‘Development’ amidst the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond: Where do we go from here?
Since 2020, ‘development’ studies and practice have turned their attention to addressing the numerous local and global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to these impacts, many governments have implemented unprecedented public policy changes: states of emergency, lockdowns and movement restrictions, temporary income and basic needs supports, subsidies for businesses, and investments in health. And yet, despite the enormous upheavals presented by the virus and the global responses to it, one could argue that much remains the same.
Notwithstanding global calls to ‘leave no one behind’ and ‘build back better’, the inequity of responses within and between countries has been extreme. There is also overwhelming evidence to indicate that existing injustices on the basis of nationality, class, race, Indigeneity, gender, ability and more have intensified during the pandemic. In particular, we have witnessed the harmful impacts of border closures, mass turning away of migrants and refugees, vaccine hoarding and elite-first distribution, and a prioritization of production and extraction over worker and community safety. Furthermore, public investments to address the impacts of COVID-19 have largely been channeled through the private sector, providing new opportunities for ‘big’ business while undermining global public goods. Pharmaceutical companies maintaining patents to profit from mass global demand for vaccines despite benefiting from public funding and research is one prominent example.
Beyond this, we find ourselves in a web of several interconnected crises of which COVID-19 is only one node. Climate change, capital accumulation, and social oppression in its various forms are all crises in desperate need of action now and beyond the pandemic. However, times of crisis can present opportunities for change. In addition to state responses, we have seen an uprising in social movements and other actors fighting for change. We welcome the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2022 theme of ‘Transitions’ in thinking about the role that ‘development’ can and should play to help us break from these crises and work towards global justice. In contemplating this future, we ask: Where do we go from here?