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Towards an Inclusive Post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery

- Siviwe Mhlana

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant and uneven impact on the global economy and on the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world.

Persistent inequities in the distribution of paid and unpaid work in the economy, race, class, and gender, have played a significant role in determining people's vulnerability to the impacts of the ongoing crisis. At the same time, as countries have begun moving towards recovery, there has been marked differentiation between advanced countries and emerging-market and developing economies (EMDEs) in recovering from the social and economic impacts of the crisis. There is an urgent need for global economic policies aimed, not only, at mitigating the immediate impacts of the virus on economic prosperity and social health, but at recovering livelihoods and fostering economies that are resilient, equitable, and sustainable, in the long run.

With this view, the Ford Foundation and the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies have embarked on a collaborative project aimed at advancing alternative visions towards an inclusive post-COVID-19 economic recovery. This initiative creates opportunities for civil society organisations, social movements, and researchers from the global South to build collective power, collaborate across sectors and regions, and develop pathways towards a green, just and sustainable economic recovery for all.

The objectives of the Plus Fund Initiative for Economic Recovery are conceptualised around four key themes: economic and tax justice, gender equality, climate change, and inclusive economic development. Our grantee partners are currently engaged in a number of projects across these themes. 


As the secretariat for the Plus Fund Initiative, SCIS undertook research into the challenges facing developing economies in the global South in responding to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that persistent colonial legacies and the unequal inclusion of Southern countries in the global financial system, pose significant limitations on the resources that developing countries have to adequately respond to the multiple crises that have been highlighted by the pandemic. In order to address these issues, several of our grantee partners are engaged in projects aimed at reducing harmful tax practices, promoting sovereign debt transparency, and developing macroeconomic and sectoral policies and frameworks for the implementation of a green, just and sustainable recovery.

The African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD) together with its partners the African Sovereign Debt Justice Network, the Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), Red Latinoamericana po Justicia Economica y Social (Lantidadd), the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), and Jubilee USA Network, are engaged in work aimed at promoting greater accountability and transparency in the global debt architecture. As part of the Plus Fund Initiative, they will advance efforts towards economic justice by advocating for the development of a multilateral framework for sovereign debt restructuring, one that takes into consideration the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the climate financing needs of countries in the global South.

Tax Justice Network – Africa seeks to promote socially progressive and accountable tax practices in Africa. As part of this initiative, they will continue their work in the fight against harmful tax policies and practices by developing a platform for activists and experts to build collective power and challenge policies that enable illicit financial flows, tax evasion, tax competition, and other harmful tax practices to continue.

International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP), the Institute for Economic Justice (IEJ), L'Observatoire Tunisien de l'Economie (OTE), the Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability (CDES) and the Centre for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) have partnered to develop a rights-based alternative to the current global financial system. The consortium is currently engaged in research focused on documenting the impacts of IMF loan conditions on the livelihoods of marginalised groups around the world, including women, small-scale farmers, workers, and indigenous communities in the global South.


Estimates from the UN Women, Gender Equality in the Wake of COVID-19 Report (2020), indicate that the feminisation of poverty will be exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite evidence of the gendered trends in vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic, mainstream proposals for recovery have paid very little attention to the kinds of policies required for protecting women and girls in the medium-to-long term and advancing efforts towards gender equality in the long run.

In order to address the current gender gap in economic policies for recovery, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) is engaged in work centred on gender equality and ensuring the economic rights of women. Through this initiative, FEMNET aims to strengthen a movement of feminist economists and activists to challenge existing neoliberal frameworks that have historically undervalued the contributions of women in the economy and to amplify the voices of African women as a strategy for achieving women’s economic justice in the recovery.

The Feminist Land Platform aims to advance efforts towards gender equality by building and strengthening movements that challenge the neoliberal extractivism that has led to the further degradation of the rights of women around the world. In addition, through the production of knowledge, evidenced by the experiences of women in the global South, the Feminist Land Platform will deepen regional analyses on the ongoing threats to democracy and the fundamental rights of women, improve livelihoods and advocate for the active participation of organisations seeking to achieve gender equality in decision-making processes.


According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is a direct relationship between climate change, food insecurity, and the world of work. In addition, EMDEs are particularly vulnerable to the threats of climate change. Therefore, aligning public spending with efforts aimed at protecting the natural environment and reducing environmental harm is crucial for protecting the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.

As part of the Plus Fund Initiative for Economic Recovery, Sustainable Latin America Alliance will advance efforts towards an inclusive and climate-positive economy by developing alternative policies for development based on the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN SDGs. With a focus on key sectors such as finance, energy, transportation, and the creation of green jobs, Sustainable Latin America Alliance aims to develop a pathway for achieving a just and resilient recovery centred on strategies that improve equality and ecological integrity in Latin America.

Similarly, Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development proposes an alternative vision focused on addressing the impacts of climate change on food security, promoting sustainable agriculture and agroecology, and protecting the rights of women, small-scale farmers, and indigenous people and communities to the land. As part of the Plus Fund Initiative for economic recovery, they are engaged in work aimed at resisting policies that violate the rights of people, exceed planetary boundaries, and threaten the livelihoods of people and communities in Asia.


Finally, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), LDC-Watch, Global Policy Forum, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and Social Watch aim to develop opportunities for the inclusion of movements from the global South in international discussions for a post-COVID economic reconstruction. They also seek to strengthen existing initiatives by facilitating cross-regional engagements of Civil Society Organisations to build solidarity and resist policies that threaten the livelihoods of people and the economic prosperity of countries in the global South.

As indicated by the diversity of projects that our grantee partners are engaged in, the strength of the recovery rests on the development of aggressive social and economic policies that are context-specific, and targeted to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society. COVID-19 has lifted the veil on a failed economic system that advantages some at the expense of the majority. Therefore, for an inclusive recovery to truly be realised, we need to reimagine the functioning of the global economic system in equitable and sustainable ways. The Plus Fund Initiative for Economic Recovery aims to achieve this by supporting alternative visions for a green, just, and sustainable economy that is rooted in the experiences of communities and economies in the global South. The time for change is now.

Siviwe Mhlana is a researcher in the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies