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Reposted from Resilience

The campaign for ‘Footprint Justice’ is gathering momentum with a call for UN member states to investigate the legal implications of enshrining a ‘Fair Earth Share’ as a human right. The following article explains the latest developments, by Jan Juffermans of the Dutch Platform Fair and Green Economy.


We know from various calculations and reports that the rich countries use a disproportionate amount of the Earth, which has resulted in major social and ecological problems. This already started in colonial times and got more and more out of hand due to the growth of international trade. For a long time, these raw numbers were used: 20% of the people on Earth, especially in the rich countries, use about 80 to 85% of the annually traded (fossil) energy, land and raw materials.

Climate Justice

Due to the great differences in energy consumption, the term ‘Climate Justice’ has been used. The users of a lot of fossil energy, even over many years, are therefore by far the biggest causes of climate disruption. They therefore have by far the greatest responsibility to effectively combat climate disruption and to help poorer countries as much as possible. This is also recognized in the UN Climate negotiations.

Footprint Justice

It is not different with raw materials and the use of agricultural land. Here, too, we see that the rich countries are irresponsibly seizing global lands and resources. For many people there is almost nothing left and that means poverty. Hardly anything is done against this unacceptable situation. To denounce that, I started using the term “Footprint Justice” a few years ago and wrote an essay about it, which was published on the Resilience site in the US.

Global footprints

To take a positive position, the starting point ‘A Fair Earth Share is a Human Right, for present and future generations’ was devised. The interesting thing is that this can be quantified today. Using the ‘Ecological Footprint’ model, the Global Footprint Network calculates the average global footprints of all countries every two years. Comparing these footprints, calculated with the same model, provide the scientific figures of the unequal distribution between countries. The project is being further developed with the support of the Platform Fair and Green Economy. The intention is to have the right to a ‘Fair Earth Share’ ultimately enshrined in international law. See a more detailed explanatory document here (in English) with the most important steps that have already been taken.

Statement of support

Contacts have been established with various persons and organizations, and the plan has been developed to request an ‘Advisory Opinion’ from the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The project has now reached the stage where a few countries are being sought, preferably a rich country and a country with a low national income, that want to put this statement on the agenda of the United Nations. After that, all countries are allowed to rule on the matter before the International Court of Justice, followed by a judgment by the judges. Important for this is the support statement issued jointly by professors Hans Opschoor, Jan Pronk and Nico Schrijver.

Wellbeing Economy Governments

The aforementioned statement now looks for countries with a new vision on the economy, such as Scotland, Iceland, New Zealand, Wales and Finland, which have started to cooperate as the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo). Katherine Trebeck is one of the initiators of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance and founder of this new economic philosophy, which focuses on wellbeing and not just material prosperity. These countries therefore give priority to new indicators, which they consider more important than the Gross Domestic Product. WEGo has now been asked whether they want to take the initiative to apply for the aforementioned ‘Advisory Opinion’ (also republished below).

Jan Juffermans, nationally active for the Dutch Footprint Working Group and the Platform Fair and Green Economy. Boxtel, January 22, 2021. 

Original source: This is the English translation of the article which was originally published on Platform DSE.

A Fair Earth Share is a Human Right for present and future generations

Give everyone structural rights and room to thrive

Amsterdam / Glasgow, December 2020

Although in the last 40 years the wellbeing of many people has increased, and some have seen an extreme rise in their income, the living standards for many others not only have not improved but in some cases have even deteriorated. The time for a new approach is now!

According to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to ‘a decent standard of living, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and social services’ (article 25). However, until now, there is no practical reference as to how this right can be realized. Would a new approach create new possibilities?

A new approach

The UN Declaration protects everyone’s right to life, which is enshrined as well in regional human rights law (such as the European Convention on Human Rights). This right to life translates into a human right of access to the Earth’s natural resources and environmental qualities for all.

Given the inherent limits of the Earth systems to provide sustainably and safely those resources to current and future generations, it is crucial to consider how a human right to a fair Earth share could be translated in quantitative terms and recorded in an internationally agreed human rights language.

Quantifying the available ecospace

The Doughnut-model (2017) by Kate Raworth describes the space for sustainable and fair development for humanity, with the safe ecospace as a ceiling and the fair sharing of the social benefits of development as a floor. This space is to be calculated so as to leave a fair amount of resources for future generations.

The model of the global Ecological Footprint (1996) allows us to make quantitative scientific comparisons of present aggregate claims on global ecospace between continents, countries, cities, and persons. Through the concept of ‘Safe Planetary Boundaries’ (2009), the available safe ecospace can be calculated.

Following these methodologies, we can take the next step towards fair global sharing. We hope the right to a fair Earth share can be recorded in internationally agreed human rights law.

An Advisory Opinion

For this process to start, we seek from UN member countries to make a request to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for an “Advisory Opinion” on this subject by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The request should preferably be made by a combination of two or more high-income and low-income countries.

When the International Court of Justice starts an “Advisory Opinion” with the proposition that “A Fair Earth Share is a Human Right” all member countries of the UN are invited to give their reaction. Based on all reactions, the official ‘Opinion’ will be formulated.

Our request to you

We would like to ask your support for this new approach, and to take the initiative, with one or more members of the Wellbeing Economy Governments, to make this request for an Advisory Opinion an item on the agenda of the UNGA. Should you have any questions, please find our addresses below as we would be happy to provide further clarification.

More information:

The Dutch Platform Fair and Green Economy (since 2006 – www.platformDSE.org)

The Platform Fair and Green Economy is a member of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. A more detailed ‘two-pager’ of the present status of this project can be found here.

A recent supportive statement for Footprint Justice by the leading scientists Hans Opschoor, Jan Pronk and Nico Schrijver from the Netherlands can be found here.

An essay about Footprint Justice by Jan Juffermans was published by Resilience in June 2020.

Original references:

Opschoor J.B. (1995). “Ecospace and the Fall and Rise of Throughput Intensity”, Ecological Economics Vol. 15 (1995) No. 2: 137-141.

Raworth, K. 2017. Why it’s time for Doughnut Economics, IPPR Progressive Review, Vol. 24, issue 2:216-222.

Rockström, J. et al 2009. A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472-475.

Wackernagel, M. and W. Rees, 1996. Our ecological footprint: reducing human impact on the Earth. New Society Publ., Philadelphia. See also: www.footprintnetwork.org

The Norwegian Government has announced that it will develop a new national strategy for wellbeing.

Referencing the approach taken by WEGo member New Zealand, the announcement by the Government of Norway states that:

  • A good life is about much more than financial and material goods
  • GDP is an insufficient metric for good lives, as it does not say enough about how people feel
  • There is a need for wellbeing to become a supplementary measure of societal development.

Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie said: “Good quality of life is an important value in itself, but we also know that it strengthens our resilience in the face of stress. Therefore, we need more knowledge about the development of quality of life in different groups so that we even out social differences and create a more health-promoting and fair society.”

Statistics Norway carried out the first national wellbeing survey in 2020, and the results are being used to inform the new wellbeing strategy. Further surveys will be carried out, with the next starting in November 2021.

The Norwegian Government hopes that its new strategy will be “an inspiration for other countries and organisations”.

See the official announcement here.

Please note: this summary is based on a Google translation of the original Norwegian text. Please let us know of any inaccuracies as a result of this translation by commenting below.

By: Jussi Ahokas

Finland joins the leading group of Wellbeing Economy Governments

This week we received great news when the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health announced that Finland had joined the international Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) network. The news is particularly good for SOSTE Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health (an umbrella organization of Finnish NGOs from the social and health sector) which has been promoting the wellbeing economy approach for several years.

By joining the WEGo partnership, Finland will be increasingly involved in discussions with New Zealand, Scotland, Iceland, and Wales around how societies can be built to ensure wellbeing for all people, despite the great challenges of our time. 

Civil society as a catalyst of cooperation

The news of Finland joining WEGo is also exciting for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, a civil society network of which SOSTE has been a member since Spring 2019, as the Alliance has been instrumental in the creation of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership. Apart from countries being able to engage in wellbeing economy initiatives, the network has offered to its member organizations, foundations, and individuals an arena to reflect together on the need for actions orientated towards wellbeing. 

Due to this cooperation SOSTE, for example, has reinforced the idea that without securing ecological sustainability future wellbeing cannot be ensured. In many respects, the change we need is greater than what could be achieved solely by SOSTE’s work on wellbeing economy, which has mostly concentrated on health policy and social policy issues. A sectoral perspective, or even a national perspective, is not sufficient – a wellbeing economy must be built globally and with all people and the whole planet in mind. 

Together we can build a wellbeing economy  

Given the extent of the required actions, no actor can succeed in building a wellbeing economy alone. It is, therefore, important to involve also governments and civil servants around the world in this joint effort. 

In the case of Finland, the wellbeing economy was one of the main themes during the country’s EU Presidency, and in recent months the wellbeing economy approach has really found its place in the central government’s agenda. A Wellbeing Economy group has just been established in the Public Health Advisory Board, and ministries and other state institutions have also been engaged around the issue of wellbeing economy. It is excellent that this work can now be shared and benchmarked with the other WEGo governments. 

Wellbeing economy for a better future 

When the acute coronavirus crisis is over, we will have again the opportunity to consider the next steps that should be taken to build up wellbeing economies and support people’s wellbeing around the world. 

SOSTE, social and health sector NGOs and global civil society are ready to continue to provide solutions that strengthen and expand the wellbeing economy. It is possible that in following years this effort will be embraced by other countries as well, as the global dialogue around the wellbeing policy and wellbeing economy evolves. This gives hope for a better tomorrow. 

On Wednesday, 28th October, Holyrood and the RSA held their online conference, “Scotland: The Recovery”. Chaired by WEAll Scotland trustee Sarah Deas, the event provided an opportunity for the public, private, and third sectors to gather and discuss how Scotland can move forward and build a post-pandemic society that works for everyone.

After initial remarks from Sarah, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister, opened the event by sharing her aspirations for a wellbeing economy. Acknowledging that economic policy should be “a means, not an end”, the First Minister called for the people of Scotland to work together to deliver an economy that places “wellbeing alongside wealth”—not just as an afterthought, but as a vital part of Scotland’s post-pandemic economy.

Also speaking by video address was Rt. Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK Government. The Minister also emphasised his commitment for a green recovery.

In other words, now is the moment for a wellbeing economy.

Throughout the day, there were numerous discussions, panels, and guest speakers (including WEAll’s Advocacy and Influencing Lead, Katherine Trebeck). The dominant theme was everyone’s shared commitment to taking wellbeing economy ideas and discussing how best to turn them into permanent, lasting reforms.

Sarah explained the shared vision of a wellbeing economy in her opening remarks:

“With nations across the world taking unprecedented steps to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for the global economy and society is bleak, with many challenges ahead. It’s also widely acknowledged that climate change poses a major threat, placing further crises on the horizon. So, as we seek to build back better, we must do so in a manner that builds resilience and addresses what’s not working in the current economic paradigm.

“It requires us to ask fundamental questions and explore ‘radical’ solutions. How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?

How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?

“In other words, how do we build a ‘wellbeing economy’, transforming our economic system so that it delivers social justice on a healthy planet—the first time round.

“This requires us to consider questions like, what kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

What kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

“It’s recognised that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the root causes of societal problems—leading to ‘upstream’ preventative measures—rather than focusing mainly on ‘downstream’ measures, which involve cleaning up and redistributing after the fact. Whilst the latter are also important in the short term, we won’t escape the downward spiral by patching up after the event. Instead, we need upstream systems change.

“As a founding member of the WEGo partnership, alongside Iceland and New Zealand, Scotland is already at the forefront of global efforts to build a new, inclusive economy focused on societal and environmental wellbeing. 

“So how do we do it? Today’s Holyrood event, in partnership with the RSA, brings together policymakers and thought leaders to explore that key question.”

As the conference came to an end, the closing keynote came from Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, The Scottish Government. She spoke to Holyrood back in August about Scotland’s desire “to create a strong, resilient wellbeing economy”, and the need is just as prevalent today.

There’s still lots of work to do, but it truly is promising to see the wave of support for economic systems change that benefits everyone—including the key workers on whom we’ve relied so greatly this year.

Now is the moment to make it happen.

New WEAll Members, European Health Futures Forum (EHFF) and Feasta, have teamed up to deliver the Bridging the Gaps podcast series, which covers topics like:

• How best to measure wellbeing
• The politics of land
• Wealth distribution
• Diversity, both biological and cultural
• Blame, shame and compassion
• The role of digital technology in society

…..all in the context of a biosphere which is critically ill and in need of urgent care.

They recently put out a podcast episode: ‘Towards Wellbeing’, featuring David Somekh of EHFF interviewing Stewart Wallis, Chair of WEAll

The episode covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Reasons why a large majority of people consider the current economic system to be dysfunctional
  • Five basic things that people throughout the world say they need
  • Potential for Ireland to join the WEGo Partnership (which currently consists of Scotland, New Zealand, Wales and Iceland).

Watch the podcast episode (#6) and the rest of the EHFF & Feasta’s Bridging the Gaps podcast series, here.

Earlier this month, the WEGo partnership was featured in the 2020 edition of WWF’s Nature In All Goals publication, which outlines how we can restore our relationship with nature to realise the promise of the SDGs and Leave No One Behind.

Individually, the 17 SDGs define key areas of progress for humanity. Delivered together, they will transform the world and create prosperity for all on a healthy planet.

The publication gives inspirational examples of where each of the 17 SDGs have been put into practice – ranging from Supporting Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Communities in Myanmar to Renewable energy solutions for better health and energy security in Karachi, Pakistan.

In WEAll’s article, we discussed how to shift toward a Sustainable and Just economy – one that promotes wellbeing for all. 

Action on the SDGs in the next ten years is not possible without a fundamental transformation of our economic system.

In order to do this, WEAll’s membership has developed the 5 priorities a wellbeing economy should deliver on.

‘We All Need’:

  1. Dignity: Everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety and happiness
  2. Nature: A restored and safe natural world for all life
  3. Connection: A sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good
  4. Fairness: Justice in all its dimensions at the heart of economic systems, and the gap between the richest and poorest greatly reduced
  5. Participation: Citizens actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies.

These principles guide the work of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership.

WEGo member states have achieve great successes in mainstreaming social equity and ecological restoration – in line with the SDGs:

Read all of the inspiring examples of the shift toward a wellbeing economy in the WWF’s Nature In All Goals publication, here.

Today, 22 June 2020, the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery published its report, ‘Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland’.

As an organisation whose purpose is to support the creation of a wellbeing economy in Scotland we are excited to see the prominence given to this goal in the report’s title.

Our initial sense is that there are parts to praise and unfortunately parts that fall short in recognising the type of transformation that could truly transform Scotland into a wellbeing economy.

We welcome the ‘four pillars’ approach laid out in the report, which gives business, people, community, and the environment balanced priority. This is an important step to designing a wellbeing economy, although a true wellbeing economy approach goes one step further to say that business and economic activity must be designed to serve people and planet, not thrive alongside them. After all, what is the benefit of an economy if it does not directly serve the people who sustain it?  We would also add that conflating business with the economy in the four pillars seems to miss the vital role of unpaid role of care and social reproduction in families and communities in supporting the market economy. This would be a serious blind spot for a country where the gender equality discussion is better than in other localities.

We are also concerned at the extent to which a desire for ‘growth’ still features prominently in the report’s language. What kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

Indeed, the answers are the crux of what separates a traditional, growth-driven system from a true wellbeing economy. A wellbeing economy is one that is purposed and designed explicitly for human and ecological wellbeing – economic activity in service of these higher order goals.

In the report’s foreword, Benny Higgins (who led the group tasked with compiling the report’s recommendations) states: ‘Scotland had the ambition to become a robust, wellbeing economy. That is one that generates strong economic growth… and that does so with an unequivocal focus on climate change, fair work, diversity, and equality’. We disagree that a wellbeing economy is about generating “strong economic growth” – a wellbeing economy would ask: ‘what sort of growth – and for whom – is needed for collective wellbeing?’ It is about the economy (and growth where necessary) being in service of delivering collective wellbeing.

For example, we welcome the emphasis on conditionality in business support and recommendations such as a jobs guarantee: the post-covid economy cannot be one where businesses get away with social and environmental harm while young people see their future ebbing away.

Recognition that a wellbeing economy attends to climate change, fair work, diversity, and equality is promising to hear. The report rightly gives prominent focus to green recovery tests, and to circular economy principles.

Again though – and crucially – to truly initiate a wellbeing economy, the restructure must be designed to enable people and planet to flourish while being agnostic to economic growth, not dependent on it.

The Advisory Group’s report is a good starting point, and we welcome the embrace of the ‘wellbeing economy’ concept. The conversation can’t end here – not least when creating a wellbeing economy requires substantial economic transformation. We look forward to continuing the conversation with Government, businesses, and the wider public as we all move into this new era of economic recovery. Scotland has an opportunity to lead the world in truly putting collective wellbeing at the heart of economic policy making and creating an economy that delivers for people and planet first time around.

Blog by Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir, WEAll Ambassador and Professor of Sustainability Science at the University of Iceland

June 2, 2020

A few years ago a  guy called me up in Iceland and asked: “Why do the leftists own the environment?“  My answer was: “They do not but they have taken environmental issues to the forefront of their politics.  All parties should do that.“ He went on to found the Right Green Party which never took foothold in Icelandic politics.  But it was a step in the right direction.   Healthy environment and sustainability is tantamount for everyone’s wellbeing.

I was party to a similar discussion in an international WhatsApp group recently:  “Why is it that left-wing governments are promoting the wellbeing agenda?  In doing so it will be rejected by those to the right in politics.“

My response was: “In Iceland there is a broad political base behind the new wellbeing policy which has a focus on prosperity and quality of life and is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development goals.“

Our Prime Minister is from the Left Green Movement, but her coalition government encompasses the whole political spectrum – with the Independence Party (conservative right wing) led by Bjarni Benediktsson who is Minister of Finance and and Economic Affairs, and  the Progressive Party led by Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson and is Minister of Transport and Local Government.

This broad based coalition government agreed the Wellbeing policy agenda in April 2020.  It has 39 wellbeing indicators that are to be collected and followed by Statistics Iceland.  This is very important when considering what may happen in the next election – when the Left Greens may no longer lead the government.  Then the wellbeing agenda is already engrained in policy with civil servants and public institutional support.

What about the other countries in the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership?

In Scotland, the wellbeing economy agenda is being supported and followed by the National Performance Framework (NPF) which was presented to the Scottish Parliament by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Sturgeon is from the Scottish National Party (SNP) – which is considered to be a centre-left party and wants Scotland to become independent and and have closer ties with Europe and the EU.

Importantly, the NPF was passed unanimously with support from all five political parties in the Scottish Parliament.  Again, with this broad base of support in parliament the wellbeing economy agenda has a chance to survive if the next elections do not return the SNP as the leading party.

In New Zealand, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set the first wellbeing budget world-wide in May 2019 with a central question – how well are our people? The focus is on five priority areas where evidence indicates greatest opportunities to improve the lives of New Zealanders.  The PM´s political party is Labour (left).  Labour is in a coalition government with the New Zealand First Party (right wing) and the Green Party (left wing).  This again, is a broad-based political coalition, giving strength to the wellbeing agenda.

Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand are all members of WEGo – the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership – which is an offspring of WEAll.  A new member has just joined WEGo – Wales.  The First Minister of Wales is Mark Drakeford and he leads the Labour (left wing) government in Wales.  Wales has had the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act since 2015 that has seven wellbeing goals.  Therefore the wellbeing agenda is firmly in Welsh policy – and has been set in law for five years.

The Wellbeing Economy agenda is therefore neither left wing nor right wing.  It is for us all, so that all people and our planet can prosper.  Now that governments across the globe are finding their feet to lead their nations out of the COVOD-19 health and economic crisis – let us remember that pandemics hit us all, wherever we stand in politics. We also know that we cannot go back to business as usual.

In the worlds of professor Frank Snowden, a historian:  “By creating the myth that we could grow our economy exponentially and infinitely, by almost 8 billion people living on earth, excessive travel, environmental pollution, by pushing back nature more and more, we created almost ideal conditions for the coronavirus to emerge, spread and hit us especially hard.“

Let us join hands across political spectrums and make the Wellbeing Economy the new economy for the 21st century.  Would you like to learn more? Then see the WEAll ten principles of Building Back Better.

Reposted from Open Democracy

By Luca Coscieme, Katherine Trebeck and Lorenzo Fioramonte

The Covid crisis seems to confirm what policy analysts have argued for some time: female leadership may be more engaged on issues of social equality, sustainability and innovation, making societies more resilient to external shocks. We have run some statistical analyses on available data on the Coronavirus pandemic and a series of dimensions of public health, social progress, basic human needs and economic resilience, with stunning correlations.

First of all, current data shows that countries with women in a leadership position have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from Covid-19 than countries with governments led by men. Moreover, female-led governments were more effective and rapid at flattening the epidemic’s curve, with peaks in daily deaths roughly six times lower than in countries ruled by men. Finally, the average number of days with confirmed deaths was 34 in countries ruled by women and 48 in countries with male-dominated governments.

Of course, correlation is not causation, but when we look at most female-led governments’ approach to the crisis, we find similar policies that may have made a difference vis-à-vis their male counterparts: they did not underestimate the risks, focused on preventative measures and prioritized long-term social wellbeing over short-term economic considerations.

Taiwan is a case in point, where the government of Prime Minister Tsai Ing-wen built on its previous experience with SARS to immediately introduce targeted measures and medical checks, which massively reduced the risk of an outbreak and therefore made a lockdown unnecessary, unlike in most other East Asian countries, including the equally small Singapore, which instead suffered several waves of contagion. New Zealand’s government of Jacinda Ardern was also prompt in implementing restrictive measures early on, resulting in limited contagion and a much shorter lockdown than neighbouring countries in the Pacific. A similar pattern occurred in Denmark, Norway and Finland, all ruled by women, as opposed to Sweden, where economic considerations trumped health concerns, resulting in the highest death toll per capita in Europe.

Over the past few years, most women-led governments have also placed a stronger emphasis on social and environmental wellbeing, investing more in public health and reducing air pollution (which seems to be closely associated with Covid deaths). Our analysis shows that countries with higher female representation in national parliaments perform better in terms of greenhouse gas emission reduction, air pollution containment and biodiversity conservation. Some of these governments have also launched an international alliance to promote ‘social and ecological wellbeing’ as the cornerstone of their economic policies. These are all important features that make societies more resilient vis-à-vis external shocks.

Confirmed deaths

Confirmed deaths of Covid-19 (left) – Number of days with at least one reported death of Covid-19 (centre) – Peak in daily deaths (right). Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Basic Needs

Basic Human Needs 2019 score (Nutrition and Basic Medical Care, Water and Sanitation, Shelter, Personal Safety), Source: Social Progress Imperative (left) – Gini coefficient of income distribution, Source: The World Bank (centre) – GDP growth rate per cent reduction forecasts for 2020, Source: European Commission and national central banks.

Against this backdrop, it is perhaps unsurprising that women-led countries are also likely to suffer the least from the ensuing economic recession: GDP growth forecasts for 2020 indicate that they will experience a decline lower than 5.5 percent, while countries with male leaders will shrink by over 7 percent.

There is probably not enough hard evidence yet to demonstrate that there is a clear ‘female factor’ at play, but we cannot simply dismiss such stark differences as casual. Some women leaders have understood that placing social and environmental wellbeing at the core of national policymaking has positive effects on society’s resilience and benefits the economy too. It’d be wise for their men colleagues to take note.

Notes: countries with female leaders include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece (President), Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Slovakia and Taiwan. Countries with male leaders include Austria, Bulgaria, Brazil, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

Thanks go to Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir, Jacqueline McGlade, Ida Kubiszewski, Kate Pickett, Richard Wilkinson, Enrico Giovannini and Robert Costanza for their contributions to this article.

Reposted from Open Democracy

Photo: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks in Wellington, New Zealand, April 20, 2020. | Xinhua/Pa. All rights reserved.

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop declared in Parliament yesterday that “the time of a wellbeing economy has well and truly arrived.”

Speaking about plans to get the Scottish economy moving again after the covid-19 lockdown, Hyslop was clear that business as usual should not be the default:

“We must be brave and bold and rethink the world of work,” she said as she outlines the three steps required to restart Scotland’s economy in 14 separate sectors, stressing that it must be done safely and will involve…

  • Measures to suppress the virus
  • Guidance that supports fair and safe workplaces
  • The right structures for workplace regulation

Encouragingly, she went on to say that we “need a revolution in economic thinking that stimulates and values cooperative sharing of risk and reward, to rethink what value is”.

While touching on workers’ rights, remote working and a green recovery, Ms Hyslop added that “collective endeavour” should replace “old thinking on battling over wealth distribution, which has never properly delivered”.

See more coverage on BBC News.

Scotland is one of four members of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, alongside New Zealand, Iceland and Wales. Find out more about this initiative here and about WEAll Scotland – the dedicated Scottish hub of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – here.

BBC Radio Scotland has aired an in-depth feature exploring wellbeing economics, community wealth building and how Scotland can build back better post-covid.

Featuring interviews with WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck and WEAll member Sarah McKinley of the Democracy Collaborative, the report by BBC Scotland Economics Editor Douglas Fraser explores the need to reconsider our approach the economy.

Katherine  says: “Our economy wasn’t delivering for enough people. Covid has shone a very harsh light on the economic system we had prior to the pandemic. It has created a necessity to look for different ways of doing things”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is also quoted, speaking in her 2019 TED Talk about the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership.

There is also a spotlight on the new Community Wealth Building strategy of North Ayrshire Council, an economic development approach which focuses on the needs of communities and building thriving local economies. WEAll Scotland’s Sarah Deas was this week named as Chair of the expert panel advising North Ayrshire’s approach – read more here.

Listen to the BBC Radio Scotland feature here (from 1:32:15).

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] By Katherine Trebeck (WEAll) and Peter Kelly (The Poverty Alliance)

First published by Bella Caledonia

 

 

This year started with masks and it is likely to end with masks.

As Scottish people woke up on Hogmanay morning, Australians were going to bed to the latest news of the bushfires spreading across the east coast of the country, taking people’s homes, wildlife and acres and acres of native vegetation with them.

In Australia’s capital city, Canberra, the rolling hills surrounding it meant smoke from nearby blazes settled in the city streets, endangering the lungs of locals. Many went out to buy masks and the ones of apparently high enough spec to filter out the carcinogenetic particles quickly sold out.

And now multiple governments are telling their citizens that wearing masks is part of the steps they need to take to control the transmission of covid-19, part of the so-called ‘new normal’ we’re all going to have to fall into step with.

And as lockdown measures are slowly, hesitantly wound back, attention is being turned to how economies can recover from one of the biggest kicks in the guts it is possible to imagine: workers and customers being told to stay home.

The stakes are high – people have lost jobs, businesses are no longer viable, and personal and government debts have stacked up. Emergency measures cannot continue indefinitely – in due course the direction is going to have to be set for the post-covid economy.

What covid-19 revealed was that the economy of pre-covid days was one that stood on the shoulders of an army of low paid workers eking out a livelihood in very precarious work. The early stages of lockdown revealed that what kept communities ticking over was the foundational economy, local supply chains, and the generosity and kindness of neighbours helping each other get by.

What will ensure Scotland builds back better? Certainly not reverting business as usual – in fact, that will be impossible, what is more likely is a more toxic economic model than the one of pre-covid days. So instead, what is necessary is a proactive, concerted effort to use all the levers the Scottish government has to create a wellbeing economy: one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.

Scotland has already created of the mechanisms that can enable this – they’ve just been underutilised. Now is the time to breathe life into them, doubling down on the timid steps already being taken rather than ditching them with a misplaced deference to old way of doing things which didn’t require too much prodding to be revealed as inadequate.

Here are some examples:

  • Conditionality needs to be the name of the game in government support for businesses. Some businesses merit public funds because they are the sort of enterprises that can play a part in building a wellbeing economy. Some won’t and thus don’t. No business that is unable to demonstrate its relevance to the wellbeing economy agenda should be in line for public funds. But in making that real, fortunately the Scottish Government has a Business Pledge, sitting on the shelf quietly that could be bolstered and used as a lens through which to evaluate the requests for help. The work of Scottish Enterprise constitutes another nascent move that needs more oomph: nurturing more inclusive business models into existence and the 2019 shift in strategy to making ‘job-related grants contingent on fair work practices, including job security and payment of the real living wage’.
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  • But in contrast to businesses, all people merit public support when the chips are down. So reskilling is needed to help people reposition themselves in a profoundly changed economic landscape. But not just reskilling but providing a backstop so people don’t slip too far as they step into the new reality, via robust social protection. Making permanent the improved resources made available through the Scottish Welfare Fund would be positive, but significantly increasing Child Benefit using Scotland’s scope to top up reserved benefits would provide the cushion that many families have been lacking in recent weeks.
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  • Communities know what needs to be done: how their localities need to change and what sort of economy will be in service of that. So perhaps the best role of a post-covid state is to underwrite community-led solutions? Again, there are the glimmers of existing practice to build on – not least in the form of the Climate Challenge Fund. Ramping up such initiatives will ensure the activities that emerge as lockdown is lifted are those aligned with sustainability and community need.
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  • Jobs themselves need to be redesigned – to deliver decent pay (it beggars belief that two in five care workers did not earn the real Living Wage as the corona crisis set in) and to distribute the available paid work more fairly across people who want it. The Scottish Government can encourage this through support for those firms that embrace employing more people rather than working fewer staff harder. For example, business rates could be recalibrated, subsidies and procurement could be better aligned with certain business practices, and basic bread and butter encouragement of necessary practices all matter.
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  • Covid-19 and the economic disruption it has brought is no reason to put dealing with environmental breakdown on the backburner – in fact, it makes the need even more stark if the likes of Covid-32 and Covid-97 are to be kept at bay. Again, Scotland has the beginnings to build on: ambitious climate targets and the work of the Just Transition Commission to map a way to support communities while powering down those industries incompatible with a low carbon economy. The very existence of Zero Waste Scotland is something to celebrate – a post-covid economy needs to be a circular one. The just transition agenda needs to be at the heart of economic and social policy making as Scotland seeks ways to move into a new economic era without people being left on the wayside.
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  • Other mechanisms that offer the means to bring about the sort of changes needed, were they just to be drawn on with more vigour, include the Sustainable Procurement duty, the Community Empowerment Act, and the community wealth building efforts. Community wealth building in particular, when combined with the efforts to bolster the population of inclusive business models flagged above, constitutes an important way to ‘get the economy to do more of the heavy lifting’ – or predistribute – resources in a way that is fairer than current circumstances allow.
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  • The Citizens Assemblies – for example on Scotland’s future and on climate change – are examples of the sort of robust, deliberative mechanisms to distil and develop the views of people in Scotland. With the First Minister talking of having an ‘adult conversation’ about responding to covid-19, the test will be the extent to which they feed into policy decisions and become a core part of decision making strategy.

The goal of a wellbeing economy has been set in the National Performance Framework, the creation of WEGo, the First Minister’s TED talk, and the rhetoric about the February budget being a wellbeing budget (a dubious claim, but the sentiment counts for something).

If the NPF can be used more concertedly to guide the objectives of policy making and accountability of policy making, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

If the learnings from others can be harnessed via WEGo and if the bold statements in the First Minister’s TED talk create space for civil servants wanting to be part of the transformation necessary, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

And if next year’s budget truly is a wellbeing budget – featuring long term goals, cross-departmental collaboration, with an outcome focus and attending to root causes of wellbeing deficits – then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

And that brings us to the task force set up to guide the government on economic recovery post-covid. Others have raised an eyebrow at its composition and lack of unusual suspects (and, dare we point out, the lack of expertise on addressing poverty and ways to bolster Scotland’s renewable sector, let alone an economic system change expert). This is surely an own-goal – diversity will enable better ideas. But not wanting to judge it prematurely, its merit will depend on the extent to which it discards outdated recipes, recognises the dual goals of social justice and sustainability and that the best initiatives deliver on both fronts to deliver collective wellbeing for current and future generations.

Scotland has the talk and the templates for building a wellbeing economy. There are tentative moves in the direction of what is necessary. Now is not the time to turn away from them. Now is the time to breathe life into them, roll them out, scale them out and up in order to build back better.

Katherine photo credit: Martin Oetting

Peter photo credit: Maverick photo agency[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Welsh Government has announced its official membership of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership.

In a statement by Jane Hutt, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, the government said:

“Covid-19 has dramatically changed our lives and will have a lasting and profound effect on all of us, on our economy, on our public services and on our communities. We cannot go back to business as normal, and need to plan for a Wales, shaped by the virus, that is more prosperous, more equal and greener, rooted in our commitment to social-economic and environmental justice. Last week, we joined the Well-being Economy Government (WEGo) Network and will be working with Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand – who all have a shared ambition to deliver and improve well-being through their economic approach.”

Alongside Finland, Wales has already participated in WEGo policy forums with the founding members Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand.

Jane Hutt went on to talk about the country’s pioneering Wellbeing of Future Generations Act:

“The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, with its seven well-being goals, provides a long term vision of Wales, agreed by the Senedd back in 2015, puts us on a strong footing to guide us in these unchartered water. Thinking about the long term, involving people, joining up policies and delivery of services, collaborating across all sectors, and focusing on prevention is crucial in working more effectively with people, communities and each other to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. In the First Minister’s statement on the Framework to Lead Wales out of the Coronavirus Pandemic  the Future Generations Act is part of the principles by which we will examine proposed measures to ease the current restrictions, grounded in both scientific evidence and wider impact.”

If you’re based in Wales and would like to get involved with helping promote and build a wellbeing economy there, we can connect you to the team setting up the brand new WEAll Cymru hub. Get in touch at info@wellbeingeconomy.org mentioning Wales in the subject line.

Read the full statement and find out more about the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act here.

Find out more about the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership here.

 

The covid-19 pandemic has made the inequalities and absurdities of our current economic systems clearer than ever. Economic policies are oriented towards emergency response and meeting basic needs, and there is no longer an economic status quo available to us.

This provides an opportunity to advance the vision of a wellbeing economy, with even more urgency than before the crisis. It has never been more crucial that we focus our systems on delivering wellbeing for all.

Ten Principles to Build Back Better

The COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating effects on vulnerable communities around the world but we are also seeing glimpses of hope, where societies are working to “build back better” by ensuring basic needs and protecting our natural environment.

In a new WEAll briefing paper published today, we outline a set of ten principles for “building back better” toward a wellbeing economy. “Wellbeing economics for the covid-19 recovery”, by Milena Buchs et al, showcases examples of inspiring actions around the world that are moving us towards a wellbeing economy, along with examples of actions that are moving us away from this vision.

 

1. New goals: ecologically safe and environmentally just

Prioritise long-term human wellbeing and ecological stability in all decision-making; degrow and divest from economic sectors that do not contribute to ecological and wellbeing goals; invest in those that do; facilitate a just transition for all that creates jobs in and reskills for environmentally friendly and wellbeing focused sectors.

2. Protecting environmental standards

Protect all existing climate policy and emission reduction targets, environmental regulations and other environmental policies in all COVID-19 responses.

3. Green infrastructure and provisioning

Develop new green infrastructure and provisioning, and sustainable social practices as part of the COVID-19 recovery. For instance, transform urban space towards active travel and away from car use; scale up public transport, green energy, environmentally sustainable food production, low carbon housing; attach environmental conditionality to bailouts of high carbon industries.

4. Universal basic services

Guarantee needs satisfaction for everyone, including through health care coverage for the whole population free of charge at point of access; universal free provision or vouchers for basic levels of water, electricity, gas, housing, food, mobility, education.

5. Guaranteed livelihoods

Ensure everyone has the means for decent living, for instance through income and/or job guarantees, redistribution of employment through working-time reduction.

6. Fair distribution

Create more equal societies nationally and globally through a fair distribution of resources and opportunities. E.g. more progressive and environmentally orientated income and wealth taxation; public/common ownership of key resources and infrastructure.

7. Better democracy

Ensure effective, transparent and inclusive democratic processes at all levels; end regulatory capture from corporate interests and corruption.

8. Wellbeing economics organisations

Prioritise in all businesses and organisations social and ecological goals; implement circular economy principles to minimise resource use and waste; ensure economic and organisational democracy.

9. Cooperation

Ensure cooperation and solidarity at all levels, including in international politics and the global economy; across industrial sectors and government ministries; across scales (global, national, regional, local).

10. Public control of money

Introduce public and democratic control of money creation. Spend newly created money on investments that promote social and environmental goals and avoid post-recovery austerity.

What does building back better look like in practice?

There are already great examples around the world of governments starting to employ these principles.

The city of Amsterdam has sped up the adoption of a doughnut economics framework in response to COVID-19 to guide decision making.

New Zealand, Iceland and Scotland are already implementing wellbeing economics principles, through the formation of the Wellbeing Economy Government group, and wellbeing budgets and decision-making frameworks. These countries have also achieved better outcomes in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

Of course, other decision makers are opting for business-as-usual, what the WEAll Briefing paper calls a “back to worse” approach. Notably, several governments, including in the US, UK, Australia, Sweden and Denmark have bailed out airlines, without environmental conditions in response to COVID-19.

Download and read the paper for more examples under each of the ten principles of Build Back Better and Back To Worse approaches.

“Building back better” will require great creativity and coordination. Concerted effort is needed to truly value wellbeing and ecological sustainability simultaneously and for all.

New ideas are a crucial ingredient for such an endeavour. We’ve suggested the ten principles above for responding to COVID-19 – and we recognise that this is a unique moment of change. So, we invite you to engage in this discussion as we work to build back better together. Comment below with further suggestions of principles and examples for what this means where you are.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance and the Poverty Alliance have today written to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, urging her to task the recently appointed Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with putting social justice at the heart of their work.

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Dear First Minister,

Economic Recovery and Covid-19

Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, we have witnessed in action the values that we all share. We have seen the compassion, kindness and solidarity that will be required to make it through this crisis.

But we have also seen that our economy is failing to live up to these values. Our social security system and labour market have failed to protect too many of us: particularly women, disabled people and people from black and minority ethnic communities.

It is clear that as we move through and beyond the current phase of the crisis, we must commit to redesigning our economy and systems to better reflect our shared values of compassion and justice. Instead of returning to the economy we had going into the Covid-19 crisis, we must build back better by creating a wellbeing economy that puts our collective wellbeing first.

We therefore welcome that the Scottish Government’s Covid-19: framework for decision making recognises the need to look at the “social and economic reforms necessary to achieve the best future for Scotland” and commits not to repeat the mistakes of austerity. This commitment is most welcome but must be made real. In the months ahead we urge you to maintain your ambitious climate agenda to ensure the post-Covid-19 economy is a sustainable one, and to ensure it is socially just we urge you to prioritise:

  • Building a labour market that works for everyone: Too many people, particularly women and younger people, are trapped in poverty by low-paid and insecure work. Fair Work has been central to the Scottish Government’s approach to labour market policy, but more must be done to make it a reality for workers in Scotland.
  • Designing a more just taxation system: While this crisis is impacting every person across the country, the disproportionate impact on people on low incomes has highlighted the very real consequences of our deeply unequal society. It cannot be right that the wealthiest 1% of households in Scotland own more wealth than the poorest 50% at a time when almost 1 in 4 children are living in poverty. We must inject justice and fairness into our taxation system.
  • Securing adequate incomes for all: We have seen positive steps taken by the Scottish Government as it has started to deliver social security assistance. However, Covid-19 has highlighted that this support must not only be dignified, but should help deliver an adequate income too. The Scottish Government must use its powers creatively and to their fullest extent to ensure that our social security system can keep any one of us afloat during difficult times.

Even at this moment of crisis we must begin the task of investing in a better future, to ‘build back better’, with every policy decision we make helping us move towards a just society that’s in step with our values.

We must not return to the pre-Covid 19 economy that locked so many people into poverty.

The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery must not, therefore, simply seek to replicate the unsustainable and unjust economy that went before. Instead, it must focus on the steps we can take to create an environmentally sustainable economy that ensures a just distribution of income and wealth. We urge you to task the recently appointed Advisory Group on Economic Recovery with putting social justice at the heart of their work. In doing so the Advisory Group should liaise with the Poverty and Inequality Commission and the Just Transition Commission and collaborate with existing Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partners to show leadership in creating a wellbeing economy.

This time calls on us to reflect on the kind of country we want to live in. We believe in a Scotland in which wealth is justly distributed, our life chances are not determined by how much we earn, where our labour market guarantees Fair Work for every worker, and where everyone has enough money to get by. We hope you share this vision and will take the decisions in the weeks and months ahead to make it a reality.

We would welcome an early discussion with you regarding the role of the Advisory Group, as well as the broader concerns of our members regarding the long-term social and economic reforms we require.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Kelly, The Poverty Alliance
Dr Katherine Trebeck, Wellbeing Economy Alliance

 

To coincide with the 10 year anniversary of the publication of the Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, the Carnegie UK Trust is publishing a series of blogs which outline the approach taken to measuring and improving wellbeing by different governments, organisations and initiatives around the world.

 

 


By Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Scottish Government

Delivering wellbeing to the people of Scotland is embedded at the centre of Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) and is key to the Scottish Government’s approach to the economy, which seeks to deliver wellbeing through sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

The goal and objective of all economic policy should be collective wellbeing. This broader approach is at the very heart of our Economic Strategy, published in 2015, which gives equal importance to tackling inequality as economic competitiveness.

A key limitation of traditional measures of the economy, most notably GDP, is that they are limited in what they can tell us about the distribution of income and wealth across society, the components of economic growth and whether that growth is sustainable for future generations.  Traditional measures of economic performance do not capture many of the drivers of wellbeing and the things that matter to people – for example health, living standards, quality of environment, security of employment, civic engagement and so on.

Sustainable and inclusive economic growth enables us to look beyond simple headline measures to consider outcomes across a broader range of performance criteria to allow for a more rounded assessment of the quality of our economic system and the distribution of economic opportunities across Scotland’s people and places.

Scotland, by putting wellbeing at the heart of everything we do, is on a journey and we have significant roads still to travel. There are other countries taking a similar approach to tackling some of the big defining challenges that the world currently faces. We know we can learn from international organisations and countries across the world, and share with them our experiences, which is why in 2018 Scotland and partners established the Wellbeing Economy Governments group, or WEGo as it is known.

In WEGo, the Scottish Government is working alongside Iceland and New Zealand – and in the coming year we expect to be joined by one or two new members – to promote sharing of expertise and transferable policy practices among governments who have a shared ambition of deepening their understanding of delivering wellbeing through their economic approach. Our countries have a lot of similarities but also face lots of different challenges. WEGo provides a forum to exchange ideas on our shared priorities and aims to move the idea of wellbeing economy from theory into practice.

A key activity of the group is the Economic Policy Labs, and the first of these were held in Edinburgh in May 2019. One of the areas discussed there was wellbeing budgeting. New Zealand published their first wellbeing budget in that month and their experience, and what we have learnt through our group, has informed activities both here in Scotland and in Iceland. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has set out that a wellbeing budget is being developed in Iceland. Here in Scotland, the budget that I presented to Parliament in February 2020 put wellbeing and fairness at its heart, prioritising actions that have the greatest impact on improving lives across Scotland now, and creating the conditions that are required to ensure wellbeing for future generations.

As Cabinet Secretary for Finance, I am keen to continue, both to collaborate with like-minded countries and to develop our own wellbeing budgeting approach for Scotland. Delivering the outcomes set out in the NPF should be at the centre of how we allocate and spend resources.

But building a wellbeing economy is not the role of government alone. Whilst governments should show leadership – and I believe the Scottish Government is already doing that, see the TED talk given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in July 2019 – individuals, businesses and organisations across our society have a big role to play. We are committed to working with all those seeking to advance the concept and the reality of a wellbeing economy, both now and in the years ahead.

Finally, as we see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic globally and how it is changing people’s lives, what they value, how they work and interact with each other, a wellbeing economy framing with strong public services seems so obvious. Out of this crisis we will hopefully see a greater emergence of this approach in economies across the world.

Reposted from Carnegie UK Trust website

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir

March 25, 2020

This week a friend and colleague sent this written dialogue to me: 

World: “There´s no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment.“

Mother Nature: “Here´s a virus. Practice.“

 

For decades, nations have taken up and practiced a globalised, neoliberal, market-driven economic system with focus on exponential economic growth through natural resource extraction, production with energy use and consumption.

Global natural systems are similarly in exponential decline and the climate is warming exponentially. Despite the 2015 UN Climate Agreement, global emissions were still rising exponentially in 2019.  Few people appear to have listened to physics professor Al Bartlett who often stated that „the biggest imperfection of mankind is that it does not understand the consequences of exponential growth.“  Interestingly, the late economist Kenneth Bolding stated: “anyone who thinks that endless growth in a limited world is possible, is either a madman or an economist.“  For the past decade I have asked university student groups and the public whether they can tell me the doubling time if they know the percent rate of increase, and in my memory only one engineering student knew the answer.

Enter the Covid-19 virus. A global pandemic is declared and in only a few weeks the world has ground to a halt, literally.  Varied civil protection measures for emergency management have been taken across the world, including closing borders.  Testing, isolating, quarantining, treating is the message from WHO. Some nations stepped in with social restrictions early, others later.  It appears that the aim of “flattening the curve“ of peak diagnosis per day so that the health care system will not be overwhelmed, appears to be working in some countries.

Meanwhile, in parallel, the economy has slowed down dramatically across the world.  World GDP growth is unlikely for 2020 and at the same time total levels of pollution and emissions are likely to decrease.

Like all of us, I am deeply saddened by the world health pandemic and feel for those who have already and will lose their loved ones. Since the beginning of this crisis I have, however, observed several positive outcomes for science, the environment and the economy – which we can all benefit from in the future:

  1. More and more people now understand the terms „exponential growth“ and „doubling times“. National government representatives report daily increase in diagnosed Covid-19 cases and how many days it will take the cases to double.  This understanding can in due time be used by address issues relating to both the environment and the economy.
  2. The importance of trust in scientific knowledge has increased. Even populist politicians are now listening to scientists. Dismissal of scientific evidence is thus out, science is in. Even my 8 year old nephew has come up with a Covid-19 virus treatment proposal, which he discussed with my son today who is a medical doctor and research scientist. It is likely that many children will aim to be scientists in the future, filling the current and imminent gaps of lack of scientists and engineers.
  3. Wellbeing of people is the top priority of many government and industry responses. Hi-tech firms from race-car producers to vacuum cleaner manufacturers are being asked to step in to develop and produce in record time ventilators for the overwhelmed health care authorities. Governments are also stepping in to ask companies to produce soaps and other sanitary products and pharmaceutical companies are working with government scientists to develop corona virus vaccines.
  4. Since I am in Iceland I would like to outline the government of Iceland‘s economic rescue package which was introduced last weekend. Before I do that I would like to emphasise that my government is a partner in WEGo (Wellbeing Economies Governments) in partnership with Scotland and New Zealand – all three nations lead by women.

The Icelandic stimulus package is in 10 parts and is a total of 230 billion Icelandic krona, 7.8% of national income. The focus is on Prevention – three actions to prevent job losses and business bankruptcies; Protection – three actions to support individuals and and families due to difficult circumstances; Economic push back – four actions to increase economic activity, goods exchange and investment.  These are further outlined below – and where appropriate are linked with the newly established wellbeing indicators (WBI) that are being implemented in Iceland. These are 39 indicators, 17 related to society, 7 related to the environment and 15 related to the economy.

Prevention:

1) Part time pathway – unemployment benefits for those who have reduced employment percentage.  This supports economic WBIs on employment rates, unemployment and low income rates

2) Bridging loans to businesses – support for businesses that have operational difficulties to take extra loans as well as reduction in banking taxes. This can be related to economic WBI on debt of business

3) Deadline for business tax payments delayed – delay in tax due date, as well as insurance due date, and delay in due date for prepayment of business income tax. This relates to economic WBI on government debt.

Protection:

4) Salary during quarantine – employers are compensated for the salaries of people who are in quarantine and cannot work remotely from home. This relates to economic WBIs on buying power and individual debt

5) Increase in child support payments – single extra child support payments to families of every child under 18 because of changed circumstances. This relates to economic WBI on lack of social of economic quality

6) Withdrawal of private pension savings – allowance to withdraw private pension savings for unrestricted use. This relates to economic WBI of purchasing power.

Economic push back:

7) Strengthening tourism – internal injection for tourism (electronic vouchers for every citizen to travel in Iceland), abolition of overnight hotel taxes, and international promotion of Iceland as a tourism destination as soon as the crisis is over. This relates to national income which is one of the economic WBIs.

8) Extension of „everyone works“, refund of value added tax for home improvement and that of NGO facilities. This relates to the WBI of percentage in employment and unemployment.

9) Easier import/export – cancellation of import tax and delay in deadlines for paying customs fees. This relates to economic WBI of purchasing power.

10) Investment efforts – increase jobs in building and maintaining infrastructure, support business innovation, and accelerating planned investment for the future. This relates to economic WBI of percent employed and unemployment.

This quick analysis of the economic stimulus package of the Icelandic government can be directly related to 8 out of 15 economic WBIs.  None of the social or environmental WBIs can be directly related to the package. For the environment WBI a focus on accelerating land reclamation and tree planting and increasing nature protection would both create jobs and improve wellbeing for people and nature.  A focus on supporting remote education and would affect social WBI pertaining to education level and continuing education.

The Icelandic government has already started to think about the long term even as it deals with this short term crisis, thanks to its wellbeing indicator framework: but there‘s much more work ahead. It is my hope that many of the lessons we learn during this Covid-19 pandemic will bring us closer together and that we can use lessons learned to both protect the environment and build economies with focus on wellbeing for people and nature.

Dr. Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir is Professor of Sustainability Science, Faculty of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland. She is also a WEAll Ambassador and a member of the WEAll Global Council.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The BBC has done an in-depth report on Iceland’s ambitions to build a wellbeing economy as part of the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative (alongside Scotland and New Zealand).

Watch the report here to learn some lessons from Iceland on how we can move forward:

Photo by Matt Hardy from Pexels

 

The government of Canberra in Australia has introduced a new 12-point wellbeing framework in order to “make Canberra an even more liveable city where our entire community can thrive.”

This encouraging step towards building a wellbeing economy is based on a broad understanding of wellbeing. The official government website act.gov.au/wellbeing explains the plans as follows:

“Definitions of wellbeing are typically broad and diverse, encompassing a wide range of areas that impact on an individual’s quality of life. Generally, having the opportunity and ability to lead lives of personal and community value – with qualities such as good health, time to enjoy the things in life that matter, in an environment that promotes personal growth – are at the heart of wellbeing.

When talking about individual wellbeing, we often speak to a person’s physical and mental health, the strength of connections they share with people around them, or their financial position. More expansive indicators of wellbeing can be a person’s relationship to their surroundings, such as their safety, their capacity to enjoy and live in harmony with the natural and built environment, or their ability to be mobile in their community. These aspects of wellbeing are not independent of each other. They operate together and influence one another, creating complex relationships that are in turn shaped by an individual’s lived experience.

Our vitality as a city is the result of the various lived experiences across the community. Ultimately, feeling healthy and happy will mean different things to different people. Capturing all these aspects of a person’s lived experience can be inherently complex. Before attempting to measure the wellbeing of our community, we have spoken with and heard from thousands of Canberrans about what they feel is most important to their own, their family’s, and their community’s quality of life.”

Wellbeing flower

Find out more on the ACT government website here.

WEAll was honoured to be part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Limits to Growth at the UK Parliament this week.

Chaired by Green MP Caroline Lucas, and convened by the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity, the APPG provides a platform for cross-party dialogue on shared and lasting prosperity in a world of environmental, social and economic limits.

This session was the group’s AGM and it had a special focus on Wellbeing Economics. Professor Tim Jackson, a WEAll Ambassador, had prepared this briefing paper on tackling growth dependency.

The paper sets out a three-fold strategy for moving beyond GDP by: changing the way we measure success; building a consistent policy framework for a ‘wellbeing economy’; and addressing the ‘growth dependency’ of the economy.

In particular, the briefing recommends:

  • a determined effort to develop new measures of societal wellbeing and sustainable prosperity;
  • the full integration of these measures into central and local government decision-making processes;
  • the alignment of regulatory, fiscal and monetary policy with the aims of achieving a sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy;
  • the establishment of a formal inquiry into reducing the ‘growth dependency’ of the UK economy;
  • the development of a long-term, precautionary ‘post-growth’ strategy for the UK.

A packed room of MPs and peers from all political parties was addressed first by Peter Schmidt, rapporteur to the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) recent ‘own initiative opinion’ on The sustainable economy we need, then by Lisa Hough-Stewart, Communications and Mobilisation lead at WEAll.

Lisa focused her remarks on the need for new economic narratives, and the role of policy makers in helping shape those narratives. Explaining the work of WEAll and its members, she also gave details of the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative (WEGo) which has Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand collaborating towards their shared goal of promoting economies based on wellbeing.

A robust and positive discussion followed the presentations, with clear interest in wellbeing economy ideas from all attendees and encouraging suggestions for driving the agenda forward at UK level.

Caroline Lucas has raised an Early Day Motion in Parliament in support of the findings on the EESC opinion, and the principles of a wellbeing economy. It is garnering support with more MPs across the political spectrum – you can view the motion here, and if you live in the UK, share it with your MP asking them to support it.