Pluralism and the Pandemic: Addressing Inequality and Exclusion

Addressing Inequality and Exclusion

Those who are excluded in society bear the brunt of crises. The public health crisis of COVID-19 has hit hardest among the already socially and economically marginalized. Around the world, societies are being forced to confront the uncomfortable reality that existing inequalities increase the likelihood of contracting and dying from the virus. Levels of economic and social exclusion, such as poverty, access to health and education services, and legal status, will be determining factors for the pace and extent of different groups’ recovery and resilience to new threats. These realities have spurred on difficult conversations about how we care for our most vulnerable populations.

Inequalities and exclusions strongly correlate with difference, including race, ethnicity, language, indigeneity, religion, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, and so on. People may be privileged or disadvantaged on the basis of the many different groups they belong to or identities they hold. Addressing inequalities – such as lack of access to economic opportunity, political participation, education or health services – is essential to achieving stable, just and inclusive societies. This effort will be equally important for groups’ and societies’ recovery from the pandemic.

Addressing inequality and building societies where everyone belongs require collective efforts within institutions and across culture. Institutions, such as constitutions, legislatures, courts, and systems of government, enact the policies and practices that govern diversity. Cultural habits or public mindsets shape our perceptions of who belongs and who contributes, and influence how we interact on an everyday basis. In this sense, institutions are the “hardware” and cultural beliefs are the “software” of pluralism. Both are needed and both must work together to make pluralism work.

In this section, we ask authors to reflect on the impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable and marginalized groups in their region and in their sector. We also explore the institutional and social responses required to address these inequalities post-pandemic, and particular challenges that may hinder this progress.