FoE APAC STATEMENT April 26, 2020
COVID-19: An Opportunity for System Change
In light of International Seeds Day, today, we want to plant a seed of hope for a better planet. Covid-19 has revealed the urgent need for system change and solidarity. It has shown that all our struggles are interconnected.
It has been more than a month since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of Covid-19 a pandemic. Since then many countries around the world and especially in the Asia Pacific region, have imposed various stages of movement restrictions or lockdowns. Worldwide, more than 2.6 million people in over 185 countries and territories have been infected with the virus and more than 181,000 people have died. This crisis has already caused tremendous impacts, some of them beyond repair and has revealed that free market capitalism has failed to protect people’s basic health and welfare. This is an economic system that favours multinational corporations, and has oppressed people all over the world, especially those living in the global south.
This will not be the first time it has been stated that the Covid-19 outbreak was a result of a collapse of our already fragile ecosystems which we all depend on. The poor, vulnerable and the marginalised will be disproportionately impacted by the global outbreak.
While we are witnessing significant impacts and threats to communities and the natural world during Covid-19, we are also witnessing people engaging in real system change around us as communities embrace the widespread exchange of mutual aid, sharing protective equipment, food and other increasingly scarce resources during lockdown to keep each other safe and well. We are seeing system change with new forms of activism flourishing, from closing streets to cars, running online rallies as people refuse to be silenced and continue to make their voices heard. We can and must build on these powerful expressions of solidarity that demonstrate people and communities have their own power.
The global outbreak is a historical moment and marks a fork in the road for the failed economic practise of neoliberalism. We have the chance to steer away from this destructive path, to re-imagine and create political and economic systems that put the protection of life and the planet before profits.
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific through its member groups have documented the realities on the ground and the multitude of impacts being experienced throughout the region as a result of Covid-19 and government reactions, as well as a set of demands toward governments and multilateral institutions.
Impacts and Threats:
The pandemic and governments’ response measures have caused colossal damage, fracturing economies and bringing the world almost to a standstill and will not fade away quickly. Covid-19 is not our only problem, we have been mired in a whirlwind of crises that have brought us to where we are today. It is clear that we cannot go back to business as usual. We need to re-examine the way we live and the system that played a part in contributing to the cause of this outbreak. Every one of us is impacted, but some are more impacted than others due to existing unjust systems of oppression created by colonialism, racism, gender and class.
In light of this crisis Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific demands that:
We have the opportunity now to turn this around, to change the dominant neoliberal economic paradigm that has generated inequality, hunger, loss of democracy, devastation of territories and livelihoods, destructive climate change, biodiversity loss, land-grabbing and increased corporate human rights abuse. This is a system that has contributed to this Covid-19 crisis. In some places, the movement restriction measures or lockdowns imposed have actually brought about some positivity like cleaner air, clearer skies and cleaner rivers and beaches, but the reality remains that this crisis has caused huge social and economic costs to the poor, lower middle income and the marginalised.
FoE Asia Pacific believes that system change is possible. We need to create sustainable societies and new relations between human beings, and between human beings and nature, based on equity and reciprocity. To create these societies and assert people’s rights we need to increase people’s power. This means transforming our economic, food and energy systems based on genuine, radical thus swift, just democracies centred around people’s sovereignty and participation.
Finally, FoE Asia Pacific is sending a message of solidarity and strength to all those affected by the coronavirus. We express our immense gratitude to the healthcare workers on the frontlines facing stark personal risks in order to provide care to people. We thank everyone who has played a part during these difficult times in the provision of the much needed essential services to the majority who have stayed home to curb the spread of the virus. This is a time for solidarity, mutual aid, resilience and creative resistance. We need to protect each other, and the vital ecosystems we all depend on, and will rebuild away from a world that served a small minority of the rich and corporations, but to all the people and Mother Earth.
Friends of Earth International’s political analysis on the pandemic crisis (15th April) can be found in here: https://www.foei.org/news/covid-19-coronavirus-crisis-system-change
Individual FoE APac member groups’ national statements (up to 26th April):
FoE Australia (30th March)
FoE Indonesia – Wahana Lingkugan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) (22nd April)
FoE Malaysia – Sahabat Alam Malaysia (22nd April)
FoE Sri Lanka – Centre for Environmental Justice (21st April)
For further information, please contact:
FoE Asia Pacific Regional Facilitator
FoE Asia Pacific Communications Coordinator