A guide as we venture out into a post-lockdown world

As the world gradually opens up after the coronavirus pandemic and people emerge from their homes, many are uncertain.

Jun 27, 2020

By Anil Netto
As the world gradually opens up after the coronavirus pandemic and people emerge from their homes, many are uncertain.

What kind of world will it be?

One thing’s for sure, we are no longer the “masters of the universe”. For a few months at least, a tiny invisible virus brought the mighty human race, with all its scientific progress, to its knees.

Now, we venture out, some of us with masks on, a bit disoriented, fearful and unsure of what the economy and the world holds for us.

For us here, the promise of a new Malaysia appears to have receded to the background as political leaders hold on to power or grapple to retake it.

The human rights situation looks worrying. People have been hauled up for expressing dissent on a range of issues. We must reiterate our commitment to international human rights law, including all related treaties – and that includes the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

Many have lost their jobs due to the lockdowns. Disturbingly, migrants and refugees have been ‘cleansed’ from certain public places, reflecting xenophobic attitudes.

Ordinary people are hurting from the economic downturn. But their voices are not heard.

I recently watched a video about life in Sarawak, and I was struck at how people had to travel from the interior, leav ing their parents and families behind, in search of jobs in towns that, unfortunately, pay poorly.

Back in the interior, electricity supply is erratic, perhaps supported by small generators. Phone and internet connectivity may not be reliable.

Life is hard. People have to supplement their wages by growing livestock or farming, especially if their traditional lands have been degraded or destroyed by logging.

Meanwhile, the Vatican has just issued a document called Journeying for the care of the common home to mark the fifth anniversary of the encyclical Laudato Si’.

Though written before the pandemic, the message is familiar, reports Vatican News: The world is interconnected. And there is a socio-environmental context to the emergence of every crisis.

The first part of the document touches on education and ecological conversion, protecting life and promoting the family, the centrality of schools and universities, and ecumenical and interreligious dia logue.

It also includes a section on the “ecology of the media”, urging the media to highlight the connection between “human destiny and the natural environment”, while empowering citizens and combating “fake news”.

The second part discusses integral ecology and integral human development. It promotes sustainable agriculture, defends the interests of small producers and natural resources, and highlights the need for healthy food education.

The document highlights the need to combat land grabbing and oppose “major agro-industrial projects that pollute the environment.

We need to do more to protect biodiversity and water as a natural resource that should not be privatised.

The second part also calls for greater investment in renewable energy: to reduce pollution and reliance on carbon and fossil fuels, moving towards clean renewable energy that would be accessible to all.

A section on socio-economic develop ment calls for greater efforts to wipe out poverty and to promote more inclusive development.

Governments must shut down tax havens and penalise financial institutions that indulge in or allow illegal activities.

Another section highlights the primacy of civil society and the “globalisation of substantive social and participatory democracy, and a long-term vision based on justice, morality and the fight against corruption” – themes which should be familiar to us in Malaysia.

This also means ensuring access to justice for all, including the poor and the marginalised.

A robust healthcare and care system that provides for all is essential. This is especially critical given the new challenges we face from pandemics and outbreaks of disease as ecological and social systems are degraded.

Importantly, the document calls for a link between the fight against climate change and the fight against poverty, in line with the social teachings of the Church.

Nations should aim for low-carbon sustainable development to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this effort, we need to do more to restore natural forests, especially in places where they have been degraded.

All said, this is an important document that should guide us – and entire nations – as we emerge from the pandemic

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