We've heard a lot about 'Build Back Better' over the past few weeks, but what does it mean for Quakers? How can Friends promote their vision for build back better?
What are we calling for?
Quakers in Britain staff and committees have been working to develop a rounded Quaker vision for how we'd like our economy and society to change after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recovery is an opportunity to create a fairer, greener economy. As a member of the Build Back Better campaign, we're calling on the government to decarbonise the economy in a way that tackles inequality and enhances the lives of ordinary people, workers and communities. This must be at the heart of all spending decisions. For example, improving our cycling infrastructure would reduce air pollution and provide a cheaper, healthier and greener way for many people to get to work and school.
Linked to this, it's vital for the government to stop investing in arms and fossil fuels, and start investing more in renewables and public services. We're members of Rethinking Security, which campaigns for a more holistic view of security that includes sustainability, cooperation and justice. We also believe that further, urgent action must be taken towards nuclear disarmament.
At the beginning of lockdown, we called on the UK government to protect people in prison and prison staff from COVID-19. We welcomed the government's pledge to release some prisoners early, but were disappointed when this turned out to be tens rather than the thousands of prisoners pledged. As the recovery begins, we believe the early release scheme should be extended. The UK government also needs to adopt the presumption against short sentences that is working well in Scotland. Ultimately, we call for a wholehearted shift from punishment to prevention and rehabilitation.
Finally, we're continuing to advocate for racial justice and the rights of people from migrant backgrounds. The pandemic caused many people from migrant backgrounds to fall deeper into destitution.
The government took some action to address this, including releasing some people from detention and granting free treatment for COVID-19. The recovery is an opportunity to improve our immigration system further. We're calling for an end to the hostile environment so that people from migrant backgrounds can access work, housing, justice and healthcare.
What can you do?
There are three main ways that you can support and promote this vision.
1. Start conversations
Talk to friends, family and colleagues about what they liked and disliked about lockdown and what they'd like to keep or change during the recovery.
You may want to take this opportunity to come together with others to learn more about the aspects of building back better that interest you. You could join online workshops or start a reading group, using reading lists available online such as these on climate justice (PDF), anti-racism and abolitionism.
2. Take action in your community
Try contacting your local councillors with ideas about how you can build back better in your area and ask how you can work with them. You could host an event for Friends and the wider community to start a conversation and raise awareness of the need to build back better.
You may want to join up with other faith and civil society groups in your area to build a local movement. You could invite your MSP, MS or MP to get involved.
3. Join up with national campaigns
Sign up to the Build Back Better campaign and take part in their activities.
You could also join a campaign to target companies that have a big impact on our economy and society, such as banks, energy companies, and those delivering public contracts in immigration and criminal justice. Examples of such campaigners are ShareAction, Don't Bank on the Bomb and Corporate Watch.
Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the very best of luck. Please share your ideas and experiences of lobbying for build back better by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and tweeting at @BritishQuakers using #BuildBackBetter.