Planning for post-corona: five proposals to craft a more sustainable and equal world

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The world has plunged into a state of emergency due to Covid-19 – but at some point, this particular crisis will subside. Before we return to “normal”, it is time to make a few fundamental changes, says a group of scientists from different universities in the Netherlands.

After all, there are lessons to be learned from this pandemic that should enable us to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. According to the panel made up of sociologists and environmental scientists, the novel coronavirus unearthed significant flaws in our social and economic systems.

Addressing these weak points, the panel has developed a framework of five action points for a radically more sustainable and equal world post-corona. The five-point plan appeals to the Dutch government – its criticism of current mechanisms in production and economy, however, is transferable to most countries.

COVID-19 has shaken the world. It has already led to the loss or devastation of countless lives, while many people in vital professions are working day and night to attend to the sick and stop further spread. Personal and social losses, and the fight to stop these, demand our continued respect and support. At the same time, it is critical to view this pandemic in historical context in order to avoid repeating past mistakes when we plan for the future.

The fact that COVID-19 has already had such a major economic impact is due, amongst other factors, to the economic development model that has been dominant globally over the last 30 years. This model demands ever-growing circulation of goods and people, despite the countless ecological problems and growing inequalities it generates. Over the last few weeks, the weaknesses of the neoliberal growth machine have been painfully exposed. Amongst other issues we have seen: large companies pleading for immediate state support once effective demand falls away for even a short time; insecure jobs being lost or put on hold; and further strain placed on already underfunded healthcare systems. People who recently confronted the government in their struggles for recognition and decent salaries are now, remarkably, considered to have ‘vital professions’ in healthcare, elderly care, public transport and education.

A further weakness of the current system, and one that is not yet prominent in discussions of the pandemic, is the link between economic development, the loss of biodiversity and important ecosystem functions, and the opportunity for diseases like COVID-19 to spread among humans. These are lethal links and could become much more so. The WHO has already estimated that, globally, 4.2 million people die each year from outdoor air pollution, and that the impacts of climate change are expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. Experts warn that with further severe degradation of ecosystems – a scenario that is to be expected under the current economic model – chances for further and even stronger virus outbreaks on top of these unfolding catastrophes are realistic.

All this requires drastic and integrated action and makes it critical to start planning for a postCOVID-19 world as soon as possible.

While some short-term positive social and environmental impacts have emerged in the crisis—such as community support, local organizing and solidarity, less pollution and GHG emissions—these changes will be temporary and marginalized without concerted efforts for broader political and economic change. It is therefore necessary to envision how this current situation could lead to a more sustainable, fair, equitable, healthy, and resilient form of (economic) development going forward.

This brief manifesto signed by 170 Netherlands-based scholars working on issues around development aims to summarize what we know to be critical and successful policy strategies for moving forward during and after the crisis.

We propose five key policy proposals for a post-COVID-19 development model, all of which can be implemented immediately and sustained after this particular crisis has subsided:

1) a move away from development focused on aggregate GDP growth to differentiate among sectors that can grow and need investment (the so-called critical public sectors, and clean energy, education, health and more) and sectors that need to radically degrow due to their fundamental unsustainability or their role in driving continuous and excessive consumption (especially private sector oil, gas, mining, advertising, and so forth);

2) an economic framework focused on redistribution, which establishes a universal basic income rooted in a universal social policy system, a strong progressive taxation of income, profits and wealth, reduced working hours and job sharing, and recognizes care work and essential public services such as health and education for their intrinsic value;

3) agricultural transformation towards regenerative agriculture based on biodiversity conservation, sustainable and mostly local and vegetarian food production, as well as fair agricultural employment conditions and wages;

4) reduction of consumption and travel, with a drastic shift from luxury and wasteful consumption and travel to basic, necessary, sustainable and satisfying consumption and travel;

5) debt cancellation, especially for workers and small business owners and for countries in the global south (both from richer countries and international financial institutions).

As academics, we are convinced that this policy vision will lead to more sustainable, equal and diverse societies based on international solidarity, and ones that can better prevent and deal with shocks and pandemics to come.

For us the question is no longer whether we need to start implementing these strategies, but how we go about it. As we acknowledge those groups hardest hit by this particular crisis in the Netherlands and beyond, we can do justice to them by being proactive in ensuring that a future crisis will be much less severe, cause much less suffering or not happen at all.

Together with many other communities, in the Netherlands and globally, we believe the time is right for such a positive and meaningful vision going forward. We urge politicians, policy-makers and the general public to start organizing for their implementation sooner rather than later.



1. Murat Arsel, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 2. Ellen Bal, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 3. Bosman Batubara, IHE, Delft Universiteit en Universiteit van Amsterdam 4. Maarten Bavinck, Universiteit van Amsterdam 5. Pascal Beckers, Radboud Universiteit 6. Kees Biekart, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 7. Arpita Bisht, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 8. Cebuan Bliss, Radboud Universiteit 9. Rutgerd Boelens, Wageningen Universiteit 10. Simone de Boer, Leiden Universiteit 11. Jun Borras, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 12. Suzanne Brandon, Wageningen Universiteit 13. Arjen Buijs, Wageningen Universiteit 14. Bram Büscher, Wageningen Universiteit 15. Amrita Chhachhi, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 16. Kristen Cheney, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 17. Robert Coates, Wageningen Universiteit 18. Dimitris Dalakoglou, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 19. Jampel Dell’Angelo, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 20. Josephine Chambers, Wageningen Universiteit 21. Freek Colombijn, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 22. Tine Davids, Radboud Universiteit 23. Sierra Deutsch, Wageningen Universiteit 24. Madi Ditmars, Afrika Studiecentrum Leiden 25. Guus Dix, Leiden Universiteit 26. Martijn Duineveld, Wageningen Universiteit 27. Henk Eggens, Royal Tropical Institute 28. Thomas Eimer, Radboud Universiteit 29. Flávio Eiró, Radboud Universiteit 30. Willem Elbers, Radboud Universiteit 31. Jaap Evers, IHE Delft Universiteit 32. Giuseppe Feola, Utrecht Universiteit 33. Milja Fenger, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 34. Andrew Fischer, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 35. Robert Fletcher, Wageningen Universiteit 36. Judith Floor, Open Universiteit en Wageningen Universiteit 37. Des Gasper, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 38. Lennie Geerlings, Leiden Universiteit 39. Julien-François Gerber, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 40. Jan Bart Gewald, African Studies Centre Leiden 41. Sterre Gilsing, Utrecht Universiteit 42. Cristina Grasseni, Leiden Universiteit 43. Erella Grassiani, Universiteit van Amsterdam 44. Joyeeta Gupta, Universiteit van Amsterdam 45. Wendy Harcourt, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 46. Janne Heederik, Radboud Universiteit 47. Henk van den Heuvel, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 48. Silke Heumann, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 49. Thea Hilhorst, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 50. Helen Hintjens, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 51. Geoffrey Hobbis, Groningen Universiteit 52. Stephanie Hobbis, Wageningen Universiteit 53. Barbara Hogenboom, Universiteit van Amsterdam 54. Michaela Hordijk, Universiteit van Amsterdam 55. Sabine van der Horst, Utrecht Universiteit 56. Henk van Houtum, Radboud Universiteit 57. Edward Huijbens, Wageningen Universiteit 58. Kees Jansen, Wageningen Universiteit 59. Freek Janssens, Leiden Universiteit 60. Rosalba Icaza, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 61. Verina Ingram, Wageningen Economic Research en Wageningen Universiteit 62. Rivke Jaffe, Universiteit van Amsterdam 63. Shyamika Jayasundara-Smits, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 64. Joop de Jong, Amsterdam UMC 65. Rik Jongenelen, African Studies Centre, Leiden 66. Joost Jongerden, Wageningen Universiteit 67. Emanuel de Kadt, Utrecht Universiteit 68. Coco Kanters, Leiden Universiteit. 69. Agnieszka Kazimierczuk, African Studies Centre Leiden 70. Jeltsje Kemerink-Seyoum, IHE Delft Universiteit 71. Thomas Kiggell, Wageningen Universiteit 72. Mathias Koepke, Utrecht Universiteit 73. Michiel Köhne, Wageningen Universiteit 74. Anouk de Koning, Leiden Universiteit 75. Kees Koonings, Utrecht Universiteit en Universiteit van Amsterdam 76. Stasja Koot, Wageningen Universiteit 77. Michelle Kooy, IHE Delft Universiteit 78. Martijn Koster, Radboud Universiteit 79. Rachel Kuran, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 80. Arnoud Lagendijk, Radboud Universiteit 81. Corinne Lamain, Erasmus Universiteit 82. Irene Leonardelli, IHE Delft Universiteit 83. Maggi Leung, Utrecht Universiteit 84. Yves van Leynseele, Universiteit van Amsterdam 85. Janwillem Liebrand, Utrecht Universiteit 86. Trista Chich-Chen Lin, Wageningen Universiteit 87. Andrew Littlejohn, Leiden Universiteit 88. Mieke Lopes-Cardozo, Universiteit van Amsterdam 89. Erik de Maaker, Leiden Universiteit 90. Žiga Malek, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 91. Ellen Mangnus, Wageningen Universiteit 92. Hans Marks, Radboud Universiteit 93. Jemma Middleton, Leiden Universiteit 94. Irene Moretti, Leiden Universiteit. 95. Esther Miedema, Universiteit van Amsterdam 96. Toon van Meijl, Radboud Universiteit 97. Miriam Meissner, Maastricht Universiteit 98. Adam Moore, Radboud Universiteit 99. Tsegaye Moreda, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 100. Oona Morrow, Wageningen Universiteit 101. Farhad Mukhtarov, Erasmus Universiteit 102. Nikki Mulder, Leiden Universiteit 103. Mansoob Murshed, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 104. Paul Mutsaers, Radboud Universiteit 105. Femke van Noorloos, Utrecht Universiteit 106. Martijn Oosterbaan, Utrecht Universiteit 107. Meghann Ormond, Wageningen Universiteit 108. Annet Pauwelussen, Wageningen Universiteit 109. Peter Pels, Leiden Universiteit 110. Lee Pegler, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 111. Lorenzo Pellegrini, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 112. Yvon van der Pijl, Universiteit Utrecht 113. Liedeke Plate, Radboud Universiteit 114. Fernande Pool, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 115. Metje Postma, Leiden Universiteit 116. Nicky Pouw, Universiteit van Amsterdam 117. Crelis Rammelt, Universiteit van Amsterdam 118. Elisabet Rasch, Wageningen Universiteit 119. Marina de Regt, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 120. Ria Reis, Leiden Universiteit Medical Center 121. Andro Rilović, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 122. Tobias Rinke de Wit (Universiteit van Amsterdam 123. Claudia Rodríguez Orrego, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 124. Eva van Roekel, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 125. Mirjam Ros-Tonen, Universiteit van Amsterdam 126. Martin Ruivenkamp, Wageningen Universiteit 127. Ary A. Samsura, Planologie, Radboud Universiteit 128. Annemarie Samuels, Leiden Universiteit 129. Ton Salman, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 130. Younes Saramifar, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 131. Federico Savini, Universiteit van Amsterdam 132. Joeri Scholtens, Universiteit van Amsterdam 133. Mindi Schneider, Wageningen Universiteit 134. Lau Schulpen, Radboud Universiteit 135. Peter Schumacher, Utrecht Universiteit 136. Amod Shah, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 137. Murtah Shannon, Utrecht Universiteit 138. Karin Astrid Siegmann, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 139. Sven da Silva, Radboud Universiteit 140. Giulia Sinatti, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 141. Lothar Smit, Radboud Universiteit 142. Marja Spierenburg, Leiden Universiteit 143. Rachel Spronk, Universiteit van Amsterdam 144. Antonia Stanojevic, Radboud Universiteit 145. Nora Stel, Radboud Universiteit 146. Marjo de Theije, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 147. Louis Thiemann, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 148. Lisa Trogisch, Wageningen Universiteit 149. Wendelien Tuyp, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 150. Esther Veen, Wageningen Universiteit 151. Lieke van der Veer, Radboud Universiteit 152. Courtney Vegelin, Universiteit van Amsterdam 153. Hemalatha Venkataraman, Radboud Universiteit 154. Willemijn Verkoren, Radboud Universiteit 155. Gerard Verschoor, Wageningen Universiteit 156. Hebe Verrest, Universiteit van Amsterdam 157. Bas Verschuuren, Wageningen Universiteit 158. Mark Vicol, Wageningen Universiteit 159. Oanne Visser, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 160. Anick Vollebergh, Radboud Universiteit 161. Roanne van Voorst, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam 162. Pieter de Vries, Wageningen Universiteit 163. Vincent Walstra, Leiden Universiteit. 164. Maaike Westra, African Studies Centre Leiden 165. Mark Westmoreland, Leiden Universiteit 166. Niekkie Wiegink, Utrecht Universiteit 167. Saskia Wieringa, Universiteit van Amsterdam 168. Angela Wigger, Radboud Universiteit 169. Han Wiskerke, Wageningen Universiteit 170. Margreet Zwarteveen, Universiteit van Amsterdam