Annual report 2020

Publication date:

Solidarity is the cure. Justice is the vaccine. This was TNI’s rallying call as the pandemic broke in 2020. We knew that the pandemic impacted on a world already in crisis. Many existing inequities would be amplified – with a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable people, particularly in the Global South.


Annual report 2020 (PDF, 5.08 MB)
Average time to read: 15 minutes minutes

About annual report 2020

Publication type
Annual report
Part of series
Annual Reports

The bankruptcy of neoliberalism has been laid bare in this crisis. COVID-19 exposed the catastrophic fallout of decades of privatisation of essential services, such as health and water. The crisis has made clear that there are goods and services that must be placed outside the laws of the market, as they are the cornerstones of healthy and resilient societies.

There has also been widespread moral repugnance at international legal provisions that protect the profits of mega-corporations over the lives of millions of people, for example, intellectual property rights which allow big pharmaceutical companies to monopolise vaccine technologies even in the face of a global pandemic of this magnitude, or investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms which allow transnational corporations to sue governments in private courts for obscene amounts of compensation should measures taken – even in the public interest – be deemed to represent a loss of future profits. The behaviour of rich countries in hoarding vaccine supplies even as they block poorer countries accessing the technology that would enable them to produce their own vaccines is necropolitics of the highest order, and requires enforcement of a COVID apartheid if the situation created is not to backfire on rich societies themselves.

TNI pivoted much of its work in 2020 to addressing the politics of the COVID-19 crisis. We played an important role helping to bring the analysis of leading progressive thinkers and movement leaders to a global audience through our COVID Capitalism webinar series. The 58,786 people from more than 138 countries who engaged with the sessions is testimony both to the quality of the programme, as well as the convening power TNI has accumulated over the years. TNI has earned a reputation for providing a bridge between thinkers and activists, and offering an internationalist perspective with resonance for local and national struggles.

In addition to the highly valued, publicly available recordings of the webinars exploring many different angles of the crisis, we published a number of strategic resources aimed at providing social movements with good argumentation, evidence and information to guide struggles. One was  a very well received piece on how to pay both for the pandemic and for a just energy transition. Another was a prescient warning that corporations could invoke ISDS clauses in trade and investment treaties to sue governments should emergency measures impact on their expected profit. TNI also co-published a volume looking at the importance of access to public water facilities, as well as a much vaunted book on the potential for post-pandemic global reform.

In many ways, 2020 has been a turning point. The pandemic has profoundly impacted the world and provided a mirror to reflect all that needs to change if human society is to flourish. Now is a good moment to reflect on the successes and failures of the recent past and anticipated threats and opportunities for the future. And indeed, as TNI’s current five-year strategic plan comes to a close, this is what we have been doing.

We are proud of what we have achieved these past five years, often exceeding our own expectations. For example, the role we have played in delegitimising key mechanisms of corporate power such as the ISDS system, and in catalysing negotiations for a Binding Treaty on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations – now onto its second draft – that has the potential to tackle corporate impunity in a globalised economy. We have also contributed significantly to the remarkable progress on international drugs policy reform, including acknowledgement of human rights obligations and cannabis legalisation which will impact significantly on rates of incarceration and potentially on improved livelihood prospects for small traditional farmers. We are also realistic, however, about the significant obstacles to real systemic transformation that remain. We continue to strategise, experiment and innovate on the best ways to create the cracks in the system that can open space for the change we need.

In our process of developing a new five-year strategic plan, our webinars have helped us clarify the key issues. We have also consulted over 300 stakeholders, including key allies with whom we have a long and trusted relationship of collaboration. The goals we develop will help orient TNI – both programmatically and as an institution – to deliver focused effective work that is able to respond to the most critical challenges we are facing today. The exercise also includes rethinking the purpose of TNI’s fellowship, and more broadly TNI’s ‘structures of belonging’ whereby we can offer a home to a broad transnational network of activist-scholars.

On the financial front, TNI ended the year with a positive result, helping us to edge closer to the one-year continuity fund we have been building to secure the future of the Institute. We have now raised 58% towards our target, achieving a survival rate of 212 days. We also secured a major new five-year grant that secures about half of TNI’s annual budget and provides an excellent basis for leveraging what we still need to meet annual budgets.

At a more personal level, we are sad to report two long-standing Associates passed away in 2020 – Dot Keet and Teodor Shanin. Both leave a remarkable legacy, and we pay tribute to them in this report. We also said a fond hasta luego to two staff members on the eve of the pandemic: Bea Martinez and Lyda Fernanda Forero. For twenty years, Bea was our amazing polyglot who translated TNI materials into Spanish. She is now working for the UN in Canada. Lyda coordinated our Agrarian and Environmental Justice Programme for five years, and is now back on her home continent working with the Trade Unions of the Americas. We thank them both for their deep commitment to TNI, and wish them all the best with their next chapters.

We also thank our Supervisory Board members for their ongoing commitment to ensuring TNI operates to the highest standards. And last, but by no means least, heartfelt thanks go to our funders and donors for their generous support. We could not have achieved what we have without you. We trust that this report affirms your confidence that TNI is worth every penny and more!

Fiona Dove
Executive Director

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