This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process, it’s an opportunity to celebrate regional and multilateral cooperation. But it is also a time to re-examine our objectives – national, regional, international – at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is shaking up our most ingrained certainties.
There are valuable lessons to be learned from this painful period: with the looming threat of a resurgence, no one is safe unless everyone is all safe. The virus knows no borders, and neither should international solidarity and cooperation. That’s why multilateralism is needed now more than ever but it must be fit for purpose: North-South cooperation should be strengthened, ensuring equal footing for developing countries and elevating African voices. Multilateralism must be have a strong vision and mission. Health, gender equality, the fight against corruption and climate change are all important topics, not just for the Euromed Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean, but for the wider world we want to build together.
Investing in public services and strengthening health systems are costly booster shots and their importance will have a lasting legacy in the post-Covid era. Research had already warned us about the risk of epidemics and even equipped us with tools that were neglected. The proof is in the International Health Regulations: in 2005, following the deadly SARS epidemic, 196 countries committed to preparing to detect, communicate and respond to any future health threats. Today, no country is fully compliant with these regulations, with low-income countries lagging farthest behind. The Covid-19 crisis teaches us once again that prevention is, and will always be, more effective and less costly in terms of human lives and resources than emergency policy.
During the pandemic, there were several essential sectors identified. Beyond these sectors, there are also essential workers – or perhaps I should say, female workers. Women are on the front line in the fight against the virus, as is the case in France, where women make up more than 90% of care assistants, nursing home staff, cashiers and domestic assistants. It highlights the asymmetry between the social value that care work provides and the social and financial we attribute to it. Moreover, women were very poorly represented in decision-making positions during the crisis and still do not have an equal say in a future that concerns them just as much as men.
The Generation Equality Forum, coordinated by the French and Mexican governments and postponed to 2021, is a call to feminists around the world as well as an opportunity to create synergies in the Euro-Mediterranean region. The revaluation of the care professions, the inclusion of a gender equality component in international negotiations (we can no longer afford gender-blind public policies), as well as an accountability mechanism to monitor commitments and progress on gender equality are all issues the Partnership is invested in and could use next year’s Feminist Forum as a platform to explore and promote.
Another unavoidable issue: as we have seen, global warming and the loss of biodiversity are closely linked to the development of epidemics. The same conclusions must be drawn for health as for the climate: the time to act is before the crises. The Paris Agreement and the principles of climate justice must find a central place in international fora, starting with the Euro-Mediterranean.
Financing these ambitious policies is a thorny topic for two main reasons: the fight against illicit financial flows and corruption, which require billions of euros each year, and the mobilization of solidarity financing funds. A good example is France’s financial transaction tax – part of the revenue is earmarked for development aid, in an effort to tackle the harmful effects of globalization.
Health, gender equality, climate and innovative financing: the list is not exhaustive, but this new decade could be the one in which the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, among other forms of multilateral alliances, takes on these subjects, using them as compasses to guide the future.
Original version here.