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Taking Action Online
for the environment, social justice and sustainable development

by Adam Rogers / available through these stores

Foreword by Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and former administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

 

DESPITE ENORMOUS PROGRESS ON DEVELOPMENT issues over the past twenty years, close to ten percent of the world’s population continues to live in extreme poverty, and some 15,000 children die daily from preventable causes. Carbon is building up in Earth’s atmosphere, influencing global weather patterns with unpredictable and potentially devastating consequences. Inequality within and among countries is a persistent cause for concern, especially during a pandemic which has exposed and exacerbated deep cracks within societies.

 

Around the world, the pandemic has impacted on people differently depending on their gender, health, and income. Unfortunately, in many countries, ethnicity has also been a determining factor because of existing and deep-rooted inequalities. Longstanding systemic health and social inequity around the world have put many people from ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19 because they have been excluded from quality education, jobs, and healthcare.

 

Women, especially those in lower-paid retail and care sector jobs, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Those in higher-paid “desk jobs” have been able to work remotely, while those in lower-paid, more manual types of employment have, in many cases, lost their jobs or have been laid off. Those in jobs now seen as “essential” (food and pharmacy retail, restaurants, drivers, and nurses) are often the people we pay the least and take for granted the most. This latter group have been xvi most at risk of contracting the virus and then passing it on to others in crowded living arrangements or on public transportation.

 

The good news is that while the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly set back progress in many areas of development, it has also sparked accelerated development in others, especially in areas of digitalisation, remote work, and access to online services. Modern online technology has made it possible for many people to continue working remotely, which has lessened the economic impacts of the lockdowns and physical distancing requirements of anti-pandemic measures. People around the world are now more used to obtaining goods, services, and education online, thus opening the way for a more internet-based economy in the future.

 

As the world builds forward in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be important for people to connect and share experiences with one another, and for governments to support open dialogue in their search for improved policies that strengthen resilience. By making policies more people-centric, governments can give greater attention to reducing the inequalities which COVID-19 has exacerbated. The focus should not only be on economic recovery, but should also be on all aspects of human development, addressing issues such as wage discrepancies between men and women, disparities in digital literacy between age groups, and equal access for all social groups to quality healthcare and education. If we can do this, we will help ensure the recovery effort is both sustainable—and equitable.

 

I have seen much progress in the world during my four decades of public service, which included 27 years as a Member of the New Zealand Parliament, of which nine were as Prime Minister, and eight years as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, an organization which works with governments in some 170 countries and territories to plan and implement policies that improve lives and livelihoods. What I have seen over all those years is that while governments at all levels need to address the root causes of poverty and exclusion, progress is also driven by individuals and groups at the street and village levels who look around and see challenges, and then look within and see solutions. For their solutions to be successful, it is essential they be shared as widely as possible. 

 

When confronting challenges in our communities, it helps if we do so collectively by reaching out to inspire—and to be inspired by—others facing similar problems. While in many ways the challenges before us may seem insurmountable, at the same time never before have we been so well equipped to deal with them and to connect with one another in our search for sustainable solutions.

 

As Adam Rogers points out in this book, there are now more than 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide—about a third of the planet’s population. This ubiquitous presence makes the internet an unavoidable part of any strategy to build a better world for everyone, everywhere, leaving no one behind. If the third of the world which is presently on social media could engage more in discourse around how to solve the problems we face, we would have a better chance of bringing the world to where we would like it to be.

 

Social media, like anything, can help or hinder societal progress depending on how it is used. Its negative influences are well documented. It stands accused of everything from causing anxiety and depression among teens to creating echo chambers for fake news and political bias. This book, however, presents a positive view of social media and how it can be used to support efforts to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people everywhere are able to live in peace and with shared prosperity. As Adam points out, when used with integrity, social media can be both a source of inspiration and a way of encouraging others to take action.

 

Never before in human history has it been so easy to reach out and connect with people and organisations from around the world, to learn from them and their unique experiences, and to help advocate for important issues. I hope that this book will inspire you to do just that—to join us and others in our global effort to create the world we want for ourselves and the one we would prefer to leave for our children.

 

Helen Clark is a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three consecutive terms from 1999-2008. She then served two terms as the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. She now chairs and serves on the boards of a number of international organizations

Taking Action Online is available through these stores