The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a generation-defining event with far-reaching implications. It is not only the most severe public health emergency in recent history but also an economic and social crisis of unparalleled proportions that is touching every aspect of human life.
To understand the repercussions of this crisis and chart a way forward, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in Asia launched the blog series “Disrupted: How COVID-19 is affecting societies in Asia” in late March 2020.
For six months, FES experts, partners and guest contributors shared their insights on local issues and broader regional developments. They documented the ways in which the crisis has unfolded in 16 countries in Asia and shed light on what it means for workers and supply chains, gender justice, climate action, peace, security, regional cooperation and geopolitics. From the first lockdown experiences and initial government responses to the greater impact of closed borders, economic recession and debates over the new normal, these articles showcase how different parts of societies are being impacted.
The coronavirus pandemic highlights existing inequalities and amplifies them. For those who make it through the crisis, the ability to get back on track will be affected by class, gender and race. And the ability of Asian societies and states to recover will depend on a variety of factors, including their public health management, national development paths, integration into the world economy and level of international cooperation.
Beyond the immediate health crisis, COVID-19 has forced a debate among decision-makers, civil society, trade unionists and academia over how to “build back better”. Will the clearly visible shortcomings of our current economic and social systems lead to post-pandemic paradigm shifts? Are we witnessing the end of globalization as we know it? Is this a chance to advance workers’ rights and safety? Will care work finally be appreciated more? Do we have a window of opportunity to mitigate climate change? What is the future of the rules-based international order and multilateralism?
These early thoughts on the impact of the pandemic do not give comprehensive answers yet, but they provide a glimpse of what needs to be discussed more, who needs to be involved and who should not be left behind.
Given the fast pace of events, the testimonies in this publication are naturally snapshots reflecting the state of affairs at the time they were written—a compendium of “diary” entries. We hope this spotlight on the debates and developments in Asia are food for thought and inspire more exchanges and learning.
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