Covid-19 Emergency: Female Leaders Provide Sustainable Solutions

While the world is in the midst of the Covid-19 emergency, I would like to share two innovative and transformational approaches from female leaders: with the aim to share some hope during these unprecedented times.

Firstly, there is the doughnut theory cooked up in Oxford, which aims to guide Amsterdam out of the economic mess left by the coronavirus pandemic. With the global attachment to economic growth and laws of supply and demand destructive and deeply unsustainable, the doughnut model devised by Kate Raworth can serve as a guide to what it means for countries, cities and people to thrive in balance with the planet. “When suddenly we have to care about climate, health, and jobs and housing and care and communities, is there a framework around that can help us with all of that?” Raworth says. “Yes there is, and it is ready to go.” The central premise is simple: the goal of economic activity should be about meeting the core needs of all but within the means of the planet. The “doughnut” is a device to show what this means in practice. For more detailed information read Raworth’s 2017 bestselling book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist.

Secondly, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the latest world leader to adopt the Happiness Index metric, announcing a new budget that focused on improving the prosperity of local communities. The Kingdom of Bhutan became the first nation to test a Gross National Happiness Index in 2008. Bhutan started to measure factors including psychological health, living standards, community vitality as well as environmental and cultural resilience and the government would then use these metrics to inform its policies. Creating accurate measurements for these factors that are easy to measure is often challenging, an excuse often given for avoiding them altogether. In New Zealand recently, Ardern hoped that adopting this progressive policy would: “(lay) the foundation for not just one well-being budget, but a different approach for government decision-making altogether.” As part of the budget, there will be an increase of NZ$200 million (US$131 million) in services aimed at helping victims of domestic and sexual violence as well as housing programs for the nation’s homeless population. Described as a “game-changing event” by London School of Economics Dr. Richard Layard, New Zealand’s budget has set a new standard for progressive policy as “no other major country has so explicitly adopted well-being as its objective.” All new spending must advance one of five government priorities: improving mental health, reducing child poverty, addressing the inequalities faced by indigenous Maori and Pacific island people, thriving in a digital age, and transitioning to a low-emission, sustainable economy.

Let’s hope more of the world’s leaders can develop and adopt similar progressive approaches to help create a sustainable future with a sense of care at its core – as the cultural historian Riane Eisler so often refers too – and upon which entangled humanity and nature depend.