By Jeremy Corbyn
Our world today is defined by grotesque and growing levels of inequality.
Recent research exposed how 10 of the richest people on the globe have boosted their already vast wealth by more than $400 billion since the coronavirus pandemic began, at the same time as extreme poverty is rising for the first time in a decade.
In this increasingly unequal and unjust world, 2020 has been defined by the global coronavirus pandemic, which has shown just how at risk we all are to health inequality and injustice.
The pandemic has demonstrated that none of us is secure from the infections of our neighbours, and that our health is as secure as the disease control anywhere in the world.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) alerted the world to the Covid crisis in early January, yet their warnings were not taken seriously, with various leading right-wing figures around the world delaying taking action and claiming it was just a form of flu.
Governments that took it seriously such as New Zealand and Vietnam fared better by taking early urgent action and developing a “zero-Covid” approach, which enables action to put people’s health and livelihoods first.
And all around the world people showed just how important solidarity and co-operation are at times of crises, including here in Britain through the work of mutual-aid groups and a long overdue appreciation of all front-line workers, albeit not one always matched with a pay rise by this callous government.
The lessons of Covid-19 internationally are that we need a stronger WHO and that the demand for global free and universal health access must be delivered.
Additionally, the pandemic has taken the lives of the poorest in the most vulnerable places and shown in stark relief what global poverty is.
This has also been a year in which a spotlight has been shone on the grotesque scale of economic inequality there is in the world, both within countries (including the UK and US) and between countries around the world.
As well as economic inequality, in the spring the killing of George Floyd in the US sparked the Black Lives Matter uprising and put issues of structural racism and the legacies of colonialism centre stage.
All around the world the most oppressed people saw something of themselves in George Floyd and this has become a global movement for liberation which has already played its part in defeating Donald Trump in the US and dealing heavy blows to his key ally Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.
It is that global movement that excites and mobilises, and which Labour and the left must be proud to be part of.
Across the world at the same time as the pandemic, extreme weather — including here in Britain — has shown us that the climate emergency is deepening.
But we are not powerless when dealing with this crisis either.
The COP26 UN Climate Change Conference is due to be held in Glasgow in 2021 and will be faced with some stark decisions.
COP25 in Paris was a huge step forward as it did pledge for net zero carbon by 2050, and did, at least nominally, involve the entire world in the process, but this is now unlikely to be met.
COP26 must be much bolder and the UK, US and other similar economies must commit to net zero carbon by 2030.
The huge changes cannot be achieved by threatening those who work in polluting industries and services.
The huge changes mean supporting people and communities and promoting the Green Industrial Revolution we worked so hard on for the 2017 and 2019 manifestoes.
If climate change continues at this rate, we will see more climate refugees and, within this context, it is worth noting the hysterical reaction of most media to the movement of refugees across the English Channel earlier this year.
This — and the accompanying Tory scapegoating — has taken place without ever discussing why people would put themselves at enormous risk and danger in a rubber dinghy in some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
As internationalists, we have a duty to speak up for refugees and propose international co-operation to develop humane solutions to the global refugee crisis.
As part of this, we must recognise that the plight of millions of refugees will not be solved by more wars, and instead pursue an agenda of peace and disarmament.
When the Tory government is making disgraceful cuts to the Department for International Development and the international aid budget at the same time as it announces record rises in military spending, it is up to us to argue that a policy of peace can only be developed if we get real control over military spending and arms exports.
In this area, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference in 2021 is a chance to change direction and make strides for a nuclear-free world.
And Britain is now one of less than a dozen countries opposed to the UN global ban on nuclear weapons.
To conclude, Labour thinking on global affairs has always faced in two directions.
One is of a natural feeling of solidarity with the poorest, and support for their own political solutions in all parts of the world.
The other has been the dominance of Atlanticist thinking and thus the military alliance of Nato and with it a continuation of cold war mentalities in relation to Russia and China.
The crises of this year have shown why the first approach is right and our starting point for international relations must be one of peace, and with it respect for human rights and the urgent environmental needs the planet has.
For Labour and socialists today the issues of poverty, hunger, environmental disaster — and the accompanying systemic denial of rights — are the issues that should dominate our thinking both here in Britain and internationally.
As we enter 2021, we are at a turning point. Despite Trump’s defeat, internationally the forces of the right promote rampant free-market economics, racism and militarism to protect a failed status quo.
This coming year we need to promote the alternative — building stronger links with progressive groups across the world and working together to build a better future.
This article was first published in the Morning Star.
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