health climate

Gambling with our lives – Health & Climate

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Confronting global health and climate emergencies in the age of financialisation

Why this report?

The current global health and climate emergencies expose the results of decades of hyper-globalisation and neoliberal policy choices that eroded peoples’ social and economic rights (the right to food, housing, work, health, education, and a healthy and safe environment). These policies have also progressively weakened public preparedness and social safety nets that have proven so essential to cope with crises. Now, market-led policy approaches increasingly used to deal with both climate and health emergencies are failing to protect those most vulnerable, gambling with our lives and actually deepening pre-existing inequalities.

This report seeks to provide its readers with a political economy perspective on the converging climate and health emergencies (from their root causes to their preparedness systems), introducing some of the key issues and trends that both have in common. It looks at how rising inequalities, economic instability and vulnerabilities to climate and health shocks have been driven and reproduced by skewed policy choices and unfair rules of the game, often dictated by private financial interests instead of guided towards the wellbeing of the general population. This systemic perspective demonstrates that climate and health emergencies cannot be addressed separately, as they are inherent to a failed global development model that has placed us in the precarious situation that we are in today. With this in mind, we aim to reinforce the need for worldwide recovery efforts to move away from the pre-pandemic environmentally unsustainable development path, building towards socially and environmentally healthy and just economies. Finally, through this report, we hope to contribute to the construction of a coherent and intersectional analysis which connects some of the dots between movements working on climate and economic justice and struggling to reclaim our economies, advance public goods and services, and protect our global commons.

Who is this report for?

This report is for climate, global health and economic justice activists and advocates from all parts of the world who are challenging dominant development narratives and fighting for a justice-oriented socio-ecological transformation. In particular, it has been designed to support activists and advocates who recognise the unequal ways in which our current economic system operates and who are keen to further their understanding of the ways in which their struggles for climate, global health and economic justice intertwine. The time is ripe for converging strategies to counter financialisation as one of the main drivers of inequalities, including its undeniable impacts on the global climate and health emergencies.

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Executive summary

The perfect storm created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency lays bare the incompatibility of our current economic systems with the safeguarding of life itself. As people the world over, especially in the global South, struggle with limited access to healthcare, loss of jobs, unpaid care work, electricity and water cut-offs, risk eviction and brace for a looming food crisis, it is very clear that tackling the root causes of the converging crises is ever more urgent.

The processes of privatisation of essential public services and lowering social protection floors, paired with reliance on market-based policies to address health and climate emergencies, have significantly contributed to the weakening of states’ capacity to deal with current shocks and multiple crises. However, the limited capacity of many countries to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which also applies to their ability to deal with climate-related disasters, is not new. It is a result of long-standing policy decisions that have systematically reduced states’ fiscal space, led to austerity measures and limited public investment in essential public goods and services.

While the need to “Build Back Better” is becoming mainstream in policy dialogues at all levels, there is a serious risk that the economic recovery following the pandemic will further rely on private finance and market-led solutions that reinforce inequalities, maintain high levels of resource extraction and fail to challenge the flaws of financial capitalism. In turn, civil society organisations (CSOs) and social movements from all over the world are calling for a systemic transformation of the global financial architecture and global division of labour, towards a just, green and feminist recovery post-COVID-19.

This report casts a spotlight on the connections between the climate and health emergencies, starting from an analysis of the unholy alliance between the financial sector, governments and corporations that progressively weakened public preparedness and social safety nets that have proven so essential in the context of the converging crises. The first chapter overviews the policy choices that brought us here and that enable the concentration of wealth and growing inequalities while reducing governments’ fiscal space to deal with immediate and long-term effects of crises. We look at how a decades-long push for growth-oriented and market-led development has left countries facing chronic unpreparedness to manage global emergencies and meet people’s most basic human rights, and how this leaves us far behind on the commitments of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.3 These choices are then analysed under the lens of inequalities, focusing on their human rights implications and on how they perpetuate and deepen multiple inequalities within and between countries. In sequence, two chapters – health and climate – take a deeper dive into policy pathways in both areas, discussing the contradictions between private financial interests and the delivery of public preparedness and public goods and services. Finally, the report concludes with a reflection on the need to reclaim local and global governance spaces for social, ecological and financial justice. It also maps potential civil society groups and policy convergence spaces in which activists and advocates can take action towards building a more equitable, feminist and environmentally sustainable post-COVID-19 future.


Citizens for Financial Justice

Informing, connecting and empowering citizens to act together to make the global finance system work better for everyone.

We are a diverse group of European partners – from local grassroots groups to large international organisations. Together, we aim to inform and connect citizens to act together to make the global financial system work better for everyone.

We are funded by the European Union and aim to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by mobilising EU citizens to support effective financing for development (FfD).

Authors and contributors

This report was compiled by Citizens for Financial Justice partners and other contributors, coordinated by Flora Sonkin and Stefano Prato, Society for International Development (SID); Peter Marshall, Ida Quarteyson and Matti Kohonen, Christian Aid; Nicola Scherer, Debt Observatory in Globalisation (ODG); and David Hillman, Stamp out Poverty. Special thanks to Karen Judd and Jo Johnston for copyediting.
Overview: Flora Sonkin, Society for International Development (SID); with editorial support and inputs from Stefano Prato (SID), Matti Kohonen, Christian Aid, Nicola Scherer, Debt Observatory in Globalisation (ODG) and David Hillman, Stamp out Poverty.
Health: Nicoletta Dentico, Society for International Development (SID).
Climate: Flora Sonkin, Society for International Development (SID); with contributions from Heron Belfon, Jubilee Caribbean.
We would also like to thank all the Citizens for Financial Justice partners that provided inputs and engaged in conversations that informed this report, especially István Farkas and Akos Eger, Friends of the Earth Hungary, and Pooja Rangaprasad, Society for International Development (SID).


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