As followers of Jesus, we have always believed that we are called to a “new normal”. In Christ we are a new creation – called to live in ways that embody love for God and love for our neighbour; called to live out a kingdom-shaped “new normal”.
The crises of 2020 revealed and compounded the brokenness in our world that, in "normal times", often remains hidden. A world with greater inequality than ever; a climate crisis that is devastating poor communities and, for the first time in decades, the number of people living in poverty on the rise.
We cannot simply go back to the way things were. What we once called normal wasn’t good enough.
For the last two decades, the global poverty rate has been steadily declining. But in 2020, the global effort to end poverty suffered its worst setback in a generation.
COVID-19 is expected to push as many as 163 million people into poverty by the end of 2021.1
The pandemic revealed underlying inequalities – reasons why people who are poor and vulnerable are hit hardest by global shocks:
Inadequate health systems were overwhelmed, exposing the lack of health care workers, medical facilities and supplies. Over 40% of all countries have fewer than 10 medical doctors per 10,000 people.2
In the poorest nations, 3 out of 4 people lack access to clean water and soap – the cheapest and most effective means of preventing infection.
Half the world’s workers – 1.6 billion people – rely on insecure jobs in the informal economy – jobs that are more easily disrupted or lost during an economic downturn.2,3
Increased rates of poverty will put more children at greater risk of child labour, child marriage and child trafficking. The pandemic contributed to a surge in reports of violence against women and girls.2
The number of people experiencing acute food insecurity has been exacerbated by the global recession triggered by the pandemic – surpassing the 690 million people already facing food insecurity before the pandemic.2
Even before COVID-19, our progress to end poverty was slowing – with the growing impact of climate change a major factor.
Without urgent action, climate change could push 132 million people into poverty by 2030.3
Poor people are often more exposed and more vulnerable to climate-related shocks, including:
Lower food production and higher food prices.
Increases in climate-related diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea.
More frequent and severe extreme weather and disasters such as wildfires, droughts, hurricanes and floods.4
2020 was one of the hottest ever years on record, coming at the end of our warmest decade. Global temperatures are on track to rise as much as 3.2°C in the next 80 years.2
We cannot simply go back to the way things were. Without bold and urgent action, climate change threatens even greater disruption than the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our unprecedented progress over the past 25 years shows us that, when we act together, we can make a difference. Now is our moment to reset – so that all people can flourish within the natural limits of God’s creation.
1. World Bank. 2. UN SDG Report. 3. WB Poverty Report. 4. Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty