Around the world, leaders and decision-makers are approaching the latest stage of the pandemic with a pledge to “build back better.” From the Canadian government to the United Nations, we hear promises of a post-COVID world that improves upon what existed before. At the same time, grassroots social justice movements are calling for a “just recovery”: one that addresses the inequalities and injustices exposed and exacerbated over the last two years.
Everywhere, people feel that change is inevitable – and that by working with others, this change could be transformational.
The repercussions of COVID-19 are far from over. In some regions, populations are widely vaccinated and governments have lifted many restrictions. In other parts of the world the pandemic continues its toll; global inequalities play out in lack of vaccines, and catastrophic loss of livelihood and access to food. In yet others, the danger posed by the pandemic is exacerbated and exceeded by that of civil war, political violence and crackdowns by authoritarian regimes on movements for democracy and justice.
Across the globe, a new generation of activists is engaging to help rebuild and reshape our world, infusing movements for change with fresh energy and ideas. They see the world that exists and know it could be better. For their elders, for themselves, and for those who will come next.
In Colombia, generations of young activists have built upon the struggles of their parents and grandparents. Social movements advocated for the current peace accord, which sought to address the root causes of the armed conflict. With its implementation stonewalled by the current government, citizens – led by young people – are pushing back, advocating for profound social change and an end to police violence. Building on the achievement of the accord, youth are demanding more than the absence of fear. They insist on equality and justice for women, for peasants, for ethnic communities, and for LGBTIQ+ people.
Young people’s vision for the future builds on the gains and losses of past generations. Engaging a new generation of activists fosters both change and continuity. It is the organic rhythm of continuity and change that keeps movements vibrant and alive. As counterpart Tiniguena celebrates 30 years of educating youth in Guinea-Bissau through their program Geração Nova da Tiniguena, early participants are now returning to teach and learn with the next generation. In Guatemala, generations are coming together to heal from intergenerational trauma, and share stories of their fights for justice.
The work of the Canadian Health Coalition, of which Inter Pares is a member, reminds us that time brings both progress and regress. As they organize to address the inequalities and injustices within our healthcare system, they note that our hard-won public services have been eroded over decades with the encroachment of privatization and corporatization. The solution they present is not new: universal public healthcare needs to be restored and expanded. Old and young together remind us that what was won before can be won again – and won better.
As cracks within our current world widen, so does what shines through: a bright light of hope for the future. The process of transformation is enriched and enlivened by collaboration across generations: we learn from our past, better our present, and fight for our future.
Engaging a new generation of activists fosters both change and continuity.