What we’ve stood for together in 2020

What we’ve stood for together in 2020

By: Jonathan Stevenson
Date: 21 December 2020

We have lived through 12 months dominated by coronavirus – a disease which has exposed the fragility and inequality of the global economy like nothing before. This virus has turned our world upside down, and we want to offer our heartfelt thanks for your support in such a difficult time. 

Together we have fought for immediate changes to global rules which currently prevent governments from protecting their people’s health and livelihoods – on the streets, in the media, in parliament and in the inboxes of the powerful.

Sadly, we have a government determined to slash development spending and sign trade deals which could make things much worse. But we’ve stood up for a different way, showing alternatives to create the changes we need. As you read our summary of what we’ve achieved this year, we hope – like us – you feel a sense of pride and hope. 

Together with you, in 2020…  

We fought for fair and global access to Covid-19 vaccines

The brilliance of our scientists is truly amazing, and we’re relieved that they have discovered vaccines for coronavirus so soon. But this medical research, developed with public money, should be shared across the world. As rich countries prepare for a mass roll out of immunisations, the majority of low-income countries are not in a position to do this as sadly, our global trade system puts the profit of Big Pharma ahead of the health needs of people. 

We have been at the centre of a global coalition to challenge patent laws, the hoarding of technological know-how and the bulk buying of vaccines by rich countries, showing solidarity with countries like Costa Rica and South Africa who have championed the need to suspend these rules.

Thousands of us joined the call for the government to make all Covid-19 vaccines affordable to all countries and free to the public. On last week’s day of action, we directly put pressure on pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca to join the World Health Organisation’s ‘global pool’ for sharing knowledge and intellectual property to get Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to more people more quickly.  

Thanks to our tireless campaigning some pharmaceutical companies have already made concessions, with AstraZeneca guaranteeing non-profit access for developing countries to its vaccine forever, after initially refusing to commit beyond the pandemic period. 

We campaigned for global solidarity and collaboration in response to the pandemic

Coronavirus has triggered a deep crisis. While rich country governments have responded in various ways, they have all used their significant wealth to protect society from real crisis, to some extent. Governments in the global south have often not had that option. In fact, many are struggling with mass debts run up in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. During the pandemic, they have been forced to pay some of the richest banks and hedge funds in the world while their people suffer. 

As part of a coalition, we pushed the UK government to prioritise debt relief, including by forcing the major banks and financial institutions to cancel debt. So far up to $12 billion of debt payments have been suspended as a result. 

Unbelievably, our government has used this moment to slash overseas development spending and abolish the department which could mitigate some of these problems. Together we opposed the disastrous attack on the Department for International Development and the aid budget and managed to save parliament’s international development committee, meaning MPs will be able to scrutinise future aid spending properly.

Our research exposed the shocking ways in which our government diverts UK aid to benefit British businesses, worsening inequality and negatively impacting on human rights. Thousands of us signed a petition opposing the corporate hijack of aid and we were quoted on the front page of the Times reporting on the UK’s investments in luxury hotels.

This month Boris Johnson finally announced that the UK will end public investment in fossil fuel projects overseas. Over the summer many of us called on the government to end all its fossil fuel financing. While the announcement is a welcome step, there are loopholes allowing some large-scale projects to still go ahead. As we head into 2021 with the UN climate talks in Glasgow on the horizon, we have a new chance of fighting to end all investments in fossil fuel projects overseas.

We have made the US trade deal one of the most toxic issues in politics

Despite the pandemic, the British government has pushed ahead with negotiating toxic trade deals  that threaten to make some of these problems even worse. At the heart is the US trade deal, which would fuel deregulation of our food standards, threaten climate action and hand more power to Big Pharma.

We have been at the centre of a movement which has included farmers and doctors, environmental groups and unions – all working together to fight this deal. Through media coverage, giving evidence to parliamentary committees and mobilising activists, we’ve shone a spotlight on just how damaging this deal would be.

We published a book on the dangers of a US trade deal, won an amendment in the House of Lords to give parliament a say over trade deals, and won a court ruling on the government’s excessive secrecy in trade talks in general. And we held a day of action when supporters up and down the country joined a mass mobilisation, carving messages into Halloween lanterns, projecting onto shipping containers and even mowing them into a farmer’s field.

The deal isn’t dead yet – but together we’ve succeeded in making this deal a mainstream issue that decision makers can’t ignore.

We continued to build a strong movement for change

The big changes we need can only be brought about by a movement. When it became clear that we had to change the way we campaign this year we lost no time in bringing our activism online. We organised a webinar series on coronavirus, capitalism and global inequality and shared online interviews with campaigners from across Latin America, Asia and Africa to give a southern perspective of the pandemic.

We produced a series of podcasts exploring how corporate trade deals make the world more vulnerable to Covid-19, or what a post-lockdown world might look like and how it will affect the climate. And we received the response we had hoped for with lots of supporters in the UK and international allies engaging remotely and new local groups forming across the country. 

Next year, we know the coronavirus crisis is not going away for most countries. And we’ll need to focus on an even bigger crisis – the climate emergency, with the UN conference being hosted in Glasgow. Then there’s Brexit and its consequences on trade policy, and the government’s assault on aid. 

It seems a lot to take on. But that’s why we can’t act alone. As a movement we can take strength from each other, debate the best course of action and build the power we need to change things.

Thank you for your support this year from all of us at Global Justice Now.

Most of our funds come from individual supporters like you, dedicated to challenging injustice. When you join us for as little as £2 per month today you help us remain an outspoken and independent organisation. Again, thank you for your support this year.