Covid-19 as a Critical Juncture and the Implications for Advocacy
This Essay discusses the possible longer-term impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak on political, economic and social systems. To shape the discussion, I use the concept of ‘critical junctures’ as moments of change. I then explore the potential impact on the aid sector, and the implications for progressive advocacy, whether by civil society organizations or others, in defending past gains, building on new opportunities or heading off new threats.
- In the face of a critical juncture of the scale of Covid-19, activists should be wary of ‘business as usual’ – carrying on with their pre-crisis campaigns and advocacy as if Covid was nothing more than an annoying interruption, or at most, finding flimsy grounds to link ‘their’ campaign to the crisis.
- Instead they should stand back, becoming ‘reflectivists’ as well as activists in order to understand the evolving politics and public mood of the crisis, and the constraints and windows of opportunity/threat they present for activism
- In so doing, they will need to accept that some existing advocacy priorities will become less salient, while others acquire greater relevance and power, provided they can be convincingly linked to the crisis (e.g. gender-based violence or the importance of the care economy).
- New issues will also surface in the crisis, for example on the importance of personal space as a human right. Activists need to cultivate ‘lateral vision’ in order to spot such emerging issues and explore their progressive potential.
- New threats will also appear – what Naomi Klein has termed ‘disaster capitalists’ are historically more adept than progressives at seizing these windows of opportunity. Defensive strategies - stopping bad stuff from happening – are likely to become an important role for advocacy and campaigns as the crisis unfolds.
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