COVID-19 has created a historic recession with record levels of deprivation and unemployment, creating an unprecedented human crisis that is hitting the poorest hardest, especially women and children. In a new framework released on Monday as a roadmap to support countries’ path to social and economic recovery, the United Nations called for an extraordinary scale-up of international support and political commitment to ensure that people everywhere have access to essential services and social protection.
The “United Nations Framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19: Shared responsibility, global solidarity and urgent action for people in need” calls for protecting jobs, businesses and livelihoods to set in motion a safe recovery of societies and economies as soon as possible for a more sustainable, gender-equal, and carbon-neutral path—better than the “old normal”.
“This is not only a health crisis but a human crisis; a jobs crisis; a humanitarian crisis and a development crisis. And it is not just about the most vulnerable. This pandemic shows that we are all at risk because we are only as strong as the weakest health system. Its unprecedented scale demands an unprecedented response,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who presented his report on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity” in March.
“Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and the many other global challenges we face,” he said. This new framework released today sets the way United Nations entities will deliver this vision on the ground.
Decisions made in the next few months will be crucial for the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN’s framework for social and economic recovery stresses.
Noting that during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, more people died from the interruption of social services and the economic breakdown than from the virus itself, the framework focuses on protecting the needs and rights of those most affected by the pandemic, starting with the most vulnerable countries, groups, and those who risk being left behind.
Drawing lessons from the 2008-2009 global economic and financial crisis, the framework notes that countries with strong social protection systems and basic services suffered the least and recovered the fastest. To prevent billions of people from sliding into poverty, governments around the world will need to rapidly adapt, extend and scale-up safety ‘cushions’, such as cash transfers, food assistance, social insurance schemes and child benefits to support families.
For the impacts of COVID-19 to be reduced, the UN calls for an extraordinary scale-up of support to cope with the challenges ahead, including immediate social protection responses that consider differentiated impacts on vulnerable groups, children, women, men, and those in the informal sector. This is particularly urgent considering that 4 billion people, more than half of the world population—including two out of three children—have no or inadequate social protection.