Inequality between the rich and poor worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty increased, for the first time in decades. In part two of our series on how the virus has changed the world, we look at the ways the pandemic has pushed back efforts to create more equitable societies.
Over the past 12 months, COVID-19 has deepened those inequalities, a view highlighted in February, by the UN’s labour-focused agency, ILO, which declared that the two billion people working in the informal sector were particularly exposed.
In March, the agency followed up with projections which suggested that millions could be pushed into unemployment, underemployment, or the grinding condition of working poverty.
“This is no longer only a global health crisis, it is also a major labour market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people”, said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. The agency published recommendations on ways to mitigate the damage to livelihoods, which included employee protection in the workplace, economic and employment stimulus programmes, and income and job support.
Keeping food supplies flowing
By April, the scale of global suffering became apparent, with a UN-backed report showing that poverty and hunger were getting worse, and that countries already affected by food crises were highly vulnerable to the pandemic. “We must keep critical food supply chains operating, so people have access to life sustaining food”, the study said, stressing the urgency of maintaining the delivery of humanitarian assistance “to keep people in crisis fed and alive”.
From using public transport as food hubs, traditional forms of home delivery, and mobile markets, communities have had to find innovative ways to feed the poor and vulnerable, whilst coping with COVID-19 restrictions on movement.
These are all examples of the ways that cities in Latin America rallied to support their populations, and reflect warnings from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), that the health risk for many urban citizens is high during the pandemic, particularly the 1.2 billion who live in slums, and other informal settlements.
Women bear the brunt
“Women are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis as they are more likely to lose their source of income and less likely to be covered by social protection measures”. That was Achim Steiner, head of the UN’s development agency UNDP, noting the effect that the pandemic is having on women, pointing to data released in September.
It revealed that the poverty rate for women has increased by more than nine per cent, equivalent to some 47 million women: this represents a reversal of decades of progress to eradicate extreme poverty over the last few decades.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, said that the increases in women’s extreme poverty are a “stark indictment of deep flaws” in the ways that society and the economy are structured.
Nevertheless, Mr. Steiner insisted that the tools exist to create a huge improvement to women’s lives, even during the current crisis. For example, more than 100 million women and girls could be lifted out of poverty if governments improve access to education and family planning, and ensure that wages are fair and equal to those of men.
One in six children affected
The combined effects of the drought, COVID-19 and the insecurity upsurge have undermined the already fragile food security and nutrition situation of the population of southern Madagascar.
Progress in reducing child poverty also took a hit this year. The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and the World Bank reported in October that some 365 million children were living in poverty before the pandemic began, and predicted that those figures were set to rise considerably as a result of the crisis.
Extreme poverty deprives hundreds of millions of children of the opportunity to reach their real potential, in terms of physical and cognitive development, and threatens their ability to get good jobs in adulthood.
“These numbers alone should shock anyone”, said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Director of Programmes: “Governments urgently need a children’s recovery plan to prevent countless more children and their families from reaching levels of poverty unseen for many, many years.”
Aid for record numbers
By December, the UN was predicting that a record 235 million people would require humanitarian assistance in 2021, an increase of some 40 per cent on 2020 which is almost entirely a consequence of the pandemic.
“The picture we are presenting is the bleakest and darkest perspective on humanitarian needs in the period ahead that we have ever set out”, said the UN’s emergency relief chief, Mark Lowcock. “That is a reflection of the fact that the COVID pandemic has wreaked carnage across the whole of the most fragile and vulnerable countries on the planet.”
Mr. Lowcock warned that the scale of the challenges facing humanitarians next year are massive – and growing. “If we get through 2021 without major famines that will be a significant achievement,” he said. “The red lights are flashing, and the alarm bells are ringing.”
Time for a new global deal
At the end of the year, the UN chief issued a reminder that the levels of poverty and inequality seen this year are far from inevitable, and that a more equitable world is still possible, regardless of acute shocks such as the pandemic.
Speaking in December, Mr. Guterres expressed his hope that the pandemic could spark the transformations needed to achieve stronger social protection systems worldwide.
Reflecting on his comments on inequality made a year earlier, before the pandemic was on the horizon, the UN chief said that the world needs a new Global Deal, “where power, resources and opportunities are better shared at international decision-making tables, and governance mechanisms better reflect the realities of today”.
Social Media And Polarization Of Society
Social Media has witnessed a mushrooming growth that has impacted the discourse of political, cultural and religious systems by providing the equal opportunity of Freedom of expression and sharing opinion or viewpoint on any issue.
Social Media has played a greater role in rightwing politics that paved the way for populist politicians to reach out to their voters.
Though Social Media has connected the people around the world but at the same time, it is causing division or disintegration and facilitating the social media lobbyists to polarize the communication to such extent that the people support the arguments or opinions or political tirade against the leadership without fact checking .
The world has been rocked by social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube etc because the user statistics of these social networks have already surpassed millions and growing but due to the limited regulatory framework, fake news, cyberbullying, extremism and terrorism has reached the new heights.
The influencers interactions with social Media users have polarized the political and social circles that led to the formation of online echo chambers a tactic of social media recommendations by politicians to influence the users to strengthen their narrative regardless of facts that whether it is right or wrong but it is knit in a manner that echo chambers appear to be normal for the people thus changing the way of thinking and increase the supporters base .
The Echo chambers post such content that we enjoy a lot while reading while keep us away from the content that may stir a debate or arguments or expression of our disagreement over certain social, economic, religious, cultural or Policy matters.
The Echo chambers keep ideas flowing on regular basis to the one side –the positive side of the argument while its negative side is deliberately concealed to hide the facts.
This is the big issue that might be discussed and students should be informed and taught at School, College or degree level so that positive and constructive usage of this digital medium could be ensured.
Social media connectivity around the world is undoubtedly amazing but the problems it created for both people and students are very dangerous and need to be addressed and regulated.
Digital Media especially Social Media for a long time remained unbridled to post any content that may fall in the purview of hatred, racism, bullying, derogatory remarks, Character Assault, rebellion, Anti-state elements instigating people to create chaos using the olive branch of Social Media since it was not monitored given the type of content being circulated and information of people posting such content including their motives behind such content that may have a constant flow of information that is recommended by the users pretending to be professionals, experts and mentors.
Alarmingly, people without fact-checking go on sharing the content and thus creating hype for such an issue that does not have a basis and was the result of the conspiracy to exert pressure on some person or leaders to get some favours.
Sometimes, the active Echo chambers or volcanoes erupt over such issue that may be beneficial for the wider circle of society but finds serious criticism masterminded by the people with the individual approach. They term it detrimental for them since it did not serve their interests though it might have been beneficial for general people.
It is accepted truth that Humans have an intuitional inclination to communicate with like-minded people or the people with the same choices on Social Media thus the echo chambers get even stronger. The discourse that discourages dissent voices always comes under fire from the thinkers and intellectuals of the nation since it is tantamount to concealing the facts from the people.
The world is coming closer after the recent pandemic that engulfed the entire world , bringing misery and economic crisis. The social Media debates go with biased and unbiased approaches regarding vaccine . Some optimists termed it great while some pessimists or biased approaches raised questions.
The Echo chambers try to influence their opinions and win support .Similarly, echo chambers of both Democrats and Republicans only canvassed for their candidates but the leaders instigated masses to attack Capitol Hill through social media and emotional speeches using their influence on social media specially twitter .
Some researchers have found that echo chambers influence people to win support but social media influencers have a followers base of millions, may polarize the Public and Politics since influencers share success stories like internet marketers compelling you to buy their products.
The opinion leaders and experts reveal that for the last two decades, the percentage of American people having consistently holding liberal or conservative beliefs—rather than a blend of the two, which is the case for most people—has increased from 10 per cent to over 20. While the beliefs about the other side are becoming more negative creating an alarming situation.
Since 1994, the number of people who see the opposing political party as a threat to “the nation’s well-being or security” has doubled which heralds that how deepening polarization has predictable results raising eyebrows.
The government shutdowns, violent protests, scathing attacks on elected officials, capitol Hill incident –all predict that social Media has been polarizing the Political System and divided the nation each passing day due to echo chambers of both mainstream parties regarding the issues of health, Security, Human Rights, employment and environment.
According to evidence from empirical research conducted on the US politicians indicated that the politicians with extreme following Ideologies attracted a larger public audience than those who were moderate which is the real example of Echo Chambers.
Usually, messages containing extreme thoughts, emotional instigation, patriotism, criticizing the opposition received a warm welcome on Social Media Platforms then those messages reflecting merely information.
The Polarization of issues and political ideology will have serious repercussions in future that should be addressed on a timely bases so that societies could be saved from further isolation and disintegration.
The issues could be resolved through educating the people and creating awareness about the fair and professional use of social Media Channel for advocacy for wining support regarding legislation, issue, policy or employment.
Instead of showing the dark side of the issue, we have to educate people regarding both pros and cons of matters of importance for the general public rather than mislead the people with biased approaches to oppose the initiative Government, Community or Civil society for the benefit of common people.
Social Media network operators are the bigwigs and the most influential .They cannot be controlled but can only be regulated by framing such laws that may ensure fair use of this digital platform and being careful so that users may not face any legal issue by discussing some sensitive issues such as Desecration of holy places, religions, personalities, anti-state tirade, rebellion, terrorism, extremism etc. The sensitive issue may stir protests and cause legal proceedings, if the cyber regulatory laws are implemented to discourage the influence of one-sided opinions or campaigns.
We cannot deny the importance of social media platforms as they provide equal opportunity to the people to express and share their thoughts or opinions, but safe and thoughtful use of these platforms will encourage healthy discourse and prove pivotal to promote dialogue to discuss social, economical and cultural issues peacefully without hitting the sentiments of other communities.
Thus, Echo Chambers will be less powerful to build a narrative that is appealing but the readers will be engaging themselves in the debates that need interaction.
Undoubtedly, social media platforms have changed the political and social approach of the people and enabled face to face digital interaction through video and audio conference calls, the fair use will mitigate its cons manifold.
The social media network apply the algorithms to connect you with like-minded people but it is up to you that your engagement in communication is either unbiased or biased.
Social Media should be discussing the positive discourse to explore the political, economic solutions to the problems of people by reflecting the two sides of the coin so that discourse must be constructive and problem-solving.
Honestly speaking the social media has given a voice to marginalized people and Governments are compelled to resolve the issues of people on a priority basis due to trending topics of social media.
Even the populist leaders may face resistance from social media as the Public makes the most of the freedom of expression and criticizes the role of politicians for their failure to address the issues of the public.
In recent times, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been creating history in highlighting issues of both public and national interest but at the same time such platforms taken by storm by those influencers who continue to feed the news about their vested interests and create psychosocial hype for any issue that may jolt the power corridors of Government.
The politicians always take to Twitter for their precise viewpoint and policy debate and usually followed by million followers. Even the print and Electronic media i.e News channels take the tweets as policy statement or narrative of some party of the Group.
The Schools, colleges should chalk out the initiative to create awareness and practice of fair use so that Social platforms should not post single or one-sided opinions or arguments but should welcome both so that positive use could be ensured. This will further the importance of Social Media .
Solok Literacy Community held a discussion for Indonesia in the future
As one of the youth mobilizers in Solok and surrounding areas, Solok Literacy Community once again held one of its flagship activities or programs, ‘Ngopi Discussion’. With a proactive discussion format that involves the activeness of the audience on a participatory basis, the discussion that was held on Sunday (11/4) then went interesting and very uplifting.
In his event, Solok Literasi invited an extraordinarily dedicated and accomplished presenter, Al Mukhollis Siagian a cross-continent writer and Yulenri Arif Hidayat as vice chairman of GenBi West Sumatera. Through the theme “Dreaming of a long and steep road to Indonesia gold 2045”, Al Mukhollis began the discussion by explaining the problems faced by the community ranging from global, national, regional to regional levels.
Followed by building a problem map or roadmap that occurs around the community, Arif tried to find equiblirium problems of youth today so that later can be found a joint solution. At the end of the discussion it can be concluded that complex problems around the community have unconsciously turned out to have caught the youths off guard today.
Indonesia gold 2045 itself is a great dream of indonesian youth in productive age in forming a nation and country that is able to compete with other nations. Besides of course can first solve the fundamental problems that exist in the country of Indonesia. Whether it’s about democracy, legal supremacy, emancipation of education, health, poverty to have a vocal point as a maritime country.
After counseling and finding the real problem point, Dinda Kusuma Putri as moderator can conclude that the core solution of the problem is how we jointly build synergistic mutualism by building a network of partnerships and then move smartly to educate every element of society.
Although shortly before the event there was heavy rain but did not discourage the intentions of soliters friends who want to attend the coffee discussion this time. Held in Hikari Cafe where the atmosphere and background of the place is very supportive for the holding of discussion forums. The coffee discussion lasted for 3 hours and ended a joint pledge regarding the integrity of the future movement to be much better.
The discussion of Solok Literacy Community coffee was also attended by various communities in Solok City and its surroundings, including Solok Millennial Creative (SMC), SolokMuda and Solok Student Alliance (AMS). The proliferation of movement of various youth communities in Solok also has a significant impact on the development of intellectual mindsets formed in every young person solok.
Coffee discussion itself is an activity with almost the same format as FGD (Focus Group Discussion) which studies an issue to be reviewed and found a solution together. Coffee discussion activities are identical to the discursus patterns held in coffee shops a la the current trend of young people and then always have a clear outcome after the course of the discussion.
Approximately 7 months since its establishment on September 21, 2020, Solok Literacy Community consists of 61 solok young people consisting of various basic vocational education. Solok Literacy crystallizes its movement through 4 excellent programs, namely coffee discussion; free reading stalls; surgical film; and classes of interests and talents.
Moving as a literacy promoter in Solok and its surroundings, The Solok Literacy Community has a desire to be able to print great narrators who are able to tell how extraordinary the resources owned by Indonesia to the international world. This long-term goal certainly begins with small, structured and systematic movements from now on.
To see the movement of Solok Literacy Community itself in order to educate the public about the importance of early literacy can be seen together on @solok_literasi Instagram account. The presence of Solok Literasi Community is also known to re-encourage other young people in West Sumatra to re-voice useful things and devote themselves to the benefit of the nation and the country.
Solok Literacy Community hopes that in the future it can continue to be consistent in improving the scalability of literacy among the community. In addition, also how the government is also aware and aware of the problems facing young people so that both the government and the organization/ community around it is able to build a synergy of partnerships that benefit the community.
Athletes knock the legs from under global sports governance
Sports governance worldwide has had the legs knocked out from under it. Yet, national and international sports administrators are slow in realizing the magnitude of what has hit them.
Tectonic plates underlying sports’ guiding principle that sports and politics are unrelated have shifted, driven by a struggle against racism and a quest for human rights and social justice.
The principle was repeatedly challenged over the last year by athletes as well as businesses forcing national and international sports federations to either support anti-racist protest or at the least refrain from penalizing athletes who use their sport to oppose racism and promote human rights and social justice, acts that are political by definition.
The assault on what is a convenient fiction started in the United States as much a result of the explosion of Black Lives Matter protests on the streets of American cities as the fact that, in contrast to the fan-club relationship in much of the world, US sports clubs and associations see fans as clients, and the client is king.
The assault moved to Europe in the last month with the national soccer teams of Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands wearing T-shirts during 2022 World Cup qualifiers that supported human rights and change. The Europeans were adding their voices to perennial criticism of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar, the host of next year’s World Cup.
Gareth Southgate, manager of the English national team, said the Football Association was discussing with human rights group Amnesty International tackling migrant rights in the Gulf state.
While Qatar is the focus in Europe, greater sensitivity to human rights appears to be moving beyond. Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton told a news conference in Bahrain ahead of this season’s opening Grand Prix that “there are issues all around the world, but I do not think we should be going to these countries and just ignoring what is happening in those places, arriving, having a great time and then leave.”
Mr. Hamilton has been prominent in speaking out against racial injustice and social inequality since the National Football League in the United States endorsed Black Lives Matter and players taking the knee during the playing of the American national anthem in protest against racism.
In a dramatic break with its ban on “any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images” on the pitch, world soccer governing body FIFA said it would not open disciplinary proceedings against the European players. “FIFA believes in the freedom of speech and in the power of football as a force for good,” a spokesperson for the governing body said.
The statement constituted an implicit acknowledgement that standing up for human rights and social justice was inherently political. It raises the question of how FIFA going forward will reconcile its stand on human rights with its statutory ban on political expression.
It makes maintaining the fiction of a separation of politics and sports ever more difficult to defend and opens the door to a debate on how the inseparable relationship that joins sports and politics at the hip like Siamese twins should be regulated.
Signalling that a flood barrier may have collapsed, Major League Baseball this month said it would be moving its 2021 All Star Game out of Atlanta in response to a new Georgia law that threatens to potentially restrict voting access for people of colour.
In a shot across the bow to FIFA and other international sports associations, major Georgia-headquartered companies, including Coca Cola, one of the soccer body’s longest-standing corporate sponsors, alongside Delta Airlines and Home Depot adopted political positions in their condemnation of the Georgia law.
The greater assertiveness of athletes and corporations in speaking out for fundamental rights and against racism and discrimination will make it increasingly difficult for sports associations to uphold the fiction of a separation between politics and sports.
The willingness of FIFA, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and other national and international associations to look the other way when athletes take their support for rights and social justice to the sports arena has let a genie out of the bottle. It has sawed off the legs of the FIFA principle that players’ “equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans.”
Already, the US committee has said that it would not sanction American athletes who choose to raise their fists or kneel on the podium at this July’s Tokyo Olympic Games as well as future tournaments.
The decision puts the USOPC at odds with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) staunch rule against political protest.
The IOC suspended and banned US medallists Tommie Smith and John Carlos after the sprinters raised their fists on the podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics to protest racial inequality in the United States.
Acknowledging the incestuous relationship between sports and politics will ultimately require a charter or code of conduct that regulates the relationship and introduces some form of independent oversight akin to the supervision of banking systems or the regulation of the water sector in Britain, alongside the United States the only country to have privatized water as an asset.
Human rights and social justice have emerged as monkey wrenches that could shatter the myth of a separation of sports and politics. If athletes take their protests to the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the myth would sustain a significant body blow.
Said a statement by US athletes seeking changes to the USOPC’s rule banning protest at sporting events: “Prohibiting athletes to freely express their views during the Games, particularly those from historically underrepresented and minoritized groups, contributes to the dehumanization of athletes that is at odds with key Olympic and Paralympic values.”
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