Inequality has many forms. This is one of the factors that makes it a complex challenge... Complex challenges, like the COVID-19 pandemic, require very different methods to solve and it is rarely possible to replicate a solution to a complex problem.

UNDP has been working on tackling inequality challenges for more than 50 years. The forms of inequality that development agencies tackle range from income, to education, gender, opportunities, health benefits, access to basic services, and others.

Since it is a perennial issue, it will continue to be a part of the development agenda. But are we ready to tackle new forms of inequalities?

COVID-19 has been a part of our lives since the beginning of 2020 and it has affected everyone from children to the elderly  andfrom small businesses to global companies.

The data show that it has not affected everyone equally though, likewise its impacts on each country, each community are different. Apart from a few businesses which managed to seize some emerging opportunities, nobody was able to respond to it quickly.

These are unequal impacts but it is also important to think if Covid-19 created new forms of inequalities?

As UN staff, we have been able to continue working thanks to being knowledge workers whose work have been enabled by digital technologies. But what is the percentage of knowledge workers in the country who can continue their livelihood?

How will manual workers recover the lost time and income due to the lockdown?

Many digital businesses did well during the lockdown period, online shopping has dramatically increased for example. But what about the small business of an old man in a remote location where he sells small electrical appliances? Can his business survive after the pandemic? Probably, some of his big competitors even got better during this period.

While we enjoy online workouts, how are  young people with no access to the Internet spending their days during lockdown? That’s how the new forms of inequalities enter our lives. The crisis manifests itself in many different forms. That is, the human development is on course to decline for the first time since 1990[1]. This news encompasses many forms of inequality that we have to face like equitable Internet access, education, etc.

In order to understand what sort of challenges and inequalities the public may be experiencing, the AccLab has conducted a social media listening exercise. For this, we decided to use Twitter since its content is publicly available. We analyzed the #evdekal hashtag (which means #stayhome in Turkish). The study has shown that the concerns of people differ depending on their current needs but are also very much related to their situation before the pandemic. Among the tweets analyzed, 40% of them were complaints of which 23% of them were economic complaints, and around 32% of the tweets in the ‘needs and demand’ category are economic complaints.

Some tweets from Turkey in April 2020

The study conducted by Stanford University titled “Using Twitter to Understand the Impact of COVID-19” aims to examine Twitter posts to learn how COVID-19 is affecting our well-being and mental health. According to the results, “We need to think about scalable mental health care” and “Now is the time to mobilize resources to make that happen.”[1] Well, if this pandemic outbreak affects the well-being and mental health of the whole society this much, will the situation of those exposed to new types of inequalities be worse? Maybe the motto of leaving no one behind becomes even more important in this period. Development organizations will have to include other challenges to their focuses now and these challenges will be tackled in the behaviors of the new normal.  For example, behavioral sciences have great potential to tackle development challenges, but behaviors are expected to change in order to adapt to the new normal, so again it is not easy to predict people’s behaviors.

When we focus on the tweets under the need category in our analysis, there is no significant trend among the tweets, but the variation is quite significant. From socialization to economical needs and from freedom to coffee…

AccLab Turkey’s frontier challenge was set to be sustainable urban development before it was set up, back in 2019. We continue to focus on urban challenges alongside COVID-19 response. We thought it is important to ask people what they missed the most during the quarantine. So we conducted a Twitter survey this time and asked people “What will be the first activity that you do in the city after the quarantine?” with the support of UNDP Turkey Goodwill Ambassador Mert Fırat. The responses we got are generally related to the desire of people to  be in nature and visit public spaces like beaches, forests, city parks, coffee shops, theaters and cinemas, etc. This means that people are eager to go to public spaces despite everything. But can public spaces accommodate people under their new normal conditions? We should talk about the importance of ensuring equality in public space use as before but now with taking into account of new lifestyles and conditions. Increasing hygiene standards in public spaces will affect the usage of these spaces. Outdoor areas can host activities that were held indoors before the pandemic. Increasing wi-fi coverage in public spaces might also be a good move for Turkey since many companies and organizations expect to partially continue with telecommuting.

For all our planned solutions to development challenges even it is related to public spaces or access to internet or livelihood during health or other crisis, our efforts for Leaving No One Behind in all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will continue but with considering newly formed, new forms of inequality.

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