickly to free up money for poor countries during this crisis.
The One Health approach is particularly relevant to tackle threats like COVID-19 because it links the health of humans, animals, plants and their shared environments. The current health emergency highlights the importance of these links, and offers an opportunity to place food systems at the centre of One Health actions.
Because of COVID-19, many European companies are understandably focusing on their financial figures and the safety and wellbeing of their direct employees. Given the gravity of the crisis, the larger supply chain and the human rights and environmental due diligence therein risks falling off their agenda. But do these difficult times absolve companies from their due diligence responsibilities?
In fragile and conflict-affected settings, Covid-19 is increasing vulnerabilities and tensions caused by unequal access to already strained (and often inexistent) social and medical services. This is particularly true for young people – one in every four of whom live in such areas.