Global Crisis Spurs Global Activism

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Above photo: From WILPF.

The COVID-19 Global Solidarity Coalition launches a manifesto for change.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s global spread has highlighted inequities in the world like inequality of income and access to resources in many communities. The response to the crisis has been a varied patchwork of public health measures and economic assistance, but in most countries, those with wealth and access to resources have fared significantly better than poor and marginalized communities.

Now, a group of more than sixty academics, activists, writers, artists, workers, students, and others from more than twenty countries have come together to draft a manifesto addressing these inequities and offer some guideposts for a people-centered alternative response.

Launching Saturday May 23, the COVID-19 Global Solidarity Manifesto seeks to “offer a vision of the world we are building, the world we are demanding, the world we will achieve.” The manifesto has already been translated into seventeen languages, and nearly 3,000 people had signed the document in support prior to its first public release.

Sign the Manifesto: English: 

The writers of the document include Peter Kuznick, professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University. Kuznick also co-authored, with filmmaker Oliver Stone, the documentary series and companion book The Untold History of the United States. Kuznick told The Progressive, “This is a time when people are seeing their interconnectedness more clearly than they have in the past.”

The stark contrasts created by the pandemic’s impacts on different communities have highlighted what Kuznick says have been “four decades of the ravages of neoliberal economic policy, as well as in the context of the major existential threats confronting our species now—climate and the nuclear threat.”

We cannot approach these threats with the nineteenth and twentieth century models of nation states in conflict, he says. “What we’re trying to do is show that it’s possible, and necessary, to be approaching this through our common humanity. And looking at the real underlying causes [of inequality] enables us as a global community [to do so].”

The manifesto itself is structured in many ways like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the United Nations more than seventy years ago. The points are simple and universal—all people deserve health care, there should be a cessation of global military conflicts and an abolition of nuclear weapons, all workers have a right to protections on the job, and there must be a guarantee of freedom of expression and an end to “surveillance, detention without trial, and restrictions on basic human rights to assembly.”

But the manifesto goes beyond the UDHR in calling for a “fundamental redistribution” of economic wealth to address many of these issues. “Every human being must have the opportunity to live a healthy, creative, and fulfilling life, free of the ravages of poverty, exploitation, and domination,” it states.

Peter Kuznick sees this redistribution as key to many of the problems exacerbated by COVID-19. Imagine, he suggests, “somebody coming down from another planet, looking at a world in which the richest eight people own more wealth, the poorest 3.8 billion people—they would see this as a totally irrational way to organize the world.”

Two online events were scheduled for Saturday May 23 to launch the manifesto, with a goal of getting many more individuals and organizations to sign on. But really, this is just a beginning. Watch the first here and the second here.

Sign the Manifesto: English: 

“Going forward, we’re going to be having webinars, we are going to be linking up with other groups around the world that are doing similar kinds of things and amplifying their efforts in their own countries,” says Kuznick. But the document’s drafters are clear they do not have all the answers. “We’ve got a lot of questions,” Kuznick explains, “and a certain methodology for thinking about this, a global perspective and a human perspective.”

As the manifesto’s preamble emphasizes, “We, people around the world, will seize this historical moment. We are building solidarity at every level: local, national, global. Despite the need to physically distance, we are building mutual aid groups, community networks, and social movements.”

And, they invite the world to join them by signing the petition and getting involved.