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Corona pandemic: It's time to act

22.04.2020, PWAG on the corona crisis and its repercussions

The Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy described the corona pandemic as "a portal between one world and the next". Humans can now choose: either we walk through this portal, together with our prejudices, our hatred, our greed and our "dead ideas", polluted rivers and smoky skies, or we can leave our "baggage" behind and imagine another world for which we would then be prepared to fight. PeaceWomen Across the Globe wishes too that the pandemic can lead to a change in thinking, paving the way to the more peaceful and just world that we have been working towards for 15 years. However, without increased global solidarity and cooperation with and between civil society actors, no new world can emerge beyond the portal.

At the moment this gate to another world remains blocked. Countries are focusing their attention on saving lives, preventing hospitals from collapsing, and halting the spread of the virus. But this global pandemic also highlights the differences between the affected nations and of their societies within. The pandemic reveals fault lines.

What sort of world we will encounter on the other side of the portal also depends on answers to questions like these:

Which states rely on measures based on democratic values and which states are seizing this opportunity to enforce authoritarian regulations?

To what extent are even democratic governments willing to undermine civil liberties and rights to protect their citizens from Covid-19, now and in the future? 

Why is it that women are repeatedly affected by this pandemic? Why do they make up the majority of the inadequately paid nurses in hospitals, the carers of the elderly and the supermarket workers? 

Why are mothers again bearing the burden of responsibility for their children, having to juggle childcare and home office during school closures? 

Who is safe at home during the lockdowns and who now lives under constant threat from a violent partner?

The main question is this: what lessons can we draw from these historic experiences, in terms of economic and social "systemic relevance", equality and peace? It is unacceptable that the fault lines – and the facts – which the pandemic brought to light are subsequently being downplayed or even swept under the carpet by society and by politicians. Each and every carer, employee in the low-wage sector, double and triple burdened mother and threatened and battered woman deserves our attention and our commitment. As does democracy. 

Solidarity with our partners

The wave of solidarity is one of the positive features of this pandemic. Tens of thousands of people around the world have actively supported their elderly and frail fellow human beings, have applauded hospital staff every evening, and have joined in the protests during strikes by employees who often have to work without protective clothing so that we can place orders on the internet or shop in supermarkets. 

This solidarity must not vanish into thin air at the end of the pandemic. It will be the key to preventing the world from returning to its old normality. We must now use this solidarity to shape the world beyond the "portal".

In solidarity with our partner organisations and with project participants in the countries where we work, we are launching a Corona Emergency Fund. Some project participants are severely affected by the corona pandemic and associated government measures. This fund is intended to ensure that peacebuilding does not come to a complete standstill during the pandemic. We want to support project participants who now have to concentrate on protecting their health and on the survival of their families and loved ones. This will allow them to participate fully in Women's Peace Tables after the pandemic and to help shape peace in their countries.

What does this have to do with peace?

Our understanding of peace is based on the fact that genuine human security is the prerequisite for sustainable peace that encompasses more than the absence of war or purely physical security. Human security is based on social and economic justice, respecting human rights and civil liberties. It also includes the right to a secure livelihood and the sustainable use of natural resources. Without social, economic and gender justice, neither human nor physical security, and consequently no peace, is possible.

This is precisely where the social fault lines lie, the fault lines on which the corona pandemic is now shining its glaring light. And this is why PeaceWomen Across the Globe is calling upon civil society worldwide and in each individual country – including Switzerland – to assume its significant role as the pulse of society and as a driving force for change.

In these weeks when some countries are taking tentative steps towards normality and others continue to watch the spread of the virus with fear, civil society can organise and network, gather facts and formulate arguments, draw the important lessons from the corona pandemic and make plans to implement them. The time of silent indignation and applause from our balconies is over. It is now time to act.