Planning for Post-Corona: Five proposals to craft a radically more sustainable and equal world

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.

The original text was first published here.


Murat Arsel, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Ellen Bal, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Bosman Batubara, IHE, Delft Universiteit en Universiteit van Amsterdam

Maarten Bavinck, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Pascal Beckers, Radboud Universiteit

Kees Biekart, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Arpita Bisht, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Cebuan Bliss, Radboud Universiteit

Rutgerd Boelens, Wageningen Universiteit

Simone de Boer, Leiden Universiteit

Jun Borras, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Suzanne Brandon, Wageningen Universiteit

Arjen Buijs, Wageningen Universiteit

Bram Büscher, Wageningen Universiteit

Amrita Chhachhi, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Kristen Cheney, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Robert Coates, Wageningen Universiteit

Dimitris Dalakoglou, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Jampel Dell’Angelo, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Josephine Chambers, Wageningen Universiteit

Freek Colombijn, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Tine Davids, Radboud Universiteit

Sierra Deutsch, Wageningen Universiteit

Madi Ditmars, Afrika Studiecentrum Leiden

Guus Dix, Leiden Universiteit

Martijn Duineveld, Wageningen Universiteit

Henk Eggens, Royal Tropical Institute

Thomas Eimer, Radboud Universiteit

Flávio Eiró, Radboud Universiteit

Willem Elbers, Radboud Universiteit

Jaap Evers, IHE Delft Universiteit

Giuseppe Feola, Utrecht Universiteit

Milja Fenger, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Andrew Fischer, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Robert Fletcher, Wageningen Universiteit

Judith Floor, Open Universiteit en Wageningen Universiteit

Des Gasper, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Lennie Geerlings, Leiden Universiteit

Julien-François Gerber, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Jan Bart Gewald, African Studies Centre Leiden

Sterre Gilsing, Utrecht Universiteit

Cristina Grasseni, Leiden Universiteit

Erella Grassiani, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Joyeeta Gupta, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Wendy Harcourt, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Janne Heederik, Radboud Universiteit

Henk van den Heuvel, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Silke Heumann, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Thea Hilhorst, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Helen Hintjens, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Geoffrey Hobbis, Groningen Universiteit

Stephanie Hobbis, Wageningen Universiteit

Barbara Hogenboom, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Michaela Hordijk, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Sabine van der Horst, Utrecht Universiteit

Henk van Houtum, Radboud Universiteit

Edward Huijbens, Wageningen Universiteit

Kees Jansen, Wageningen Universiteit

Freek Janssens, Leiden Universiteit

Rosalba Icaza, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Verina Ingram, Wageningen Economic Research en Wageningen Universiteit

Rivke Jaffe, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Shyamika Jayasundara-Smits, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Joop de Jong, Amsterdam UMC

Rik Jongenelen, African Studies Centre, Leiden

Joost Jongerden, Wageningen Universiteit

Emanuel de Kadt, Utrecht Universiteit

Coco Kanters, Leiden Universiteit.

Agnieszka Kazimierczuk, African Studies Centre Leiden

Jeltsje Kemerink-Seyoum, IHE Delft Universiteit

Thomas Kiggell, Wageningen Universiteit

Mathias Koepke, Utrecht Universiteit

Michiel Köhne, Wageningen Universiteit

Anouk de Koning, Leiden Universiteit

Kees Koonings, Utrecht Universiteit en Universiteit van Amsterdam

Stasja Koot, Wageningen Universiteit

Michelle Kooy, IHE Delft Universiteit

Martijn Koster, Radboud Universiteit

Rachel Kuran, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Arnoud Lagendijk, Radboud Universiteit

Corinne Lamain, Erasmus Universiteit

Irene Leonardelli, IHE Delft Universiteit

Maggi Leung, Utrecht Universiteit

Yves van Leynseele, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Janwillem Liebrand, Utrecht Universiteit

Trista Chich-Chen Lin, Wageningen Universiteit

Andrew Littlejohn, Leiden Universiteit

Mieke Lopes-Cardozo, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Erik de Maaker, Leiden Universiteit

Žiga Malek, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Ellen Mangnus, Wageningen Universiteit

Hans Marks, Radboud Universiteit

Jemma Middleton, Leiden Universiteit

Irene Moretti, Leiden Universiteit.

Esther Miedema, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Toon van Meijl, Radboud Universiteit

Miriam Meissner, Maastricht Universiteit

Adam Moore, Radboud Universiteit

Tsegaye Moreda, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Oona Morrow, Wageningen Universiteit

Farhad Mukhtarov, Erasmus Universiteit

Nikki Mulder, Leiden Universiteit

Mansoob Murshed, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Paul Mutsaers, Radboud Universiteit

Femke van Noorloos, Utrecht Universiteit

Martijn Oosterbaan, Utrecht Universiteit

Meghann Ormond, Wageningen Universiteit

Annet Pauwelussen, Wageningen Universiteit

Peter Pels, Leiden Universiteit

Lee Pegler, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Lorenzo Pellegrini, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Yvon van der Pijl, Universiteit Utrecht

Liedeke Plate, Radboud Universiteit

Fernande Pool, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Metje Postma, Leiden Universiteit

Nicky Pouw, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Crelis Rammelt, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Elisabet Rasch, Wageningen Universiteit

Marina de Regt, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Ria Reis, Leiden Universiteit Medical Center

Andro Rilović, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Tobias Rinke de Wit (Universiteit van Amsterdam

Claudia Rodríguez Orrego, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Eva van Roekel, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Mirjam Ros-Tonen, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Martin Ruivenkamp, Wageningen Universiteit

Ary A. Samsura, Planologie, Radboud Universiteit

Annemarie Samuels, Leiden Universiteit

Ton Salman, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Younes Saramifar, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Federico Savini, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Joeri Scholtens, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Mindi Schneider, Wageningen Universiteit

Lau Schulpen, Radboud Universiteit

Peter Schumacher, Utrecht Universiteit

Amod Shah, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Murtah Shannon, Utrecht Universiteit

Karin Astrid Siegmann, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Sven da Silva, Radboud Universiteit 140. Giulia Sinatti, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Lothar Smit, Radboud Universiteit

Marja Spierenburg, Leiden Universiteit

Rachel Spronk, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Antonia Stanojevic, Radboud Universiteit

Nora Stel, Radboud Universiteit

Marjo de Theije, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Louis Thiemann, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Lisa Trogisch, Wageningen Universiteit

Wendelien Tuyp, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Esther Veen, Wageningen Universiteit

Lieke van der Veer, Radboud Universiteit

Courtney Vegelin, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Hemalatha Venkataraman, Radboud Universiteit

Willemijn Verkoren, Radboud Universiteit

Gerard Verschoor, Wageningen Universiteit

Hebe Verrest, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Bas Verschuuren, Wageningen Universiteit

Mark Vicol, Wageningen Universiteit

Oanne Visser, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Anick Vollebergh, Radboud Universiteit

Roanne van Voorst, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Pieter de Vries, Wageningen Universiteit

Vincent Walstra, Leiden Universiteit.

Maaike Westra, African Studies Centre Leiden

Mark Westmoreland, Leiden Universiteit

Niekkie Wiegink, Utrecht Universiteit

Saskia Wieringa, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Angela Wigger, Radboud Universiteit

Han Wiskerke, Wageningen Universiteit

Margreet Zwarteveen, Universiteit van Amsterdam