The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to fight hunger and the winners – the UN World Food Program deserved it. But it would have been a surprise if the award this year went to Jacinda Ardern, who has just been elected for another term in New Zealand. His campaign is as urgent as it is universal: hatred must be fought and only dialogue and acceptance of diversity can bring peace.
An antithesis to everything that populist governments, like that of Jair Bolsonaro, represent.
Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, took measures considered “courageous” in the face of the death of 50 people in her country due to an attack from the far right in 2019. In 2020, her struggle to unite the country against the covid -19 was also a milestone in combating the pandemic.
His strategy, however, called into question the way in which governments have been responding to similar crises.
If his country was the target of a terrorist attack, Ardern did not use the event to promise revenge. She did not make a sign of arms with her hand, she did not use burials as a platform, she did not make a sign of victory. She even refused to say the name of the terrorist in public, in an act calculated to never give him what the killer wanted: visibility.
Without fear, she described the act of that white Christian man as “terrorism”. She did not use national flags, did not abuse her national anthem, did not show that she considers her culture to be superior and, above all, did not touch the word “patriotism”.
The head of government did just the opposite: she used the Islamic veil to reach the victims’ families. His gesture was replicated by Christian women across the country.
Days later, she did not suggest that weapons be distributed to the population so that such crimes would not be repeated. Quite the contrary: in less than a week, laws were passed to tighten access to weapons. The country has seen a wave of arms devolution by its owners and Ardern has also pledged more than $ 100 million to buy weapons that are in the hands of citizens, precisely to disarm the country.
In the case of covid-19, it quickly established a group of scientists who guided each of the government’s actions. Ardern wasted no time, did not question science, did not break with WHO recommendations and avoided clashes with the opposition to ensure the protection of the population.
In a world where borders are closed on the basis of religion, where hatred is held by political leaders as its main promoters, and where science is questioned by politicians in search of votes, Ardern’s phrases and gestures are true revolutions.
She also started a global campaign against racism and promised to examine the role of social media in spreading hatred and misinformation. His example led companies to follow suit, while signs of solidarity exploded in different ways and groups across New Zealand.
The New Zealand leader had already called attention when suggesting a “welfare budget”, based on measures that could have a real impact on people’s lives. In the budget, data on poverty, childhood illnesses and inequality would be made explicit.
It would be up to the ministers to provide solutions, with proposals, money and goals. Thus, the country’s accounts would not only be based on surplus or deficit. In construction or storage. But in a nation project.
His argument for choosing to go to the rescue of the poorest was clear: populism, xenophobia and intolerance are gaining ground because citizens have not seen that their interests have been served by traditional parties. Given this situation, they elected Trump, Bolsonaro and many others – in a kind of proxy war against a failed power elite.
At home, she increased the period of paternity leave, froze the salaries of politicians and increased the quota for receiving refugees. The prime minister even became a verb. “To Ardern Up” came to be used to speak of a gesture of real solidarity, accompanied by concrete measures and empathy for the victims. Perhaps the best translation would be “ardernizar”, as if it were a kind of vaccine against populists.
This weekend, the fight against hatred, misinformation and populism has consolidated itself as a central part of the international agenda. Ardern is rewarded.
Governments like Trump or Bolsonaro receives yet another warning: his imaginary enemies will only deepen tensions in a society that needs peace. Not weapons, lies and divisions.
Here in Europe, my neighbor is New Zealander. Today, from the balcony of his house, he signaled me with a glass of champagne to celebrate Jacinda’s new term. I confess that I was taken for a moment by a timid breath of envy. But the feeling was soon replaced by a hope that that wind from the ends of the world would not respect borders.