Post COVID-19: Business as usual or Game Changer?26. August 2020
The ongoing pandemic has made us do a quantum-leap in terms of tech-savviness, and new methods of working. When a vaccine is in place, the world will open up. But this means that we who work with development will have to ask ourselves a question: should we continue the way we have been doing, or should we follow new roads made possible by experiences from the times of Corona?
Covid-19 has led to setbacks regarding the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An estimate from Oxfam stipulates that this health crisis could push half a billion people back into poverty. One in six of the worlds youth population has lost their job due to the pandemic. According to UNDP, 86% of children at primary-school age in developping countries are no longer getting any education.
This is – to put it mildly, alarming.
Covid-19 is the first crisis which has had a global effect in this century, and it harms both health and economy. Since budgets for development are often based on a certain percentage of a country’s GDP, it means that this sector will be harmed, since the degree of financial support will plummet. This worldwide economic slump comes at the worst of times when we need a concerted effort to put the world back on track.
At the end of the day, it means that we will have to achieve more results with less means.
During the pandemic, NGOs and volunteers have fully embraced the new working methods. We in Norec have witnessed this first-hand: during the last six months, we have focused on how we can devise international co-operation in a digital way. Despite a steep learning-curve, we have gathered useful information on how we can co-operate across borders, even when those borders are shut. Our partners have shown a tremendous ability to embrace change. 60 out of the 70 projects we had begun pre-Covid have continued, with good results.
Pride Community Health Organization in Zambia and Life Concern Organization in Malawi are two organisations working on SRHR and HIV/AIDS. They have maintained their work digitally, meaning that people living with HIV can continue to receive vital support.
In India and Nepal the organisations IVDS and Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan have given training in ecological agricultural techniques to migrants from urban areas, and helped them to avoid falling into extreme poverty.
We could point to many more examples just like these.
Covid-19 may have closed borders, but the crisis has also made it possible for all international actors to participate on more equal terms: At the UN-held conference HLPF (High Level Political Forum) in July, all the member-states held their presentations digitally. The general impression was that the virtual conference was more democratic than the physical conference. Expensive tickets and strict visa-regulations were no longer an issue, and everyone could take part on equal terms.
If anything, the pandemic has taught us how to ensure that more voices are heard. Obviously, a digital meeting can never fully replace personal interaction. Virtual meetings might work well when there is an already established relationship, but maybe not so well when partners are meeting for the first time. Creativity blossoms among people who are in the same room, without interruptions due to varying speed of Internet and power-cuts.
But nevertheless: digital tools are too valid to disregard, and we cannot just make do with the way we did things before Covid.
Norec started out the year 2020 with 220 partners in 70 partnerships. We would like to have at least as many at the end of 2021, but with more variations in terms of how the partners conduct their co-operation. We have an upgraded toolbox with digital tools, and when Covid-19 is history, these tools will be put into full use. The combination of physical and digital tools must be the standard of development and international co-operation when the borders once again are open.