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Heard at the 2020 UN High-level Political Forum

24. Juli 2020 - 19:54

Download UN Monitor #18 (pdf version).

By Barbara Adams, Carter Boyd and Karen Judd

“The world is going through a public health crisis which is turning into a global economic and social crisis. The HLPF is one of the first major intergovernmental meetings with universal participation and broad stakeholder engagement since the onset of the crisis.

“It is critical that the United Nations send a strong message to all people demonstrating that we can forge consensus and give a multilateral response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that we are committed to rebuilding better after the pandemic, with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as our roadmap. Countries, societies, youth and the media will all be looking to the United Nations for its guidance.”

How did the 2020 HLPF, which met 7-17 July 2020 in virtual format, respond to these words from the ‘presiding officer’, the President of ECOSOC Mona Juul, who said in her concluding remarks: we “cannot revert to the old normal…normal was part of the problem–all of our discussions have underlined recovery presents a rare opportunity to shape the new normal”.

Here are some of the voices heard at the 2020 HLPF, reverberating around the themes of building back better, leave no one behind, COVID-19, inequalities, data and accountability.


Building back better risks going backwards

  • We cannot go back to normal. Normal is what got us into this mess, but also this financial crisis and climate crisis… [and] weakened state capacity after decades of hollowing it out through … austerity, outsourcing, and privatization. — Mariana Mazzucato, UN CDP
  • The reality is that we have a lot of challenges achieving the world we said we wanted in 2015 and we are actually backtracking. We need solutions that include the informal labor sector, debt relief, and agricultural development. — Alice Kalibata, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
  • I’m tired of hearing building back better. What is better? We need to build back differently, with more diversified economies that are greener, more inclusive. Who are we building back better for? Big economies, for profit, and big business, or for sustainable development? – Isabelle Durant, UNCTAD
  • Building back better for SIDS is not going back to what they had. When we were encouraged to diversify our countries and markets, we took what we were really good at and exchanged it for something else, not a true diversification. — Sharon Lindo, Belize
  • To build back better we need to foster an open and innovative dialogue with a comprehensive and inclusive financing for development system to address the challenges MICs are facing. — Philippines
  • …align the build back better principle in the context of sustainable financing strategies through increased liquidity, concessional financing and debt swaps. — Armida Alisjahbana, UN ESCAP
  • As we join online conversations like this, vulnerable populations are not at the table and are unable to participate. To build back better the world must focus on improving digital access, not a digital dream world that excludes those most vulnerable. —Elenita Dano, ETC Group

Leave No One Behind < Addressing inequalities

Leave no-one behind has become the official slogan of the 2030 Agenda and the HLPF. Multiple statements of efforts to be inclusive, while welcome, are pro forma, selective and neglect many disadvantaged groups – and ignore the dynamics, policies and practices that push many behind.

  • Rich countries and corporations are pushing everyone else behind….’leave no one behind’ is SDG-washing. –Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS
  • Most voluntary national reports [in 2019] mention leave no one behind (45 of the 47) but it’s the depth of that principle we are concerned about with only 7 recognizing what policies might be pushing people behind. — Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, UN CDP
  • When the system fails, we see that those most vulnerable will suffer most. This is why inequality is at the center of the 2030 Agenda. It’s at the intersection of economic, social and environmental constraints. We risk seeing a new generation of inequalities around digitalization and climate change in the European consensus on development. — EU and EU member states
  • This pandemic will result in millions more cases of gender-based violence. We don’t have to let this happen. — Natalia Kanem, UNFPA
  • Latin America is the most unequal region of the world and the efforts made to decrease poverty are now at risk of receding…. The health crisis has shown us that universal access to healthcare services is only part of the challenge. The lack of jobs, gender inequality, lack of social protection systems, education, environmental problems all have a direct impact of increasing the level of poverty worldwide. We believe acting in silos will return us to the ‘business as usual’ scenario…. For Mexico…our priority is to address the needs of vulnerable groups, with more intersectoral and multilateral responses. …In doing so, the government has partnered with the private sector and out civil society. — Camila Zepeda, Mexico
  • We may end up with more inequality…. Gender equality is a prerequisite to build back better. — Erna Solberg, Norway
  • The VNRs show the main strategy of governments to address leaving no one behind is social protection. They stress violence against women but rarely unpaid work and childcare. — Roberto Bissio, Social Watch
  • Young people pointed to the longstanding inequalities among and within countries, as well as continued gender-based violence, ethnic and racial discrimination, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia and other types of minority targeted policies that contradict values of dignity and human rights. Young people also expressed their need to recognize diversity in languages, cultures, indigenous knowledge and heritages that enrich our humanity. — Jayathma Wickramanayake, S-G’s Envoy on Youth

COVID-19: New crisis or systemic failure?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic actually puts the principles of multilateralism and multi-stakeholderism to the test because the principles, among others talk about the need for a strong public sector, for strong government, and for a strong state. — Geraldine Joslun Fraser-Moleketi, UN CEPA
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated the systemic risks and fragilities in our economic and financial systems and development models. It has also highlighted the cascading impact of disasters crossing economic, social, environmental, dimensions of sustainable development, and affecting all countries, especially developing countries. — Munir Akram, Pakistan
  • Inequality and climate change are driving the agenda backwards – COVID-19 builds on both drivers. – UN CDP Communique
  • The landscape has changed significantly since we last met in 2019, and it is clear that COVID-19 presents a significant challenge to achieving the SDGs. But our message is that we must not be consumed by the challenge alone we must use this as an opportunity to rebuild better. — James Roscoe, UK
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is a global shock that has exacerbated existing challenges and created new vulnerabilities for middle-income countries, setting back progress and development gains made during the past years. Recent data generated by various UN entities and reflected in the S-G Policy Briefs have highlighted that the substantial drop in remittances, loss of full-time employment, loss of employment in the informal sector, debt risks, pressure on health systems and food security due to the pandemic are specifically being felt in, and will acutely impact, middle-income countries. — Philippines
  • COVID-19 comes at a time when we were already off track to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, and at the time when we are backtracking on some issues, including hunger, inequalities, climate change, or biodiversity …. We need to propel our efforts towards first aligning both public and private finance with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. Second, to promote sustainable investments and shifting finance away from fossil fuel. Third, to invest in the protection of biodiversity and natural ecosystems. And fourth, to strengthen regional and local supply chains while reducing their climate footprints. — Cyrille Pierre, France
  • If one piece fails, negative consequences are felt elsewhere in the whole system…. This time it has been health. Next time, it could be environmental degradation. We have agreed to a set of interlinked SDGs, and it’s an opportunity to address issues in an integrated manner…. when the system fails, we see that those most vulnerable will suffer the most. This is why inequalities are at the center of the 2030 agenda…. We risk seeing a new generation of inequalities around digitalization and climate change. — EU and EU member states
  • COVID-19 has exposed the hardship of the informal economy, care workers and the need for adequate universal social protection. … Respect for workers’ rights must be at the center of the recovery, and that new transformative agenda for gender equality is urgent. Ratification of the new ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment should be a priority. Involvement of trade unions and not only business is required. — Sweden
  • The 2030 Agenda must not be another victim of the COVID-19. — Camila Zepeda, Mexico

Social protection to the fore

  • To leave no one behind after COVID-19, we must ensure access to the health system and social protection as well as the quality food and nutrition for the poor. We must prevent increased prevalence of undernourishment and stunting. The greatest impact is through economic stimulus policy, a strengthened social safety net programme. — Indonesia
  • Underinvestment in social protection has left many homeless. Countries in conflict are already struggling. Lower income countries need USD 50 billion in addition to the USD 100 billion to cope and overcome COVID-19. There is catastrophic destruction of gains made.
    — Rola Dashti, UN ESCWA
  • COVID-19, has exposed the hardship of the informal economy, care workers and the need for adequate universal social protection…. Respect for workers’ rights must be at the center of the recovery, and a new transformative agenda for gender equality is urgent. Ratification of the new ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment should be a priority. Involvement of trade unions and not only business is required… Maybe some global fund for social protection to ensure that you are leaving no one behind. — Sweden

The pandemic and the SDGs put multiple commitments to the test, not least how we measure progress, how we define poverty and how we underplay or ignore potential existential threats and growing inequalities.

Who measures what? What data counts?

  • [There is] limited attention on a need for disaggregated data, where work on reducing inequalities really begins…Two very important goals are going in the wrong direction: Inequality and Climate Change. When they go backwards, they compromise all the other SDGs. – Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, UN CDP
  • We do not have the right indicators – care work implies health and education, thousands of caregivers are dying but as unpaid household workers, not part of GDP – this presents a huge challenge to measure progress another way…. — Roberto Bissio, Social Watch
  • …the importance of changing our classification … if we stay within our traditional sort of GDP per capita definitions of the crisis we will not be addressing the countries. — Vera Songwe, UN ECA
  • Measures for GDP or human development do not tell our story and path. COVID-19 stopped the economy. Decades of global development and progress have been halted…. pay more attention to this notion of vulnerability. It’s not about GDP per capita. What is our capacity to absorb new technology, composition of our population, levels of education and skills that allows us … to really take advantage of the resources that we have? – Marsha Caddle, Barbados
  • Getting the data right to guide policy responses will have life and death implications in this crisis and will support the SDG acceleration efforts over the coming decade. Therefore, investing into good, timely and disaggregated data and data and innovation at this point is urgently needed. — Stefan Schweinfest, UN DESA
  • [Data gaps] include new and emerging vulnerabilities, along with what we already typify as being risky poverty categories. We have to examine these, including workers who have lost their jobs in this experience, who already were precariously close, and those with low wages and as involuntary returned migrants and migrant workers. –Rochelle Whyte, Jamaica
  • Education and the digital divide. Those without access have no access to schooling, this is a new educational divide. The ‘digital equality paradox’ means more people are more excluded. Digital technology doesn’t give us more equal access but furthers the divide. –Anriette Esterhuysen, Internet Governance Forum, South Africa


  • The partnerships that we do remain very critical. We need to strengthen the partnerships across governments and between governments, private sector development, foundations. Partnerships are going to need to be very structured. They need to be timely, very purposeful and sustained over the short to the medium term. — Rochelle Whyte, Jamaica
  • Business can and should play a major role in reinvigorating multilateralism through inclusive business models and by demonstrating ethical leadership and good governance. … Never before did so many different stakeholders, including business, have a seat at the table. The resulting SDGs offer companies a powerful blueprint for societal transformation and for business benefit… Growing numbers of companies awakening to the importance of responsible business…. — Sandra Ojiambo, UN Global Compact
  • It is interesting to see that year after year the level of trust in governments and established institutions like church and media, et cetera, is decreasing whereas the expectations they are expressing with respect to companies and NGOs are increasing. …Brands are now confronted with questions that … touch upon very critical topics of living together, of society, of addressing common global challenges, racial injustice, social injustice, black lives matter. …they realize that they don’t have the level of trust and legitimacy to advise on policies and therefore they need partnerships with those entitled to have a view… And this is why partnerships, public-private partnerships are so essential. — Stephan Loerke, World Federation of Advertisers
  • In the post COVID-19 world, opportunistic multilateralism is just not good enough. Holistic and inclusive multilateralism at the UN is a vital component of a people-centric approach whereby international norms in relation to fair trade, sustainable development and human rights are given equal precedence to other global priorities….Civil society plays a key role in making people’s voices count and ensuring no one is left behind. Enabling an environment for civil society where civic freedoms are respected are crucial to realizing the promise of the UN Charter. We look to the UN to protect and promote the rights of civil society, to maximize their contribution to peace, security and development. — Julia Sanchez, Civicus

Policies, reporting and accountability don’t end at the border

  • COVID-19 exposed the limits and risks of the current markets and supply chains; risks of deepening the digital divide; environmental breathing space; momentum for debt forgiveness; and stresses how much we depend on each other and what we can do if we coordinate action. — Isabelle Durant, UNCTAD
  • We need a complete paradigm shift and a transformation…. we need to keep linking climate change, the biodiversity and the land degradation together. That is the heart of the sustainable development goals. — Yasmine Fouad, Egypt
  • No country is on its own. Africa as a continent is affected by global imperatives, good or not … Resilience alone without a holistic approach to well-being and broader development needs is counter-productive. — Ibrahim Mayaki, NEPAD
  • Many countries lack universal health care and social protection systems though it is these situations that lead to a route back to social/economic inclusion…. we need a fundamental post pandemic review of fiscal policy, an international commission on fiscal policy for SDGs to improve progressivity of wealth including taxes and strengthen social health and protection systems. The current system undermines our ability to achieve the SDGs. – Paul Ladd, UNRISD
  • … universal Social Security and service systems and good educational opportunities for all are the key in preventing exclusion and before anybody has even time to think about the cost. Let me underline that this goes hand-in-hand with a broad based and effective tax system. — Sofie Sandström, Finland
  • Young people see the start of the Decade of Action as an opportunity to stop, to rethink or to dismantle systems of oppression, realign our values and enact meaningful structural reforms which will put in place the proper mechanisms to galvanize the UN Member States, private sector and civil society….Our main message across the board was that there must be no going back to normal….Many young people feel that the needs and rights of marginalized groups should be better represented given their unique vulnerabilities.
    — Jayathma Wickramanayake, S-G’s Envoy on Youth


The HLPF continues to be among the most attended of all UN meetings, with broad participation from civil society and the corporate sector along with Member States. However, the quantity in participation has not been matched by the quality of policy commitments and actions from Member States to ensure the transformation needed.

Most Member States reporting on their progress to achieve the SDGs including in the VNRs focus exclusively on their domestic efforts and ignore their cross-border and global responsibilities. This is misleading in light of climate change, rising inequalities, debt crises, global pandemics, and the drivers of these challenges lie more heavily with the major economic players, public and private, while “those left behind” have little means of protection with the current rules of the multilateral game.

Member States have it in their power to correct these weaknesses by transforming the UN from a stage on which to perform to a political space in which to be held accountable.

The post Heard at the 2020 UN High-level Political Forum appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

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PRESS RELEASE – Vague promises won’t solve global crises

17. Juli 2020 - 0:30

versión en español

On 16 July, this year’s virtual UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development came to an end. The HLPF is the premier UN body to monitor the annual progress on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) worldwide. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated inequalities and further endangered development gains already at risk prior to the global pandemic. Millions of people globally are already suffering from hunger and poverty and now lives and livelihoods are threatened as a result of the vast socio-economic effects of COVID-19. Among the objectives of the 2020 HLPF includes identifying how the international community can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that will support achievement of the SDGs in the remaining “Decade of Action” to go until 2030. But the fact that Member States failed to adopt a strong Ministerial Declaration is extremely disappointing and does not match the enormous challenges ahead.

“The HLPF continues to be among the most attended of all UN meetings, with participation from Member States, civil society and the corporate sector”, says Barbara Adams, President of Global Policy Forum in New York. “However, the quantity in participation and profile is not matched by the quality of actions and policy commitments from Member States to ensure the transformation all agree is needed.” During the HLPF only “a sequence of airy promises” were made “which are no adequate response to the global crisis”, according to Global Policy Forum’s director Jens Martens.

All this is in sharp contrast to the call for coordinated, multilateral action from UN Secretary-General António Guterres. According to him, a minimum of 10 percent of the Global GDP (Gross Domestic Product) – approximately 9 billion USD – would be needed to finance such an effort. Martens: “This is another lost day for global multilateralism – in a situation, where it would be needed more than ever.”

The lack of concrete political action also reflects the limited mandate of the HLPF, which is restricted to a plethora of reports and reviews. Civil society organizations like the Global Policy Forum are therefore demanding to strengthen the HLPF substantially or to replace it by a stronger body with more competencies under the auspices of the UN General Assembly. Member States started a HLPF review process last year, but decisions are postponed to next year. “Member States have it in their power to correct these weaknesses by transforming the UN from a stage on which to perform into a political space in which to be held accountable”, says Barbara Adams, GPF.

For interview requests or further questions please contact:
Barbara Adams at barbaraadams(at)


HLPF: The High-level Political Forum is the central UN body for global sustainable development, open to all 193 Member States as well as to civil society organizations. It is mainly in charge of monitoring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To that aim, Member States present so called Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This year, 47 countries submitted their reports.

GPF: Global Policy Forum is an independent policy watchdog that monitors the work of the United Nations and scrutinizes global policymaking. GPF promotes accountability and citizen participation in decisions on peace and security, human rights, social justice and sustainable development. One of its main programmes is Global Policy Watch (GPW), a joint initiative of Social Watch and Global Policy Forum. It aims to keep members of global civil society informed about crucial global negotiations in the areas of financing for development, sustainable development, and UN reform.

More information on:

The post PRESS RELEASE – Vague promises won’t solve global crises appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

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Invitation: Web conversation “Building better without building back a broken system”

1. Juli 2020 - 22:19

Web conversation in the run-up to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
Building better without building back a broken system
Lessons from the global COVID-19 crisis and its impact on the SDGs

Monday, 6 July 2020, 8:30-10:00am EDT

Please register here

The COVID-19 pandemic will have a massive impact on the implementation of the SDGs and the fulfilment of human rights. The looming global recession will dramatically increase unemployment, poverty and hunger worldwide. Moreover, the crisis threatens to further deepen discrimination and inequalities. In many countries the macroeconomic situation had already deteriorated before the outbreak of the virus. A vicious circle of debt and austerity policies undermined socio-economic development in many countries.

Many now demand to build back better. But does “building back” really lead to the urgently needed transformational change? What kind of policies and strategies are necessary to ensure that human rights, gender justice and sustainability goals form integral components of all stimulus packages and government responses to the current crisis? How to revalue the importance of care and to rebuild global public services?

These questions will be discussed in this year’s report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2020. It is closely related to the theme of the HLPF 2020. With this virtual side event, we will present preliminary findings to be found in the report later this year.

Brief Statements by

Roberto Bissio, Coordinator of Social Watch
María Graciela Cuervo, General Co-coordinator of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN)
David Boys, Deputy General Secretary of Public Services International
Kate Donald, Director Human Rights in Economic and Social Policy at the Center for Economic and Social Rights

Coments by

Ziad Abdel Samad, Executive Director of the Arab NGO Network for Development
Stefano Prato, Executive Director of the Society for International Development
Barbara Adams, President of Global Policy Forum


Bodo Ellmers, Director of Sustainable Development Finance, Global Policy Forum Europe
Elisabeth Bollrich, Global Economy Expert at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

Please register here. Participants will receive the login details for the web conversation upon registering for this event.

The post Invitation: Web conversation “Building better without building back a broken system” appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

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ONLINE | Launch of CDP Paper: National Reports on the 2030 Agenda: What do they (not) reveal?

27. Juni 2020 - 23:37

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, member states and civil society have reported on the progress made in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Monday, July 13, 2020, 8:00 am to 9:00 am (EDT).

Please register here.

In National Reports on the 2030 Agenda: What do they (not) reveal?, Roberto Bissio from Social Watch International, Barbara Adams from Global Policy Forum, and Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, professor of international affairs and director of the Julien J. Studley Graduate Programs in International Affairs at The New School and vice chair of the Committee for Development Policy, will discuss lessons of the VNR process to date including national reporting on the 2030 Agenda, both by governments and civil society. The event will present the key findings of an overview content analysis of 2019 Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP).

This event is co-hosted by the United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP), Social Watch International, Global Policy Forum and the Julien J. Studley Graduate Programs in International Affairs.

Presented by Julien J. Studley Graduate Programs in International Affairs at the Schools of Public Engagement, with United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP)Social Watch International, and the Global Policy Forum.

Please register here.

The post ONLINE | Launch of CDP Paper: National Reports on the 2030 Agenda: What do they (not) reveal? appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

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2020 HLPF, one decade to go: tinkering or transformation?

25. Juni 2020 - 17:31

Download UN Monitor #17 (pdf version).

By Barbara Adams, Karen Judd and Elena Marmo

Preparations are underway for the 2020 High-level Political Forum (HLPF) and review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Member States are engaged in negotiations to adopt by consensus a Political Declaration and 47 have undertaken Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) for presentation at the HLPF. The UN system has issued a number of reports containing analyses and assessments of progress towards the SDGs. In addition to contributing to these processes and reports, major groups have issued a range of analyses and demands.

Leadership across the UN has continued to position the 2030 Agenda and the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs as the major priority for and objective of the UN Development System. However, many questions remain concerning the depth and quality of implementation of the 2030 Agenda and whether the policy response is on track to deliver the transformation needed to achieve the 17 SDGs.

The COVID-19 crisis has heightened, not diminished the urgency for action on the SDGs. As stated by the President of ECOSOC: “Our development gains are at risk of being reversed in the very year when we launched a Decade of Action and Delivery to accelerate the implementation the Sustainable Development Goals.” In his 2020 SDG Progress Report, the Secretary-General noted:

“While this crisis is imperiling progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, it also makes their achievement all the more urgent and necessary. Moving forward, it is essential that recent gains are protected as much as possible and a truly transformative recovery from COVID19 is pursued, one that reduces risk to future crises and bring much closer the inclusive and sustainable development required to meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”

Findings from UN reports – transformation sought, not found

A number of UN reports have been issued in the lead-up to the HLPF, many of which aim to identify action to bridge the gap from SDG implementation to transformation. The 2020 Report by the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) calls for the HLPF to “identify the rules that stand in the way of the Goals and the global response to inequality and climate change and establish road maps to address them”. It further acknowledges:

“While action by all stakeholders is needed at all levels, States have the responsibility to strategically deploy the full range of policy instruments to catalyse and redirect innovation and investments towards equitable and green development.…However, isolated interventions will not work. A transformation commensurate with the scale of the challenge presented by inequality and climate change requires public policies and investment to be realigned and streamlined.”

The CDP has analysed the 2018 and 2019 VNR contributions at the HLPF and will issue a 2020 analysis in early July. The 2020 Report addresses the imbalance in reporting on the SDGs, making note that:

“More attention should be paid to reporting on implementing Sustainable Development Goal 10 on reducing inequalities, a goal that is paid least attention in the voluntary national reviews analysed. To strengthen the high-level political forum process as a forum for exchange of experience in implementing the 2030 Agenda, the Committee calls for all voluntary national reviews to cover the contributions of non-State actors, and for broadening the space for civil society and regional dialogues.”

The Secretary-General released a report titled, “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of the action and delivery for sustainable development”. This report “identifies accelerators for building synergies across economic, social and environmental dimensions and offers recommendations to inform the discussions of the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council”. It reiterates the call to focus on inequality and CO2 emissions, emphasizing

“the critical role that reduced income inequality can play in amplifying the effects of economic growth in eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 and the high economic, social and environmental benefits of rapid and sustained reductions in CO2 emissions aligned with the 1.5C goal to limit the global temperature rise which would entail reaching carbon neutrality by 2050”.

The Secretary-General’s 2020 SDG Progress Report also discusses progress made in 2019 as well as the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 2030 Agenda. It points to areas where “progress had either stalled or been reversed: the number of people suffering from hunger was on the rise; climate change was occurring much faster than anticipated; and inequality continued to increase within and among countries”.

The 2020 Progress Report stresses the need for a "transformative recovery to reduce the risk of future crises and bring much closer the inclusive and sustainable development required to meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is the first task of the Decade of Action. It will require leadership, foresight, innovation, finance and collaboration among all governments and all stakeholders. And, as the United Nations marks its 75th anniversary, it will require a surge in international cooperation and multilateralism."

The report details the status of progress on each SDG as well as trends across the board related to financing, information and communications technology, trade, capacity-building, and data, monitoring and accountability. On the topic of trade, it notes:

“The share of LDC exports in global merchandise trade remained marginal at just above 1% in 2018. Growth in global exports of LDCs stagnated over the last decade, missing the target of doubling the share of global LDC exports by 2020 from 2011. In 2018, LDCs recorded significant year-on-year growth in services exports reaching a global share of 0.8%. Developing regions’ share of global services exports has flattened over the last years, with a share of 30% at the end of 2018.”

Further, on the topic of inequality, it notes:

“In 73 of the 90 countries with comparable data during the period 2012–2017, the bottom 40 per cent of the population saw its incomes grow.…Still, in all countries with data, the bottom 40 per cent of the population received less than 25 per cent of the overall income or consumption, while the top 10 per cent received at least 20 per cent of the income.”

Other UN reports demonstrate the centrality of the 2030 Agenda for the UN system. These include a Compilation of Main Messages from the 2020 VNRs, a Synthesis of voluntary submissions by ECOSOC functional commissions, and a report of the Secretary-General on long-term scenarios.

Measuring progress on SDGs

It is essential to explore how progress on achieving the SDGs is monitored and reported as the global community navigates what it means for action on SDGs to be “transformative”. Central to this activity has been a global indicator framework that has been adopted to measure progress against the specific targets. What is and is not measured, the way the data is collected, as well as whether by official or nonofficial sources all hold profound implications for policy solutions and priorities.

The Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities (CCSA) published a special report on Covid-19 titled, “How Covid-19 is changing the world: a statistical perspective”. The report is compiled jointly by 36 international organizations including UN agencies, regional commissions, IFIs and Member State groups. It details the impact of COVID-19 on different sectors including labour markets, global banking, manufacturing and trade, as well poverty, migration and human rights. It also examines the challenges faced by the statistical community in measuring the implementation of the ambitious 2030 Agenda and of working with big data and open data. It notes:

“At a time when statistics are most needed, many statistical systems are struggling to compile basic statistics, highlighting once again the need to invest in data and statistics, and the importance of having modern national statistical systems and data infrastructure.”

“In recent years, statisticians, researchers, academics, and businesses have been exploring ways to make better use of big data and open data to compile official statistics. Much of this work has been experimental and it has been challenging to operationalize this work in such a way that it can be incorporated into the regular statistical system.”

“The COVID-19 crisis is serving to sharpen our thinking and alter our risk profile (which is generally very low for statisticians) when it comes to using big data, open data and citizen generated data to compile current economic indicators and official statistics. Several countries have launched open platforms for citizens to provide their governments and themselves an assessment of the health, social and economic impact of COVID-19.”

The Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDGs (IAEG-SDGs), tasked with updating and refining the global indicator framework held an open virtual meeting on COVID-19 impacts and responses on 2 June. This included updates on the work of the geospatial working group and the SDMX working group along with the National Multi-dimensional Poverty Index and an initiative on CSO involvement in SDG monitoring and preparation for the 2025 comprehensive review.

A report on a global NSO survey prepared by the World Bank, UN regional commissions and the UN Statistics Division indicated that as a result of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns, 65 percent of national statistical offices (NSOs) have closed either fully or partly and 90 percent of staff work from home. Importantly, 96 percent have stopped face to face data collection. As a result, 9 in 10 NSOs in low and lower middle income countries are unable to meet national reporting requirements.

If NSOs are not able to conduct in-person household and time-use surveys, what methods can they use to measure progress against many different indicators, notably those that rely on data from households and institutions?

Member State declaration for 2020 HLPF

The Ministerial Declaration to be adopted at the 2020 HLPF is being negotiated in a series of virtual meetings, led by the co-facilitators, the Permanent Representatives of Bulgaria and of Lebanon.

A zero-draft and later revised draft have been the basis for discussion at virtual informal negotiations on 8 June and 24 June under Chatham House Rules with one representative for each of the Major Groups and other Stakeholders (MGoS) invited to participate. MGoS have also submitted position papers to the HLPF, all of which have been compiled and summarized by the HLPF Secretariat, and issued as an official UN document (E/HLPF/2020/2): “Discussion papers on the theme of the high-level political forum on sustainable development, submitted by major groups and other stakeholders.”

The draft Ministerial Declaration covers an “assessment of the situation regarding the 2030 Agenda” and “actions to be taken for the way forward”. In its opening, the draft notes: “We acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces pre-existing obstacles, gaps and systemic challenges.”

The commitments made in the zero draft include references to human rights, gender equality, climate change, financing and debt, and national statistical capacities and build on the Secretary-General’s 2020 SDG Progress Report, specifically in the sections on debt and national statistics.

The commitments include:

“We also commit to respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights for all, ending all forms of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, ensuring equal access to justice and achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

“We will ensure that emergency social and economic schemes integrate a gender equality and child rights perspective…. We recommit to targeted and accelerated action to remove all legal, social and economic barriers to achieve gender equality, full, effective and meaningful participation in decision-making and the empowerment of all women and girls and their full and equal enjoyment of all human rights.”

“We will strengthen our global response to climate change by accelerating the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, inter alia, by updating our Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, accelerating the clean energy transition and ensuring access to affordable and clean energy for all. We reaffirm our commitments under the Paris Agreement and stress the importance of mobilizing means of implementation, including, adequate financial support, for climate change mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage, as well as strengthening resilience.”

“We are deeply concerned about the impact of high debt levels on countries’ ability to withstand the impact of the COVID-19 shock, and to invest in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. We commit to addressing the high debt levels of developing countries, and invite the international community and relevant stakeholders to urgently and properly address these challenges, and engage efforts towards a coordinated international debt relief effort for countries experiencing solvency problems, in close cooperation with International Financial Institutions.”

The draft does not address what “transformation” looks like in the context of the SDGs, despite the focus of the 2020 HLPF programme and recent system-wide emphasis on the need for “transformative” solutions including those on inequality and climate change. Rather, it offers rededications to existing commitments including the Paris Agreement, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Human Rights conventions and the UN Charter.

2020 HLPF Programme

The official programme of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) is being convened under the theme of “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”. The nine-day programme includes a ministerial segment, VNRs and a number of thematic sessions. The thematic sessions explore the challenges for SDG progress as well as effects of the COVID-19 crisis with focus on the Decade of Action and the S-G’s calls to “build back better”.

The programme draws upon and builds on the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) that states: “The true transformative potential of the 2030 Agenda can be realized through a systemic approach that helps identify and manage trade-offs while maximizing co-benefits.” The report identifies six entry points and four levers to achieve needed transformation. A more detailed examination of the report can be found in GPW Briefing #31.

Building on calls for “transformation” across the UN System, the 2020 HLPF’s agenda presents an opportunity for Member States and civil society to explore policy solutions to pressing challenges and impediments to SDG progress. While various reports present areas for attention/focus, the onus of concrete policy solutions must fall on Member States and at present, the Ministerial Declaration and HLPF set-up appear to be limited in their analysis and scope.

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COVID-19 and the SDGs

18. Juni 2020 - 15:26
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global sustainability agenda

By Jens Martens, Bodo Ellmers and Vera Pokorny

Download this Briefing (pdf version).

The COVID-19 pandemic and the policies with which governments have responded to it have had a serious impact on the global sustainability agenda. While the full extent of the pandemic and its impacts cannot yet be assessed, there is an evident risk that the pandemic will jeopardize the achievement of the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their entirety.

Preliminary forecasts by the United Nations, the World Bank and other international organizations warn that the already fragile progress made in reducing poverty and malnutrition over the past decades will be reversed. The inevitable global economic downturn, already begun, does not spare any country. Unemployment has risen dramatically along with new forms of precarious employment. Measures to combat global warming and the extinction of species threaten to move down on the list of political priorities. Falling state revenues and growing debt will limit the fiscal space for policy action from the global to the municipal level.

For each of the 17 SDGs, this briefing summarizes preliminary estimates on the actual or likely impacts of the global coronavirus crisis, using a few specific examples. It illustrates that the 2030 Agenda will not be reached and its Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved if they are not systematically taken into account in all policy responses to the crisis.

No Poverty

The global number of people living in poverty is rising for the first time in 30 years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown. Day labourers, agricultural workers and employees in small and medium-sized enterprises in the informal sector are particularly affected. From one day to the next, they were deprived of their livelihoods by the worldwide lockdown measures. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that around 1.6 billion workers in the informal sector worldwide have been affected. The income of informal sector workers has already fallen by around 60 percent in the first months of the crisis.1 This is particularly devastating in countries that lack an adequate social security system. According to ILO figures, 73 percent of the world population lack sufficient coverage.2 While in 2018, the estimated number of people in extreme poverty, that is, on less than US$ 1.90 per day, was 759 million, the numbers are on the rise again. Initial estimates published by the UN University suggest that the number of people living in extreme poverty could rise by 85-420 million as a result of the global economic recession (with a decline in average per capita income of 5-20 percent).3 Thus, the number of people living in extreme poverty could exceed 1 billion this year.

Zero Hunger

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has cautioned that the coronavirus crisis could become a global food crisis unless rapid action is taken to protect the most vulnerable, maintain global supply chains and mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the entire food system.4 The number of chronically malnourished people had already been rising again since 2015, to 821 million in 2018.5 There is a risk that this trend will now be exacerbated by the effects of the coronavirus crisis. In many regions, the shortage of fertilizers, seeds and veterinary medicines on the one hand, and the decline in demand on the other, have had a significant impact on agricultural production. This is further compounded by climate-related crop failures and damage, including the locust infestation in East Africa. According to the Global Report on Food Crises 2020, 135 million people currently suffer from acute food insecurity and famine.6 The UN World Food Programme (WFP) predicts that an additional 130 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020 due to the crisis.7 The head of the WFP warned of “famines of biblical proportions"; a quarter of a billion people could suffer acute starvation.8

Good Health and Well-being

The goal of ensuring a healthy life for all people of all ages is most directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. By mid-June 2020, the WHO counted more than 7 million infected persons and more than 400,000 registered deaths.9 The continued failure to adequately implement SDG 3 in recent years is now taking its toll. This is particularly true of Target 3.c, to significantly increase health financing and the recruitment of health workers, and Target 3.d, to strengthen the capacities of all countries in the areas of early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks. To make things worse, even before the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, austerity policies had already caused a reduction in public health spending and deterioration in health care provision in many countries. This situation will deteriorate further as a result of the global economic recession, and this even applies to rich countries such as the United States, where at least 27.5 million people were not covered by health insurance prior to the crisis. Because many employees in the USA are insured through their employer, the rapid rise in unemployment means that up to 43 million people may lose their insurance coverage in the USA alone.10 For many chronically ill people, this is essentially a death sentence.

Quality Education

In response to the pandemic, schools and universities all over the world were temporarily closed. According to UNESCO, over 1.6 billion school and university students in 194 countries were affected by the pandemic by the beginning of May 2020.11 This has social and economic consequences far beyond the educational role of the schools and the period of the actual closures.12 For example, 370 million children did not receive school meals in April 2020 due to school closures. UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore warned:

"School is so much more than a place of learning. For many children it is a lifeline to safety, health services and nutrition. Unless we act now – by scaling up lifesaving services for the most vulnerable children – the devastating fallout caused by COVID-19 will be felt for decades to come."13

Gender Equality

The coronavirus crisis has hit women particularly hard and increases the already existing socio-economic disparities. Worldwide, almost 70 percent of the personnel in care and nursing professions are women.14 Moreover, women do three times as much unpaid care work as men. It is mostly women who take care of the sick, whether professionally, for generally low wages, or within the family as unpaid labour. Women are therefore more exposed to the virus and carry a higher risk of infection. As the capacity of health systems is absorbed by their need to respond to the pandemic, the availability of sexual and reproductive health services is reduced, which can lead to an increase in maternal and child mortality. However, the problems reach far beyond health care and nursing. A large share of women worldwide work in informal employment and in precarious jobs. As a result, women more often lack social protection, quickly lose whatever income they had and are thus disproportionately affected in economic terms.15 The worldwide quarantine measures have also led to a significant increase in domestic violence.16

Clean Water and Sanitation

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has demonstrated the importance of hygiene measures and access to clean water. However, 40 percent of the world’s population, roughly 3 billion people, still lack the means to wash their hands with soap at home.17 The United Nations has called it a "global hygiene crisis" that has also affect hospitals and health care facilities: One in six of these facilities do not have the necessary hygienic facilities. As a result, every tenth patient falls ill with an avoidable infection during treatment.18 The containment of the coronavirus pandemic is massively impaired by the lack of clean water and sanitary facilities.19 In order to reduce the risk of new COVID-19 waves, and to prevent future pandemics, public infrastructure for water supply and sanitation needs to be expanded considerably, especially in poorer regions.

Affordable and Clean Energy

The months-long closure of production facilities as a result of the lockdowns in combination with reduced public and private transportation usage has led to a decline in energy demand. This also had an impact on oil prices, which have experienced a particularly drastic drop as a result of the dispute between the OPEC cartel and Russia over the limitation of production volume. In the USA, prices even plunged into the negative category in April due to an oversupply of crude oil. World market prices have remained at low levels since, despite the agreement of oil exporting countries to reduce production. At the beginning of May 2020, at US$ 25-30, they were more than 50 percent lower than at the beginning of the year. While this makes the environmentally harmful production of shale oil fracking and tar sands exploitation less profitable, it also means lower gasoline prices. From an ecological point of view, this is bad news, because it makes the transition to clean, especially renewable energies and electromobility less economically attractive. On the other hand, for low income groups the access to affordable energy (SDG 7.1) might improve in the short term as a result of the fall in oil prices.

Decent Work and Economic Growth

The coronavirus crisis has led to an unprecedented slump in economic activity. In its World Economic Outlook of April 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a global recession, with the world economy as a whole contracting by 3 percent. Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, growth of 3.3 percent had been forecast for 2020.20 The economy of the European Union is expected to shrink by 7.4 percent. Latin America might face the worst recession ever with minus 5.2 percent. Low Income Developing Countries (LIDCs) would avoid recession according to the IMF estimates, growing by 0.4 percent. However, according to SDG 8.1, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) should reach an annual growth rate of at least 7 percent, which they are going to miss by a wide margin (although in principle the adoption of GDP or economic growth as a measure of development is highly controversial).

The coronavirus pandemic and recession are accompanied by massive job losses. The ILO expects that the lockdown phase in the second quarter of 2020 has already led to the temporary loss of 305 million full-time jobs. The consequences are even worse for some 2 billion workers in the informal economy, who are left without any social security, and many of whom have lost their livelihoods as a result of the global lockdown.21

Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The vulnerability of the globalized world economy with its complex supply chains was mercilessly exposed by the coronavirus crisis. Early on, the impact of the coronavirus crisis in China led to worldwide production problems for complex products such as cars, for which needed components could no longer be circulated and delivered just in time as usual. As the pandemic has continued, and spread, countries all over the world have closed factories. Nearly all countries introduced travel restrictions and closed borders. International air traffic was reduced to a minimum. It remains to be seen whether the deglobalization trends predicted by some will materialize, with companies cutting back on supply chains after the crisis, repatriating production processes.22

The international division of labour in the production of essential health care goods has proven to be particularly problematic. Even rich countries have had problems meeting their demand for medical equipment and sanitation products on the world market after some producing countries temporarily suspended exports our of national self-interest. Poor countries were de facto excluded from access to essential products by the price explosion that came with the increase in demand. This, too, led many countries to reconsider which goods should be produced in a sovereign manner at the national level.23

Reduced Inequalities

The long-term effect of the coronavirus crisis on the distribution of income and wealth is still difficult to quantify. The stock market plunge in March initially led to a huge destruction of wealth that has hit the rich. By the second half of March, the market capitalization of listed companies worldwide had fallen by 25 percent.24 However, stock markets recovered quickly after central banks around the world began to inject fresh money into the economy, driving stock prices back up.

By contrast, the massive job losses caused by the pandemic and resulting closures could increase levels of inequality in the long term. The ILO expects income losses for workers of between US$ 860 billion and US$ 3.4 trillion.25 Workers at small and medium-sized enterprises, precarious workers and day labourers are the hardest hit. Migrant workers are also affected, which will drastically reduce remittances to their families in their home countries. In countries such as El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Nepal, among others, remittances are a very significant source of revenue, surpassing levels of official development assistance (ODA).

Socio-economic factors significantly influence how badly individuals are affected by the crisis. In multi-ethnic countries such as the USA, for example, there are large differences in the mortality rates of coronavirus-infected people, with African-Americans in particular disproportionately affected.26

Sustainable Cities and Communities

More than 3.9 billion people – half the world’s population – were affected by the lockdown decisions of their governments in April 2020. But for many of them, the appeals to stay at home and keep at physical distance seem cynical. After all, more than 1 billion people worldwide live in densely populated slums or informal settlements.27 Many live in cramped conditions and often have no access to the most vital public services such as water, sanitation and electricity. The slums are a perfect breeding ground for viruses.
The same is true for the overcrowded refugee camps in countries such as Bangladesh and Greece, where the occupants are forced to live in inhumane conditions. In mid-May, the WHO confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in one of the camps in Bangladesh, where 1 million Rohingya are crammed together in a very confined space.28 In refugee camps, the demand for physical distancing is a farce, and the risk of a rapid spread of the virus is inevitable.

Sustainable Consumption and Production

The global disruption of supply chains and the closure of shops and restaurants has had a significant impact on consumption and production. On the one hand, long term provisioning and even panic buying of some items became widespread all over the world, which drove up prices for essential goods. At the same time, many food banks received less food for redistribution to people in need, as supermarkets had hardly any goods left to donate. In some countries, agricultural products were destroyed to a considerable extent because the channels to the final consumers were interrupted. In the USA, Dairy Farmers of America, the country’s largest dairy cooperative, estimated that farmers had to pour away up to 14 million litres of milk every day in April. A single chicken producer destroyed 750,000 unhatched eggs every week.29 On a more positive note, the shortening of supply chains and a greater focus on regional products also present an opportunity for more sustainable consumption and production patterns – provided these trends survive the crisis.

Climate Action

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to be influenced by economic output, despite all political declarations of intent and technical attempts to decouple the two. Consequently, the closure of entire sectors of the economy in the spring of 2020 naturally also resulted in less emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels will decrease by 8 percent in 2020.30 This means that some countries would, completely unexpectedly, reach their national CO2 emission targets. This is true for Germany, for example, where CO2 emissions are expected to fall by 50 million tonnes in 2020.31

Nevertheless, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere continues to rise, albeit at a slightly reduced rate. At the beginning of May 2020, the Mauna Loa measuring station in Hawaii reported a new record of over 418 ppm (parts per million).32
Moreover, according to the UN the greenhouse gas reductions will be short-lived.33 When air and vehicular traffic and manufacturing production resume, emissions might even increase faster than predicted before the coronavirus crisis because necessary innovation and transformation processes have been stopped or slowed down. The ailing aviation industry is already lobbying against taxes on aviation fuel, which are planned as part of the new EU Green Deal.34 The car industry is demanding state-subsidized purchase premiums.35 In contrast, this year’s UN climate summit in Glasgow, which should have pushed forward the global climate agenda, has been postponed.36

Life Below Water

For the world’s oceans, the coronavirus crisis could have positive effects, at least in the short term. A study by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) suggests that the temporary slowdown of economic activities due to the crisis, as well as reduced traffic on the seas and lower demand for marine resources, could give the oceans the "much-needed breathing space" to recover from pollution, overfishing and the effects of climate change.37 However, ecologists warn of a reverse trend: the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a boom in plastic waste. Hygiene regulations and the falling price of oil and the plastics produced from it threaten to undo years of progress in the prevention and recycling of plastics.38

Life on Land

While there are still different hypotheses about the origin of the novel coronavirus, an increasing number of ecologists warn that the probability of pandemics increases with the continued destruction of ecosystems and biodiversity. Josef Settele, who co-chaired the work on the Global Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on the state of ecosystems and biodiversity, points out that "shrinking habitats and associated behavioral changes in animals contribute to the risk of transmitting diseases from animals to humans."39 The vast majority of pathogens are still to be discovered, the risk of future pandemics remains high.

The majority of the targets for SDG 15 were derived from the Aichi targets of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and should be met by 2020. Negotiations are therefore currently underway to develop a post 2020 global biodiversity framework. However, the first draft is not nearly transformative enough to stop the global loss of biodiversity, even by UN estimates.40 The Manager of the UNDP Global Programme on Nature for Development, in response to the coronavirus crisis is therefore calling for a "Marshall Plan for Nature", a plan that would invest in the protection, restoration and sustainable management of biological diversity.41 The Conference of the Parties, at which the new framework was to be adopted, was scheduled to take place in China in October 2020. It was postponed indefinitely.

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

In many countries, the coronavirus pandemic has led to an unprecedented restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms, many of which were temporary and appropriate. But some countries have seen measures where crisis management has been just an excuse for further restricting freedom of speech, opinion and the press.42 Within the EU, the rule of law has been further undermined in already critical cases such as Hungary and Poland. Moreover, conspiracy theories are booming during the pandemic, which has resulted in attacks on ethnic minorities, for example on Muslims in India.43

Another controversial issue is the use of tracing apps. These can slow down the spread of the virus, as they make it possible to determine with whom infected persons have come into contact. However, the recorded information can also be misused. Amnesty International warns that some governments are using the coronavirus crisis as an instrument to expand digital surveillance of the population, thereby undermining human rights.44

Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

The coronavirus crisis is a particularly hard blow for the potential to finance sustainable development in the long term. Wealthy countries responded to the pandemic and resulting lockdown with enormous stimulus packages, financed by a mix of fiscal and monetary policy measures. This initially mitigated the impact on their populations. However, deficit spending is driving up public debt levels and is starting to cause debt sustainability concerns, which could lead to budget cuts in the years to come, unless mitigated by other measures. Alternative policy measures to austerity that are already being discussed include wealth taxes,45 corona-bonds46 and debt cancellations.47

The countries of the Global South are particularly affected by the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis. Many of them have little fiscal space and are very dependent on external financing. The rapid decline in commodity prices has resulted in a drastic decline in export revenues (UNCTAD estimates that this will amount to US$ 800 billion in 2020). Declining remittances from migrant workers to their home countries (the World Bank expects a decline of 20 percent to around US$ 445 billion)48 will also cause a loss in revenue. Many currencies have already been devaluated against the US dollar. In this situation, the countries of the Global South would have to repay the enormous amount of US$ 2.7 trillion in sovereign debt in 2020 and 2021.

The international community has already adopted a first initiative related to the exacerbating debt problems. The G20 offered to let 73 low income developing countries suspend payments on bilateral loans for the rest of the year. This is insufficient, however. If the debt burden is to remain sustainable in the long term, actual debt cancellation is needed, and private and multilateral creditors would also have to be involved.49

In addition, the IMF, regional development banks and various UN organizations have set up aid programmes for poorer countries in record time.50 However, in most cases, the "aid" consists mainly of new loans (not grants) and therefore threatens to increase the debt burden even further. In other cases the support consists of reprogrammed funds that are taken from other areas to finance specific measures in the health sector. This will negatively impact those other areas and will delay the financing of the corresponding development goals.

If the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is to be continued even under the conditions of the coronavirus crisis, the richer countries must make achieving the SDGs an integral part of all measures taken at home, and mobilize additional official development assistance for the particularly affected countries of the Global South.

Further information

Coronavirus portal of the United Nations

WHO coronavirus website

Global Policy Watch (English/Spanish)


























25—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/briefingnote/wcms_738753.pdf, S. 5.













38 and












50 For further details see:

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UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up – 15/06/2020

16. Juni 2020 - 1:52

Download UN Monitor (pdf version).

The UN has released a three phase plan for re-opening the United Nations, releasing information on what the “new normal” will look like for Member States, UN Staff and other stakeholders. The plan indicates:

“During Phase 1, only select activities will be allowed. Maximum occupancy at the Headquarters complex will be capped at 400 people a day, as opposed to the 4,200 limit in normal times. For annex buildings, including DC1 and DC2, maximum occupancy will also be kept to 10 per cent of the usual level. Emphasis will be strictly on those tasks that must be performed on site, with many critical tasks continuing to be done remotely.

During Phases 1 and 2, routine administrative or organizational face-to-face meetings are not permitted. To move into Phase 1, the ‘New York on PAUSE’ executive order must be relaxed. Improvements also must be seen in the local epidemic situation and health care capability, in accordance with city and state recommendations.

In Phase 2, building occupancy will gradually increase to a maximum 1,100 personnel a day at the Headquarters complex, or about 40 per cent of normal levels. For other buildings, 40-50 per cent occupancy will apply. Alternate working arrangements will largely remain in place and many personnel will continue to work remotely. Shifting from Phase 1 to 2 will require a further reduction in the epidemic and strengthening of the health care system in the host city.

Phase 3, which will be a ‘new normal’, would take place when workplace risks are reduced to pre-epidemic levels, and COVID-19 related restrictions are lifted by New York City and State, including those that will allow for the reopening of day-care services and public schools. The Department of Operational Support says it is still too early to outline the work modalities that will be in place under this phase.”

The UN has also announced it will postpone some July meetings, and move others to a virtual format. Acting UN Medical Director Bernhard Lennartz noted that “in-person meetings should continue to be avoided when possible. Events should be virtual whenever possible.” Among the meetings moved to a virtual format will be the 2020 High-level Political Forum (HLPF) scheduled for 7-16 July and the ECOSOC High-level Segment scheduled for 17 July.

The high-level meeting on the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women is tentatively scheduled for 1 October and the multi-stakeholder hearing leading up to it is currently scheduled for 21 July in a virtual format.

Upcoming work of the General Assembly

The General Assembly held a virtual Town Hall on the zero draft of the Omnibus Resolution on COVID-19 on 12 June. Virtual informal consultations will follow in the coming weeks and delegations will be invited to submit written statements as well. Read more about the content and process of preparing the zero draft in UN Monitor #16, “All Protocols Observed” here.

The General Assembly, ECOSOC and Security Council will all hold elections for new members by secret ballot at UN Headquarters on 17 June. Each delegation will nominate one representative who will cast the secret ballot in-person at the UN General Assembly Hall in New York. The President of the General Assembly has released more information on the modalities of voting in the time of COVID-19.

The President of the General Assembly has submitted a paper outlining elements for Member State consideration on arrangements for the high-level week of the 75th Session of the General Assembly. These include proposals for recorded video statements from Heads of State and Government, with in-person participation restricted to one NYC-based representative per delegation. At a virtual meeting with Member States the President of the General Assembly outlined the following:

“I propose that the President of the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General of the United Nations would be present in the General Assembly Hall on the 22 September to facilitate the PGA delivering an opening statement and the Secretary-General’s presentation of the report on the work of the Organization.

Heads of State and Government or Ministers would be invited to address the General Debate via pre-recorded video statements. The list of speakers would be managed as per usual practice for the General Debate. In accordance with social and physical distancing guidelines, physical presence of delegations in the General Assembly Hall would be limited to at one delegate from each New York-based delegation to attend the General Debate. This may be extended to two delegates, if possible.

In addition, all persons present would be requested to wear a face covering at all times. Similar arrangements would be put in place for the high-level meetings; including the high-level meeting to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, scheduled to take place on 21 September 2020.”

More details and decisions are anticipated this month to be announced on the PGA website here.

To mark the commemoration of the signing of the UN Charter, the President of the General Assembly will hold a virtual ceremony on 26 June. As part of the broader 75th Anniversary activities, the meeting will be an opportunity to “take stock of both the successes and lessons learned in implementing the United Nations Charter over the last 75 years, as well as to look ahead and examine how best to collectively overcome current and upcoming challenges”.

A revised zero draft of the Political Declaration on the UN 75th Anniversary has been released. Member States are currently negotiating the zero draft in virtual informal consultations, with plans to release a declaration under silence procedure by the end of June.

The proposed zero-draft of the Ministerial Declaration to be adopted at the 2020 HLPF is currently being circulated by the two co-facilitators, the Permanent Representatives of Bulgaria and of Lebanon. The zero-draft will be basis for discussion June 16 and June 23 at virtual informal negotiations.

Updates on existing work and meetings

The 75th session of the UN General Assembly is due to open on 15 September and the first quarter of its work is traditionally conducted through six main committees. Elections of the respective committee chairs have been conducted with the following Permanent Representatives (PRs) selected:

First Committee, Disarmament & International Security: PR of Spain, Agustín Santos Maraver
Second Committee, Economic & Financial: PR of Nepal, Amrit Bahadur Rai
Third Committee, Social, Humanitarian & Cultural: PR of Hungary, Katalin Annamária Bogyay
Fourth Committee, Special Political & Decolonization: PR of Botswana, Collen Vixen Kelapile
Fifth Committee, Administrative & Budgetary: PR of Uruguay, Carlos Amorín
Sixth Committee, Legal: PR of Chile, Milenko Esteban Skoknic Tapia

Due to COVID-19, the ECOSOC Youth Plenary and Youth Forum have both been deferred to the 2021 session, with no activities taking place in 2020.

The recent ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment was held 19-22 and 27 May in a virtual format to discuss ongoing reform to the UN Development System, with an emphasis on the ability of the UN to respond to COVID-19 at both the country and regional levels. For more information on the session, read “UN Monitor #15: COVID-19 tests the UN’s response to development challenges” here.

Digital cooperation

On 11 June, the General Assembly held a virtual High-level Thematic Debate on the Impact of Rapid Technological Change on the Sustainable Development Goals and Targets. The virtual meeting served to highlight the efforts made by Member States, the UN system, other multilateral institutions, the private sector and other stakeholders to implement/accelerate progress on Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, while considering the impact of rapid technological changes, such as artificial intelligence.

This meeting was followed by the Launch of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation – “The State of the Digital World Today and Implementing the Roadmap”, held on 11, 12 and 15 June. These virtual meetings explore implementation of the framework, “in which all stakeholders play a role in advancing a safer, more equitable digital world, one which will lead to a brighter and more prosperous future for all”.

The Roadmap identifies eight action areas:

“Achieving universal connectivity by 2030; Promoting digital public goods to create a more equitable world digital inclusion; Ensuring digital inclusion for all, including the most vulnerable digital capacity-building; Strengthening digital capacity-building digital human rights; Ensuring the protection of human rights in the digital era artificial intelligence; Supporting global cooperation on artificial intelligence digital trust and security; Promoting trust and security in the digital environment digital cooperation; Building a more effective architecture for digital cooperation.”

Ongoing reform and revitalization work at the United Nations

The work of the UN on the Revitalization of the General Assembly has continued virtually. The co-chairs of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Revitalization, Permanent Representatives of Slovakia and Ghana announced that it held a thematic debate on 9 June on the topic, role and funding of the Office of the PGA and will hold a thematic debate on 16 June to discuss the Secretary-General selection process.

The ECOSOC/HLPF Review process is currently being led by co-facilitators, the Permanent Representatives of Georgia and of Benin. They have circulated a revised draft resolution, to be discussed at an informal virtual meeting on 18 June.

The review process of the UN Human Rights Treaty Body system will be led by co-facilitators Permanent Representatives of Morocco and Switzerland. Following a 4 June expert consultation, the co-facilitators have shared a timeline and modalities for the review process. It will include:

“informal consultation meetings with Member States, in New York, in the beginning of July, and in Geneva during the second half of July”; “dialogues with all relevant stakeholders to seek their contributions, including with OHCHR, treaty bodies, civil society members, National Human Rights Institutions and others”; and “During the month of August, we will draft the report that we will submit to the President of the General Assembly by the end of the current 74th General Assembly.”

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UN Monitor: “All protocols observed”

12. Juni 2020 - 4:13

Download UN Monitor #16 (pdf version).

By Barbara Adams

A new phrase has gained traction in inter-governmental deliberations at the UN in the virtual world ushered in by COVID-19: “All protocols observed”. Many Member States begin their statements with this phrase that replaces the formality of recognizing lists of colleagues and Member States.

Additionally, COVID-19 has given momentum to the development of an “omnibus” UN General Assembly resolution titled: Comprehensive and Coordinated Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This has the potential to advance initiatives and new approaches and thinking. It also has the potential to overtake, bypass, reverse or replace the outcomes of policy deliberations separately negotiated and/or not housed explicitly in the COVID-19 Pandemic track.

This Omnibus Resolution is being guided by the co-coordinators for the General Assembly on COVID-19-related initiatives, the Permanent Representatives of Afghanistan and Croatia, who circulated a zero draft on 5 June.

The zero draft follows the standard format of preambular and operative paragraphs and each paragraph denotes how it has been sourced. Sources range from existing agreed language, to Secretary-General and UN policies and briefs, to “new” proposals (See Figure 1).

Figure 1
Sources for Covid-19 Omnibus Resolution – zero draft

# of times used



New Language






Secretary-General policy briefings



References to Financing for Development



World Health Assembly



The operative paragraphs (OPs) are grouped into clusters: Multilateralism and Solidarity; Jointly Protecting; Recovering Together; Rebuilding Better; Partnerships, Commitments; and the Way Forward.

Excerpts from the Omnibus draft illustrate its range and reach that extend across the three pillars of the United Nations (see Figure 2).

The last cluster relies heavily on responses and action from “other stakeholders”, “relevant stakeholders” and “relevant actors” in addition to Member States. It even “urges intensified international cooperation” to include public-private partnerships as well as North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.

But nowhere does this cluster call for related accountability and reporting responsibilities of these “other stakeholders”.

Throughout the text one can detect or anticipate the influence of the G20 and the major economies, especially in the macroeconomic paras (OPs 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30). The reference to the use of special drawing rights, for example, is limited to: “supports the continued examination of the broader use…” (OP 30).

The draft does acknowledge that human rights are the essence of what makes inter-governmental agreements under the auspices of the UN qualitatively different from other deal-making fora at the global and regional levels (PP 5).

Yet the Omnibus Resolution draft is shockingly silent on the importance of public resources and fiscal space, essential for guaranteeing the full range of rights and provision of public goods, themselves referenced implicitly and explicitly in a number of paragraphs. It gives a nod to tax evasion (OP 29) and “Recognizes the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good”, but it is silent on fiscal space and fiscal policy.

While the zero draft references the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, there is only one reference to transformative recovery/change (OP 33). Overcoming entrenched obstacles to systemic change and reversing incentives that favour the (old) status quo will be essential. Some paragraphs edge in that direction, many do not.

Figure 2
Excerpts from the zero draft

PP 1. Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest global challenges in the history of the United Nations, and expressing concern about its impact on the loss of life and livelihoods, food insecurity and malnutrition, health and education, the disruption to economies and societies, and the exacerbation of economic and social inequalities within and between countries, which will reverse hard-won development gains and hamper progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals, within their given timeframes (PP1&3 of 74/270; PP1 WHA; PP2 HRC PS);

PP 5. Reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other human rights instruments, and emphasizing the obligation of all States to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic (based on S-G’s brief on Human Rights, Rural Women, 74/126, PP2);

PP 9. Recognizing the central role of the United Nations system in catalysing and coordinating the global response to COVID-19, and also recognizing the World Health Organization’s important role and its constitutional mandate to act, inter alia, as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work and its key leadership role within the broader United Nations response (based on PP4 WHA resolution);

PP 11. Expressing appreciation for the leadership of the Secretary-General and welcoming his Appeal for a Global Ceasefire, the release of all relevant UN reports and policy briefs on the impacts of COVID-19, notably the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 and the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 (new);

PP 12. Recognizing the vital role that non-governmental organizations, women’s and community-based organizations, youth-led organizations, organizations of persons with disabilities, and the private sector play in the response and recovery (new);

PP 14. Deeply concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic, due to its severe disruptions to societies, economies, global trade and travel, and food and agricultural systems, is having a devastating impact on sustainable development, including food security, nutrition and livelihoods, education and health service provision and access, especially for people in vulnerable situations and in countries in special situations, and is making the prospect of eradicating poverty, hunger and malnutrition in all forms by 2030 more difficult (new);

PP 15. Reaffirming that the pandemic and related global economic and commodity price shocks could significantly increase the number of countries in or at risk of debt distress, and deeply concerned about the impact of high debt levels on countries’ abilities to withstand the impact of the COVID-19 shock and to invest in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda (based on P9 FFD)

OP 4. Urges relevant actors, including religious leaders, to promote inclusion and unity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to speak out and take action against stigmatization, discrimination, hate speech, ageism, xenophobia, racism or violence (based on S-G’s Policy Brief “COVID-19 and Human Rights”);

OP 5. Calls on Member States to maintain the continued functioning of the health system in all relevant aspects, in accordance with national context and priorities, necessary for an effective public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other ongoing epidemics, and the uninterrupted and safe provision of population and individual level services, for, among others, communicable diseases, including by ensuring the continuation of undisrupted vaccination programs, neglected tropical disease prevention and control, non-communicable diseases, mental health, mother and child health and sexual and reproductive health and promotion, clean water and sanitation and improved nutrition for women and children recognizing in this regard the importance of increased domestic financing and development assistance where needed in the context of achieving Universal Health Coverage (based on OP7.5 WHA);

OP 6. Calls on international organizations and other relevant stakeholders to support all countries, upon their request, in the implementation and review of their multi-sectoral national action plans and in strengthening their health systems to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in maintaining the safe provision of all other essential public health functions and services (based on OP 8.1. WHA);

OP 9. Encourages Member States to work with relevant stakeholders to increase research and development funding for vaccines and medicines, leverage digital technologies, and strengthen scientific international cooperation in response to COVID-19 and to bolster coordination, including with the private sector, towards rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostics, antiviral medicines, personal protective equipment, medical science- based treatment protocols and vaccines, adhering to the objectives of efficacy, safety, equity, accessibility, and affordability (based on OP3 74/274);

OP 10. Recognizes the role of extensive immunization against COVID-19 as a global public good for health in preventing, containing and stopping transmission in order to bring the pandemic to an end, once safe, quality, efficacious, effective, accessible and affordable medical- based treatment and vaccines are available (based on OP 6. WHA);

OP 12. Calls upon Member States and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the movement of foods and food-production related items, maintain functioning food value chains, allow freedom of movement of agricultural and food workers to avoid food shortages, and provide adequate safety nets and assistance to minimize the negative effects of loss of livelihoods on food security and malnutrition (based on P5 FFD; 74/2 OP70; AU Declaration on food security and nutrition, p. 4);

OP 14. Calls upon all Member States to explore ways to eliminate any impediment to the delivery and access of humanitarian assistance, including by the application of humanitarian exemptions to sanctions where they have negative impact on the capacity of States to respond efficiently, specifically in the acquisition of medical equipment and supplies to adequately treat their populations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic (new);

OP 15. Calls for ensuring specific protection for women, youth and children, as well as for the poor and the most vulnerable, including, persons with disabilities, older persons, indigenous peoples, homeless, refugees, internally displaced persons, minorities, migrants, institutionalized persons, people living with non-communicable diseases, especially cardiovascular conditions, people exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution and persons facing multiple intersecting forms of violence and discrimination, especially in the context of timely, universal, inclusive and equitable access to safe, quality, effective and affordable health care services, including diagnostics, medicine and vaccines and to leave no one behind (based on the S-G’s Policy Briefs);

OP 18. Calls upon Member States to integrate prevention, mitigation, and response efforts and reinforce plans and structures to counter the increase of sexual and gender-based violence, in online and offline contexts, as part of their COVID-19 responses, including by designating protection shelters, health and support services as well as legal protection as essential services for all women and girls (based on UN Policy Brief on Women and COVID-19);

OP 19. Calls upon Member States to adopt measures to recognize and reduce women’s and girls’ disproportionate share of paid and unpaid care and domestic work and the feminization of poverty, which is exacerbated by COVID-19, including through labour policies, public services and social protection (based on CSW63; policy brief on women and solidarity report);

OP 20. Urges Member States to ensure full, equal and meaningful participation in decision-making and equal access to leadership and representation in all spheres of society for all people, with a special emphasis on women, young people, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, older persons and other marginalized groups, and to fully respect, protect and fulfill existing commitments and obligations with respect to equal enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, as part of their COVID-19 response (based on OP2 74/l.52; SG’s policy briefs);

OP 21. Reemphasize the importance of freedom of expression, safety of journalists, and access to accurate and timely information, as essential for public health purposes, as well as social cohesion, and calls on Member States to ensure the free flow of information, without suppression, while countering misinformation online and offline with accurate, clear and evidence-based information, and avoiding efforts that could result in censorship of protected speech, endangering human rights and the rule of law (based on S-G’s Policy Brief “COVID-19 and Human Rights”);

OP 22. Calls upon Member States to ensure that our efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda, for all people everywhere, will be accelerated by building more sustainable, peaceful, just, equitable, inclusive and resilient societies where no one is left behind in a decade of action and delivery for sustainable development, as determined by our leaders at the Sustainable Development Goals Summit;

OP 24. Welcomes the steps taken by the Group of 20 to provide a time-bound suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries and by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to provide liquidity and other support measures to ease the debt burden of developing countries, and recommends all relevant actors to address debt vulnerabilities, through existing channels and mechanisms, in developing countries due to the pandemic (based on P9 FFD; SG report on debt);

OP 25. Emphasizes that the crisis provides an opportunity to address issues in the international debt architecture and the international financial system (based FFD; debt report);

OP 29. Notes the impact of corruption and illicit financial flows, including that caused by tax evasion and transnational organized crime, on the ability of countries to respond to and recover from COVID-19, and calls upon Member States to recommit to addressing the challenges of combating illicit financial flows and strengthening good practices on tax administration, assets return and recovery, including by enforcing existing obligations under the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto, and to implement effective, inclusive and sustainable measures to prevent and combat corruption within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (based on PP12, OP6, OP11 74/206; P14 FFD);

OP 30. Calls upon Member States and International Financial Institutions to provide liquidity in the financial system, especially in all developing countries, and supports the continued examination of the broader use of special drawing rights to enhance the resilience of the international monetary system (based on shared responsibility report; OP26 74/202);

OP 36. Recognizes that substantial digital divides and data inequalities exist between countries and regions, and between developed and developing countries, particularly Africa and least developed countries, and urges leaders to accelerate the catalytic role that digital technologies have played in ameliorating the impact of the crisis on education, heath, communication, commerce and business continuity and to take concerted action to further digital government, scientific research, emerging technologies and new data sources and to build resilient, integrated and agile data and statistical systems under the leadership of National Statistical Offices, that can respond to the increased and urgent data demands in times of disaster and ensure a path towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (based on 73/141);

OP 39. Urges intensified international cooperation, including North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, bearing in mind that South-South cooperation is not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North-South cooperation, as well as public-private partnerships in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (new);

OP 40. Calls upon Member States to engage all relevant stakeholders, including youth, civil society, human rights defenders, the private sector, and academia, through the establishment of participatory and transparent multi-stakeholder platforms and partnerships, to design effective responses and review and monitor their implementation (based on 74/L.26, OP9);

OP 41. Urges Member States and other stakeholders, including the private sector and International Financial Institutions, to mobilize a global response amounting to the equivalent of, at least, 10 percent of global GDP (based on S-G’s report on shared responsibility of 2020)

OP 43. Urges all relevant actors to align investments with the 2030 Agenda, including investments supporting progress towards universal health coverage and reduction of inequalities, to help ensure a sustainable recovery from COVID-19, as well as pandemic preparedness and the prevention and detection of and response to any future outbreak (based on P16 FFD).

For a table on these paragraphs and the sources referenced, contact Carter Boyd,

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COVID-19 tests the UN’s response to development challenges

11. Juni 2020 - 18:08

Download UN Monitor #15 (pdf version).

By Elena Marmo

Across the UN System, all hands are on deck to address the impact of COVID-19 from immediate humanitarian and health needs, to medium and longer-term socio-economic policy. Various initiatives are circling one another, raising issues of governance, reporting and accountability. Member States in the ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment explored some of these questions as they related to the UN Development System (UNDS), while in the 28 May and 2 June meetings on Financing for Development they also explored policy ideas, with an emphasis on accounting for vulnerability in macroeconomic analysis.

Speaking at the ECOSOC session, the Secretary-General addressed the need to re-think approaches to economic analysis:

“Traditionally all economic analysis and all development analysis have been based on a number of macro-economic indicators and essentially on GDP. And so it is GDP that classifies countries based on GDP, that policies are discussed or adopted. And it’s time to recognize that this is a very poor way to look into a very much more complex reality…there is a key concept, which is the concept of vulnerability.”

ECOSOC assesses UN development system response

The UN’s ability to respond to COVID-19 at both a country and a regional level was a main feature of the 2020 ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment where Member States discussed the report on the Funding Compact, an inter-governmentally agreed commitment to funding the UNDS along with a Monitoring and Reporting Framework tracking implementation of UNDS reform. The two UN reports highlight challenges in funding the UNDS due to a lack of flexible and sustainable resources and an overreliance on a few key donor countries. The trends noted in the reports and discussed at the ECOSOC Session reveal that funding continues to be inadequate in terms of both quantity and quality, even more alarming given the heightened ambition of and demands on the UNDS agenda.

The report on the Funding Compact notes: “Only 21% of contributions to the UNDS in 2018 were in the form of core/unrestricted contributions, continuing the imbalance between core and non-core funding.” This lack of flexible funding not only makes it difficult for Funds and Programmes within the UNDS to finance their staffing and core operations, but also incites competition rather than collaboration amongst them as they compete for the limited funding available from donors.

At the ECOSOC Session, heads of UN agencies addressed Member States in a panel on 27 May. Among the many issues highlighted was this lack of available flexible funding. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, singled this out as an impediment to COVID-19 responses: “The reality remaining in large parts of UNDS is the erosion of core finance and domination of non-core, tied funding. We have seen, particularly in the last weeks and months, how important it is to have core funding to be flexible and agile.” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore also pointed out: “Flexible and core funding is about 11%, used to be at 22%. The GA indication of 30% is one we dreamed about but we’ve gone in the opposite direction.”

The Funding Compact report also highlights “a gap of approximately 58 million dollars in relation to the full budget of the Resident Coordinator (RC) system”. Robert Piper, Assistant Secretary-General (AS-G) of the United Nations Development Coordination Office (DCO) which oversees the RC system echoed these concerns as well, stating that the DCO “is different from a typical development or humanitarian programme where you can adjust, unhappily, what you are delivering to whom and when. We can’t shut down a Resident Coordinator for a year while we wait for the funding to catch up.”

Further, the Monitoring and Reporting Framework notes that only seven Member States are “providing at least 0.7% of gross national income to ODA” despite previous conversations in support of assessed contributions to the UNDS. AS-G Piper highlighted this, saying, “those who were supportive of assessed contributions are providing much smaller contributions than they would’ve…because it’s voluntary”. Instead he called for Member States to “align their contribution to their policy position on the assessed budget for this”.

Measuring vulnerability and risks

The concept of vulnerability was also a major focus of the 28 May High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond and the 2 June meeting of the Financing for Development (FfD) Forum on COVID-19.

Member States including Guyana on behalf of the G77 and China, Belize on behalf of the Association of Small Island Developing States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, all furthered the discussion with urgency. Various delegations recognized that issues related to trade, tourism-dependency, illicit financial flows, and climate change all create unique vulnerabilities that can result in sudden economic downturn and impede sustainable economic growth in MICs. They noted the imperative of financial flows and support in the face of vulnerabilities and risks faced by many developing countries based on criteria beyond GDP per capita.

Ambassador Carazo Zeledón of Costa Rica stated: “We have called for multi-dimensional criteria to evaluate countries’ risks and vulnerabilities and assess their specific needs and challenges. The fragilities generated by this pandemic demonstrate that income per capita should not be the only parameter in which to base the flow of financial funds and we thank the many voices that have been raised in this regard.”

Ambassador de la Fuente Ramírez of Mexico noted: “Globally, there are structural vulnerabilities that need to be recognized. We are obliged to look beyond GDP per capita and into the root causes that challenge resilience.”

Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados stated: “We agree entirely that there ought to be a debt standstill for those who are the most poor. But we also recognize that the institutions that were created 75 years ago, do not take into account the realities of our countries today.” She added: “We need to go further than beyond words and build back better must not simply be something that is delightful to the ears in terms of alliteration, but must now also mean a recognition that the criteria and the definitions that we have used to determine access, access to goods in a COVID-19 crisis, access to credit in a COVID-19 crisis or post COVID-19, have now to be reflected again on the basis of countries’ actual needs rather than simple definitional criteria that makes it easier for economists to categorize where persons should go.”

During the High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond six working groups were announced to be led by Member States on the thematic areas of liquidity, debt vulnerabilities, private sector creditor engagement, external finance, fiscal space, and SDG alignment.

UN DESA maps financial responses to COVID-19

Ahead of the 2 June meeting of the Financing for Development (FfD) Forum on COVID-19, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) completed a mapping of financial responses and needs across the UN System, Bretton Woods Institutions and regional architecture. The mapping served to inform discussions on several topics, including “[fiscal] space for countries to invest in immediate crisis needs and recovery efforts; concrete funding mechanisms and policy options to finance the crisis response; tackling illicit financial flows [which] can provide critical resources to invest into recovery from the crisis; risks to global prosperity proactively [including] one of the most daunting risks…climate change; financing measures and policy options to achieve a resilient and sustainable recovery aligned with the 2030 Agenda.”

The initiatives highlighted in the DESA mapping include:

The COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund is an inter-agency fund mechanism with the aim of stopping transmission, protecting the vulnerable and building resiliency (see Figures 1 and 2). These three aims are considered “windows” and financial support is channeled accordingly. The financial requirements of the Fund are projected at US$2 billion, with US$1 billion needed in the first nine months of operation, beginning in April 2020. Current contributions (as of 10 June) total US$44.5 million, leaving a gap of over US$50 million. The Fund’s first call for proposals indicates that funding needs vary across countries, with specific projects available for support.

UN System COVID-19 Response Figure 1. Source: UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund, Allocation Guidelines

Financial Requirements: $1 Billion in the first nine months

WINDOW 1: Enable Governments and Communities to Tackle de Emergency

  • Support countries to fully implement their National Action Plans for Health Security (NAPHS), helping them to close critical gaps pertaining to the acquisition of essential equipment and supplies and the payment of salaries and incentives to the health-care and social workforce;
  • Assist non-health ministries and governments agencies (such as ministries of education, agriculture, women’s empowerment, transport, interior, labour, social welfare and public services), along with local governments to maintain situation rooms and critical services interrupted by COVID-19.

WINDOW 2: Reduce Social Impact and Promote Economic Response

  • Enhance social protection mechanisms through immediate impact measures, scaling up cash transfers, insurance, food security, asset creation, and safety nets, and relieve the burden of COVID-19 on women and children;
  • Meet children’s food and educational needs through school meal programmes and access to learning;
  • Promote digital innovations that boost employment, support livelihoods, and improve the provision of social services in line with COVID-19 response measures.

WINDOW 3: Recover Better

  • Strengthen and test national preparedness measures, inclusive of: integrated disease surveillance and response and community-based surveillance, maintenance of key services and a health-care workforce during crises; laboratory capacity; public procurement protocols and logistics; clear and targeted communications; cross-border collaboration; and national plans that include dedicated budget lines for funding preparedness;
  • Invest in effective and innovative delivery of public services to achieve sustainable and inclusive economies that leave no-one behind and safeguard country SDG programmes from COVID-19 related setbacks.
Figure 2. Source: UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund

The Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 (GHRP) is a plan for raising resources and coordinating the response to immediate COVID-19-related health and multi-sectoral humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable people in 63 countries already facing a humanitarian crisis (e.g., refugees, internally displaced persons, host communities, other vulnerable populations). On 7 May, the updated GHRP was issued with a revised requirement of US$6.7 billion in support of response in 63 countries with humanitarian crises. To date (26 May), the GHRP has received US$1.1 billion in funding, amounting to 17 percent of the total appeal, with the recipients of the funding ranging from UNICEF and WHO to UNFPA and IOM. OCHA’s pooled funds – the Central Emergency Response Fund and Country-based Pooled Funds (CBPF) – have also allocated a combined total of US$222 million to support time-critical humanitarian action in response to COVID-19-related needs in over 43 countries.

Contributing to the GHRP is the WHO COVID-19 Appeal: Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, a COVID-19 Member-State Pooled Fund to support WHO efforts in countries “most in need of help”. It aims to enable flexibility and efficiency for implementation and value for money for donors. WHO estimates US$ 1.74 billion needed through December 2020. A 9 June update indicates only US$670.7 million has been received specifically for these efforts.

UN funding mobilization efforts also include independent philanthropic contributions, facilitated through the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, created by the United Nations Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, together with WHO. The Fund channels private contributions, making it possible for individuals and organizations of the general public to support the COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. As of 3 June, the Fund has raised US$217.6 million to contribute towards WHO’s Strategic and Preparedness Response. Reporting on this Fund is less transparent than its official Member State-led counterparts across the UN system, and the total raised is reflected also in the total raised by the WHO Strategic and Preparedness Response Plan.

The DESA mapping also covers the IMF and World Bank, both of which were urged by Member States to enact debt cancellation and Special Drawing Rights at the recent 2 June FfD Forum meeting and 28 May High-Level event on Financing for Development in the era of COVID-19. The mapping notes:

The World Bank Group reports it is prepared to provide up to US$160 billion over the next 15 months in financing tailored to the health, economic and social shocks countries are facing, including US $50 billion of IDA resources on grant and highly concessional terms.

The IMF is deploying USD 1 trillion to manage the economic and social fallout of COVID-19 along with providing policy advice and technical assistance. The IMF has responded to calls for emergency financing from 102 countries so far. The Fund has doubled the access to its emergency facilities—the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) and the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) —allowing it to meet the expected demand of about US$100 billion in financing. It has also approved the establishment of a Short-term Liquidity Line (SLL) to further strengthen the global financial safety. In addition, the IMF is also augmenting existing lending programs to accommodate urgent new needs arising from the coronavirus. The IMF has approved immediate debt service relief to 25 countries under the IMF’s revamped Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) as part of the Fund’s response to help address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mapping also references efforts/initiatives of the Regional Development Banks:

The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) EBRD is extending support through a solidarity package worth US$23.8 billion up until the end of 2021 and has also committed to expand financing under its Trade Facilitation Programme, to keep open the channels of commerce. It will also offer “fast track restructuring” and enhance established frameworks that can reach out especially to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and corporations making the real economy more resilient. Another element in the Solidarity Package is a new Vital Infrastructure Support Programme to meet essential infrastructure requirements, including financing for working capital, stabilization and essential public investment.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has announced a US$20 billion package to address the needs of its developing member countries (DMCs) as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The US$20 billion package includes about US$2.5 billion in concessional and grant resources and US$2 billion for the private sector. Loans and guarantees will be provided to financial institutions to rejuvenate trade and supply chains. About US$6.2 billion of the total package will be generated from re-programming, reallocations, and savings on existing projects and technical assistance.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has made available US$2.8 billion to tackle the public health crisis and its economic ravages. The initiative features four components: the immediate public health response, aid to vulnerable people most in need, assistance for companies and their employees so as to minimize losses, and support for fiscal policy. Of the US$2.8 billion, US$1.7 billion has been made available to the countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic.

As the UN System and Member States respond to the impact of COVID-19 with calls for innovative policies to inform what it means to “build back better”, financial commitments are lagging behind. Rigorous monitoring and reporting will be needed to ensure that Member States and the UNDS turn promises into action, especially as the international community embarks on the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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UN75 Political Declaration: Perspectives on the lynchpin role of UN financing

4. Juni 2020 - 20:07

By Barbara Adams

The year 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations as well as the beginning of the final 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the wider 2030 Agenda. The Secretary-General, UN leadership and various Member States have been highlighting the importance of the 75th Anniversary as the opportunity to address challenges to global governance and reinvigorate the UN System with what is needed to deliver meaningful change to people’s lives worldwide.

The UN resolution on the “Commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations” (A/RES/73/299) notes that outcomes of the process will include a multi-stakeholder “Leaders Summit” on 21 September 2020. On this occasion, a pre-negotiated, “concise, substantive, forward-looking and unifying declaration that captures the collective commitment of Member States to multilateralism and to the United Nations and their shared vision for a common future” will be adopted by consensus.

Currently, a zero draft of this Political Declaration is being negotiated by Member States in a virtual meeting format. This draft outlines 12 commitments which include:

  • We will leave no one behind;
  • We will protect our planet;
  • We will work to ensure peace and security;
  • We will abide by international rules and norms;
  • We will place women and girls at the center;
  • We will build trust;
  • We will promote the use of new technologies for the benefit of all;
  • We will upgrade the United Nations;
  • We will ensure financing;
  • We will boost partnerships;
  • We will listen to and work with youth; and
  • We will be prepared.

While Member States continue to negotiate virtually in the coming weeks, the zero draft will see changes made by Member States, with an eventual final draft to be adopted under silence procedure. See UN Monitor: COVID-19 & UN Silence Procedure for more details on silence procedure decision-making.

Invited to comment on and present amendments to one section in the zero draft of the UN75 declaration – that on ensuring financing (see box below), Barbara Adams addressed the five sentences of the paragraph, each accompanied by a recommendation and amendments.

Paragraph 9 of Zero Draft

“We will ensure financing. None of our aspirations will be realized unless there is sustainable funding of the organization. We will pay our assessed contribution in full and on time. Measures to better ensure this should be explored. Implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development is key for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Joint public-private financing plays a central role in our efforts to make the United Nations deliver better on its purposes.”

The language of the zero draft is in bold, her amendments are in italics. The remarks were offered in the context of recognizing the limited nature of this exercise and in that context, contained amendments for each of the five sentences in the paragraph titled: We will ensure financing.


  1. None of our aspirations will be realized unless there is sustainable funding of the organization

Amendment –Add: “and the UN system as a whole”.

The “organization” applies to a very limited albeit important part of what the UN does and doesn’t apply, as for example to response to the pandemic.

Sustainable funding is essential if the other propositions and system-wide reform proposals are to have any success. However, the current patterns of funding are insufficient both in quantity and in quality. Sustainable funding is crucial for the ability of the UN to do what it was set up to do, but more pertinently, it is necessary to disconnect and break the current patterns that are dominated by a few large donors and the way in which they are influencing decision-making, agenda setting and shaping priorities across the system.


  1. We will pay our assessed contributions in full and on time.

(How many times have we heard this.)

Assessed contributions apply at best to 30% of what the UN is called upon to do. 

Amendment:  We will pay and scale up contributions to the UN system, assessed, quasi-assessed, core and core like and on an agreed and ambitious timetable.


  1. Measures to better ensure this (delete “should be explored” and add)

Amendment: Measures to better ensure this include multi-year contributions, phasing out strictly earmarked and tied contributions and accelerating transition measures such as pooled and thematic funds, and strengthening the indicators to measure implementation.  

The UN lacks quality, consistent and applied rules and tools for how (or if/when) to receive non-Member State contributions. If included in the declaration, it needs to include something along these lines:

Explore the feasibility of a mechanism to ensure non-Member State contributions are not tied to a programme, project or entity, are fully transparent across the UN system and meet the highest standards of due diligence and conflict of interest principles.


  1. Implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development is key for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda

Amendment: Add: “with a focus on the specifics of illicit financial flows, debt work-out and fiscal policy and space”.

While this sentence is about financing the 2030 Agenda, not the UN system per se, it is essential to include this focus in the Declaration. It builds on 2 June 2020 high-level event on FfD co-convened by the Permanent Missions of Canada and Jamaica and the UN Secretary-General. This event, with the participation of many Heads of State and Government and agency heads, addressed at the highest political level the importance of addressing IFFs, the debt crisis and the importance of fiscal space. Its high-level participation offers potentially encouraging momentum for this declaration if it can move us forward rather than repeating existing language which is what this draft mainly does.


  1. Joint public-private financing plays a central role in our efforts to make the United Nations deliver better on its purposes. DELETE

It is not clear what central role the drafters have in mind. How will private financing contribute to peace-keeping? We know that the provision of public goods is not funded by pro-cyclical funding, which is what characterizes the private sector and most of philanthropic funding.

We know this could not possibly be a main source of the first proposition in this para for sustainable funding.

And if there’s one thing that comes through from the pandemic it is the leadership of government and the public sector. And the importance of fiscal space and the imbalance in the global economy which dictates which countries do and do not have this kind of space.

This is yesterday’s thinking and yesterday’s language and my amendment is to delete it.

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UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up on Development Activities and Financing – 25/05/2020

25. Mai 2020 - 17:27

Download UN Monitor (pdf version).

Across the UN development system, Member States, the UN Secretariat and UN leadership are exploring the profound socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and what macroeconomic policy changes are needed to “build back better”. From UN-led programme activity responses to COVID-19 to needed policy responses both by the Financing for Development process and Member State-led initiatives, there are several opportunities to monitor these developments in the coming weeks.

On 27 May, leadership of UN agencies headlines the final session of the Economic and Social Council on the Operational Activities for Sustainable Development (OAS). Panelists include Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, UNDP Administrator, Executive Directors of UNICEF, UN Women and UNEP, ILO Director-General and WHO Deputy Director-General. This session will address issues and questions raised during the previous sessions of the segment held from 19-22 May, sessions which took stock of the implementation and progress of reforms to make the UN development system (UNDS) “fit for purpose”.

This final session will be webcast on UNWebTV on 27 May, 10AM EDT – 1PM EDT. The previous sessions can also be viewed at

The official OAS agenda, panel presentations and Member State queries brought critical issues to the fore. These ranged across most of the UNDS reform measures including the inadequacy of funding not only for the Resident Coordinator system, the lack of support (both fiscal and logistical) for the Multi Country Offices, the ownership and purpose of the regional architecture and the extent to which Resident Coordinators feel empowered to convene and coordinate across the UNDS in-country.

The official OAS agenda included the following questions:

  • What are the comparative advantages of the UN and how is the UN development system strengthening its support in realizing key SDGs highlighted by developing countries such as poverty eradication, rural development, addressing natural disasters, basic social services, infrastructure, among others?
  • How will the UN development system be held accountable for its work at regional level? Are Member States changing the way they fund due to the Funding Compact? What are the success stories from specialized agencies, funds and programmes regarding joint initiatives?
  • What are the system-wide reports and reporting lines to Member States, to include those at the regional level?
  • How does the UN system intend to support territories covered by Multi Country Offices (MCOs) as they seem to require a different support mechanism within the MCO and a different source of funding? Does this affect MCOs in any form?
  • What is the status of the fundraising efforts thus far in support of the proposals made under the MCO review?

Member State and UN contributions deepened the sessions with many specifics:

  • G77 and China, represented by Guyana, inquired about funding of the Multi Country Offices: “express its concern about the sustainability and predictability of this mode of funding as resources will not be drawn from the Special Partner Trust Fund but will be dependent on RCs leveraging funding to support the non self-governing territories covered by MCO”.
  • Some Member States queried the MCO review process. While 2020 marks the official “review” year of the MCOs, Belize issued a “call for continued monitoring and reviewing of the reforms. Just getting off the ground, COVID intervened”. What will the review process look like for MCOs beyond this current review?
  • G77 and China on Resident Coordinators: "What has been the experience and the role of the international financial institutions or the regional development banks, particularly in supporting the country programmes?"
  • Robert Piper of the Development Coordination Office on how the lack of core funding incites competition rather than collaboration among UN agencies: “As non-core becomes so large the incentives for competition go up. It’s created a sort of marketplace dynamic, it got too big proportionally.”
  • Piper on availability of funds overall: “Of course we would like to increase the amounts from a number of Member States who were supportive of assessed contributions and nevertheless providing much smaller contributions than they would have had they been providing assessed because it’s voluntary…And we would hope that some of those Member States are looking at somehow aligning their contribution to their policy position on the assessed and assessed budget for this.” Does the funding model need to move from voluntary to assessed contributions?
  • G77 and China also prioritized the discussion of funding for the UNDS: "there is a gap of approximately 58 million dollars in relation to the full budget of the RC system. What actions will be undertaken by the system in order to bridge the funding gap for the full operationalization?"
  • Sweden raised concerns regarding the competition amongst UN agencies as a hindrance to reform: “As the Secretary -General expresses concern in his report over what he calls the provisions of competition and exclusion instead of cooperation and joining…how does the Secretary-General intend to address this…How do we build on them to foster the right incentives and the organizational change that we need?”
  • Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands all raised concerns regarding the sustainability of financing the Resident Coordinator system, namely through provision of core funding, rather than non-core funding. In this context, Belgium asked, “We still don’t see enough progress in giving core funding and core funders more visibility and to honour in a way the fact that core funding is given except for reports. But of-course that gets very little visibility. So how to improve the visibility and the honouring of core funding?”
  • On measuring progress, the Secretary-General stated: "Traditionally all economic analysis and all development analysis have been based on a number of macro-economic indicators and essentially on GDP. And so it is GDP that classifies countries based on GDP, that policies are discussed or adopted. And it’s time to recognize that this is a very poor way to look into a very much more complex reality…there is a key concept, which is the concept of vulnerability.”


On 28 May a high-level event by the Group of Friends of SDG Financing will be convened by the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica and UN Secretary-General. The event will be held at the level of Heads of State or Government and will also bring together “leaders from international institutions” for high-level panel presentations, followed by Member State discussions.

It will be held virtually on 28 May 8AM-12PM ET and webcast on UNWebTV and follows or builds on previous meetings.

Following a 10 April meeting of the Group of Friends, co-conveners Canada and Jamaica released a joint statement:

“We convened an extraordinary video conference bringing together Ambassadors from across the entire membership of the United Nations with high-level representatives from the UN, G20, IMF, World Bank Group and OECD to engage in the first truly global discussion on managing the socio-economic and financial impacts of COVID-19. We thank the more than 300 participants who attended.

“We welcomed the commitment by the UN, G20, IMF, World Bank Group, OECD and individual countries to coordinate their actions to ensure an effective response, with all participants recognizing that no one country or organization can tackle the challenge of COVID-19 on their own.

“We were also reminded of the particular vulnerabilities many countries suffer. Small island developing states and many other developing countries in Africa and parts of Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean are confronted with a multi-pronged challenge, including a reliance on imported food; logistics and transportation hubs whose operations have been curtailed; pre-existing high levels of indebtedness; a loss of primary revenue sources; and the need to use scarce foreign currency reserves to procure essential medical supplies.

“We discussed the need to take urgent action to ensure that global supply chains remain open, and that the flows of remittances are able to continue with minimal disruption and at reduced costs. We also stressed the crucial importance of supporting our private sectors through these difficult times as they are the primary source of jobs and livelihoods. No economic recovery will be possible without it.”

At the 19 May meeting of the Group of Friends, the President of the General Assembly highlighted some priorities of the upcoming high-level event:

“…we must ensure that developing countries that are hit hard due to the lack of appropriate fiscal space and vital finances needed for crisis response are helped. Therefore, I am pleased to see particular attention being devoted to the urgency of debt relief and debt standstills for the poorest countries. This is critical in the fight against COVID-19. We must step up our commitments on sustainable debt management and alleviation. We cannot risk turning an already dire situation even more so for many developing countries. This could fundamentally threaten our prospect of achieving the SDGs.

“I also welcome the focus on inclusive growth, credit and capital, and efforts to expand liquidity for developing countries.

“Achieving the SDGs is also partly dependent upon combating illicit financial flows and asset recovery. I am pleased to see the continued commitment to this important issue during next week’s high-level event.”

According to a UN media advisory, the meeting will: “discuss the challenges and opportunities to act quickly on the six issues:

  • The need to expand liquidity in the global economy and maintain financial stability to safeguard development gains.
  • The need to address debt vulnerabilities for all developing countries to save lives and livelihoods for billions of people around the world.
  • The need to create a space in which private sector creditors can proactively engage in effective and timely solutions.
  • Prerequisites for enhancing external finance for inclusive growth and creating jobs, including lowering the transactions costs of remittances.
  • Measures to expand fiscal space and foster domestic resource mobilization by preventing illicit financial flows.
  • Ensuring a sustainable and inclusive recovery by aligning recovery policies with the Sustainable Development Goals.”


On 2 June the Financing for Development (FfD) Forum will hold a meeting titled, Financing a Sustainable Recovery from COVID.

Following the truncated FfD Forum in April, this informal meeting “will act as a platform to discuss concrete financing solutions in response to the pandemic in the framework of the Addis Agenda, paying particular attention to the needs of countries in special situations that face specific challenges in tackling the crisis”.

The meeting presents the urgency to tackle the economic impacts of COVID-19, cognizant that: “There is a significant risk of backsliding on progress in achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.”

With this in mind, the meeting has “a dual objective: (i) to present concrete solutions to finance the response to the pandemic and (ii) explore policy options to set the world on a resilient and sustainable recovery”.

The meeting will be held virtually on 2 June 9AM-12PM ET and webcast on UNWebTV.

The post UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up on Development Activities and Financing – 25/05/2020 appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

UN Monitor : COVID-19 Tour d’horizon 15/05/2020

14. Mai 2020 - 23:53

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“Le SDN [système de développement des Nations unies] est mieux positionné et prêt à accompagner les pays qui cherchent à répondre à la pandémie COVID-19 et à accélérer la mise en œuvre des SDG. Le système revigoré des coordonnateurs résidents [CR] est désormais fermement en place, ce qui garantit un leadership plus fort et indépendant du SDN au niveau national. Une nouvelle génération d’équipes de pays des Nations unies, plus cohésives et plus réactives aux besoins et priorités nationaux, est en train de prendre forme. Des bases solides ont été jetées pour favoriser une culture de résultats et d’apprentissage et pour améliorer l’efficacité des opérations. Il reste cependant des défis à relever et des efforts continus sont nécessaires pour assurer une consolidation plus poussée grâce à un leadership permanent de toutes les parties concernées, un financement durable du système de CR, une capacité renforcée en matière d’évaluations à l’échelle du système et une meilleure mise en œuvre du pacte de financement”.

Ces mots du Secrétaire général des Nations unies, António Guterres, introduisent un rapport et évaluation des progrès de la réforme du système de développement des Nations unies, qui sera examiné lors du segment des activités opérationnelles pour le développement (OAS) de l’ECOSOC. Ce segment se déroulera virtuellement, du 19 au 22 mai et le 27 mai, et son programme officiel ainsi qu’une série de rapports sont maintenant disponibles en ligne.

En amont des délibérations de l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies qui auront lieu plus tard cette année, ce segment de l’ECOSOC mesure la mise en œuvre de l’examen quadriennal complet des activités opérationnelles de développement du système des Nations unies (QCPR). Il sert également de “responsabilité et d’accélération des performances et des résultats à l’échelle du système en ce qui concerne l’Agenda 2030”. À la lumière de COVID-19, le segment évaluera dans quelle mesure les réformes de l’UNDS ont amélioré la capacité des Nations unies à répondre aux besoins de développement dans les pays.

Le rapport du Secrétaire général sur la “Mise en œuvre de la résolution 71/243 de l’Assemblée générale sur le QCPR” souligne comment le repositionnement et la réforme en cours de le SDN ont aidé les réponses nationales à la COVID-19. Le processus du QCPR a débuté il y a quatre ans et, en septembre-novembre 2020, l’Assemblée générale examinera le cadre et les recommandations. Le prochain OAS de l’ECOSOC alimentera directement ce processus de révision.

Le rapport donne la priorité à la poursuite du travail de réforme, ce qui laisse entendre que : “Le SDN que nous voyons aujourd’hui répondre à la crise COVID-19 est, à bien des égards, le SDN vers lequel nous nous sommes orientés au cours des quatre dernières années”.

Il comprend une analyse du financement, répondant à l’appel du QCPR “pour plus de transparence et de responsabilité dans le financement des activités opérationnelles pour le développement”. En outre, le rapport du Bureau de coordination du développement évalue les progrès réalisés dans la redynamisation du système des coordinateurs résidents et la reconfiguration de la structure de l’équipe de pays des Nations unies.

Lors d’une récente réunion du Conseil économique et social (ECOSOC), les membres de le SDNS ont examiné les efforts déployés à l’échelle du système pour traiter la COVID-19 et ses effets de grande portée : “Unir nos forces : Solutions politiques efficaces pour la réponse à la COVID-19”.

Le secrétaire général adjoint aux affaires économiques et sociales, Liu Zhenmin, a souligné certaines conclusions initiales du prochain rapport d’avancement du SDG 2020 dans ce contexte, en declarant :

“Entre 40 et 60 millions de personnes sont susceptibles d’être repoussées dans l’extrême pauvreté à la suite de COVID-19, la première augmentation de la population pauvre en trois décennies. Le manque de ressources financières nationales, les niveaux élevés d’endettement et la fragilité des systèmes de santé constituent un défi urgent pour de nombreux pays… Les inégalités préexistantes, à divers niveaux, semblent aggraver la vulnérabilité des personnes à la pandémie et à ses impacts”.

Lors de la réunion, la présidente de l’ECOSOC, Mona Juul, a donné des précisions :

“Et bien que ce virus nous affecte tous, il n’a pas été un égalisateur. Il a mis en évidence les inégalités dans nos sociétés et les a aggravées. Ces disparités devraient être notre catalyseur, et notre appel à mieux reconstruire. Avec des réponses au niveau national qui sont façonnées par les droits de l’homme et les respectent”.

Elle a ensuite souligné le rôle de l’ECOSOC en tant que coordinateur de le SDN:

“L’ECOSOC a un pouvoir de rassemblement unique pour toute une série de parties prenantes, des États membres à nos partenaires de la société civile et au secteur privé. Ceci, ajouté au rôle de l’ECOSOC pour guider et coordonner son écosystème d’entités – et d’agences spécialisées – nous place dans une position idéale pour préparer une réponse multilatérale pour l’avenir. Une réponse qui permette aux pays de faire face à la crise sanitaire immédiate, d’endiguer les impacts sociaux et économiques et d’accélérer nos efforts pour atteindre les objectifs de développement durable”.

La vice-secrétaire générale Amina Mohammed a souligné le rôle des Nations unies au niveau des pays dans le cadre de la COVID-19. Elle a cité des exemples d’équipes de pays des Nations unies au Ghana qui s’efforcent de protéger les moyens de subsistance, au Népal qui créent des centres d’appel, et au Cameroun qui élargissent l’accès à l’eau, à l’assainissement et aux services d’hygiène dans les communautés vulnérables. Elle a ensuite décrit la stratégie, ancrée dans l’Agenda 2030 :

“En tirant les leçons des crises précédentes et en tirant parti de notre capacité à travailler efficacement ensemble grâce à la réforme des Nations unies, nous avons mis tous les atouts du système de développement des Nations unies au service des pays. Notre réponse reflète :

    • Une offre intégrée et coordonnée des Nations unies sous la direction du système renforcé des coordonnateurs résidents ;
    • Une expertise politique de l’ensemble du système pour soutenir les gouvernements dans les difficiles compromis nécessaires pour aider à maintenir les progrès dans le temps sans aggraver l’instabilité économique et sociale et la dégradation de l’environnement ;
    • Modalités établies et nouvelles pour le financement rapide des programmes liés à COVID-19 dans les pays ;
    • et des partenariats plus solides avec les institutions financières internationales, les organisations de la société civile, le secteur privé, les universités et la communauté scientifique ;”

Elle a ajouté : “Le Secrétaire général a créé le Fonds d’intervention et de redressement COVID-19 au début du mois d’avril pour aider à catalyser l’action conjointe des équipes de pays des Nations unies afin de soutenir les pays et les communautés les plus vulnérables… Une mobilisation et un soutien international accrus sont toutefois nécessaires. Nous avons estimé à des milliards et nous en recevons des millions”.

Une liste impressionnante de plus de 150 signataires, dont des dirigeants mondiaux, passés et présents, des experts en santé, en économie et en droits de l’homme, lancent un appel en faveur d’un vaccin populaire – “Accessible à tous. Dans tous les pays. Gratuit”.

La lettre note : “Ce n’est pas le moment de permettre que les intérêts des entreprises et des gouvernements les plus riches soient placés avant la nécessité universelle de sauver des vies, ou de laisser cette tâche massive et morale aux forces du marché. L’accès aux vaccins et aux traitements en tant que biens publics mondiaux est dans l’intérêt de toute l’humanité. Nous ne pouvons pas nous permettre que les monopoles, la concurrence grossière et le nationalisme myope fassent obstacle”.

Leur appel : “pour un accord mondial sur les vaccins, les diagnostics et les traitements COVID-19 – mis en œuvre sous la direction de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé” précise qu’un tel accord :

  • Garantit le partage mondial obligatoire de toutes les connaissances, données et technologies liées à COVID-19 avec un ensemble de licences COVID-19 librement accessibles à tous les pays. Les pays devraient être habilités et autorisés à utiliser pleinement les sauvegardes et les flexibilités convenues dans la déclaration de Doha de l’OMC sur l’accord sur les ADPIC et la santé publique afin de protéger l’accès aux médicaments pour tous.
  • Établir un plan mondial et équitable de fabrication et de distribution rapide – entièrement financé par les pays riches – pour le vaccin et tous les produits et technologies COVID-19, qui garantisse la transparence “au prix coûtant réel” et l’approvisionnement en fonction des besoins. Il est urgent d’agir pour renforcer massivement les capacités mondiales de fabrication de milliards de doses de vaccins et pour recruter et former les millions d’agents de santé rémunérés et protégés nécessaires à leur distribution.
  • Garantit que les vaccins COVID-19, les diagnostics, les tests et les traitements sont fournis gratuitement à tous, partout. L’accès doit être prioritairement réservé aux travailleurs de première ligne, aux personnes les plus vulnérables et aux pays pauvres les moins à même de sauver des vies”.

Parmi les signataires figurent Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo – Président de la République du Ghana ; Imran Khan – Premier ministre de la République islamique du Pakistan ; Cyril Ramaphosa – Président de la République d’Afrique du Sud et Président de l’Union africaine ; Macky Sall – Président de la République du Sénégal ; Anciens dirigeants de la Finlande, de la Lettonie, de l’Équateur, des Pays-Bas, du Royaume-Uni, du Canada, de l’Italie ; Membres de la société civile, universitaires et membres du système des Nations unies, y compris des agences et des secrétaires exécutifs régionaux.

Prochaines réunions, decisions

  • Le segment des activités opérationnelles de l’ECOSOC aura lieu virtuellement du 19 au 22 mai
    et le 27 mai
  • La déclaration ministérielle pour les négociations informelles du FPHN se poursuivra virtuellement en juin 2020, pour préparer le Forum en juillet 2020
  • Dialogue interactif informel avec le candidat au poste de président de l’Assemblée générale pour la 75e sesión

The post UN Monitor : COVID-19 Tour d’horizon 15/05/2020 appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up on UN Sustainable Development Activities – 14/05/2020

14. Mai 2020 - 16:15

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“The UNDS is better positioned and ready to accompany countries as they seek to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerate SDG implementation. The reinvigorated Resident Coordinator system is now firmly in place ensuring stronger and independent leadership of the UNDS at country level. A new generation of UN Country Teams, more cohesive and responsive to national needs and priorities, is taking shape. Solid foundations have been built to nurture a culture of results and learning; and to improve efficiencies in business operations. Challenges remain however and continued effort is needed to ensure further consolidation through ongoing leadership from all involved, sustained funding of the RC system, strengthened capacity on system-wide evaluations; and improved implementation of the funding compact.”

These words by UN Secretary-General António Guterres introduce a report and assessment of progress in the reform of the United Nations Development System (UNDS) which will be deliberated during the ECOSOC Operational Activities for Development Segment (OAS). This segment will take place virtually, 19-22 May, and 27 May, and its official programme and a series of reports are now available online.

Ahead of the UN General Assembly deliberations later this year, this ECOSOC segment measures implementation of the quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) of operational activities for development of the United Nations system. It also serves as “accountability for, and acceleration of, system-wide performance and results in relation to the 2030 Agenda”. In light of COVID-19, the segment will assess the extent to which reforms of the UNDS have improved the UN’s ability to respond to development needs in-country.

The Secretary-General’s report on the “Implementation of General Assembly resolution 71/243 on the QCPR” highlights how the ongoing repositioning and reform of the UNDS has aided country-level responses to COVID-19. The QCPR process is four years into its implementation and during September-November of 2020, the General Assembly will review the framework and recommendations. The upcoming ECOSOC OAS will feed directly into this review process.

The report prioritizes continued reform work, suggesting that: “The UNDS that we see responding to the COVID-19 crisis today is, in many respects, the UNDS that we have been building towards over the past four years.”

It includes a Funding Analysis, responding to the QCPR “call for greater transparency and accountability in the funding of operational activities for development”. Additionally the Report by the Development Coordination Office evaluates progress made in reinvigorating the Resident Coordinator system and the reconfiguring the UNCT structure.

UNDS members explored system-wide efforts to address COVID-19 and its far-reaching effects at a recent Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting: “Joining Forces: Effective Policy Solutions for Covid-19 Response”.

Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, highlighted some initial findings of the forthcoming 2020 SDG Progress report in this context, stating:

“Between 40 to 60 million people are likely to be pushed back into extreme poverty as a result of COVID-19, the first increase of poverty population in three decades. The lack of domestic financial resources, high debt levels and fragile health systems present an urgent challenge for many countries…Pre-existing inequalities along various dimensions, appear to aggravate the vulnerability of people to the pandemic and its impacts.”

At the meeting, President of ECOSOC Mona Juul elaborated:

“And although this virus impacts us all, it has not been an equaliser. It has exposed the inequalities in our societies and compounded them. These disparities should be our catalyst, and our call to build back better. With responses on the national level that are shaped by, and respect human rights.”

She went on to highlight the role of ECOSOC as a coordinator of the UNDS:

“ECOSOC has a unique convening power for a range of stakeholders, from Member States, to our civil society partners, and the private sector. This, together with ECOSOC’s role to guide and coordinate its ecosystem of entities – and specialised agencies – leaves us ideally placed to plot a multilateral response for the road ahead. One that enables countries to address the immediate health crisis, stem the social and economic impacts, and accelerate our efforts to reach the SDGs.”

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed highlighted the role of the UN at country-level in addressing COVID-19. She cited examples of UNCTs in Ghana working to protect livelihoods, in Nepal establishing call centers, and in Cameroon extending access to water, sanitation and hygiene services in vulnerable communities. She further outlined the strategy, rooted in the 2030 Agenda:

“Drawing lessons learned from previous crises and leveraging our ability to work effectively together from the UN reform, we have placed all assets of the UN development system in service of countries. Our response reflects:

      • An integrated and coordinated UN offer under the leadership of the strengthened Resident Coordinator system;
      • Policy expertise from across the system to support Governments with the difficult trade-offs needed to help sustain progress over time without deepening economic and social instability and environmental degradation;
      • Established and new modalities for rapid funding of COVID-19 related programmes in countries;
      • and Stronger partnerships with International Financial Institutions, civil society organizations, the private sector, academia and the scientific community;”

She added, “The Secretary-General established the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund in early April to help catalyze joint action by UNCTs to support the most vulnerable countries and communities…Greater mobilization and international support are needed, however. We estimated billions and are receiving millions.”

An impressive list of over 150 signatories including world leaders, past and present, health, economics and human rights experts issue a call for a People’s Vaccine – “Available to all. In all countries. Free of charge.”

Their letter notes: “Now is not the time to allow the interests of the wealthiest corporations and governments to be placed before the universal need to save lives, or to leave this massive and moral task to market forces. Access to vaccines and treatments as global public goods are in the interests of all humanity. We cannot afford for monopolies, crude competition and near-sighted nationalism to stand in the way.”

Their call: “for a global agreement on COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments – implemented under the leadership of the World Health Organization” specifies that such an agreement:

  • Ensures mandatory worldwide sharing of all COVID-19 related knowledge, data and technologies with a pool of COVID-19 licenses freely available to all countries. Countries should be empowered and enabled to make full use of agreed safeguards and flexibilities in the WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health to protect access to medicines for all.
  • Establishes a global and equitable rapid manufacturing and distribution plan – that is fully-funded by rich nations – for the vaccine and all COVID-19 products and technologies that guarantees transparent ‘at true cost-prices’ and supplies according to need. Action must start urgently to massively build capacity worldwide to manufacture billions of vaccine doses and to recruit and train the millions of paid and protected health workers needed to deliver them.
  • Guarantees COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, tests and treatments are provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere. Access needs to be prioritized first for front-line workers, the most vulnerable people, and for poor countries with the least capacity to save lives.”

Those signing on include: Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo – President of the Republic of Ghana; Imran Khan – Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; Cyril Ramaphosa – President of the Republic of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union; Macky Sall – President of the Republic of Senegal; Former leaders of Finland, Latvia, Ecuador, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy; Members of civil society, academica and members of the UN system, including agencies and regional executive secretaries.

Upcoming meetings, decisions

  • ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment will take place virtually 19-22 May and 27 May
  • Ministerial Declaration for the HLPF informal negotiations will continue virtually in June 2020, preparing for HLPF in July 2020
  • Informal Interactive Dialogue with the Candidate for the Position of President of the General Assembly for the 75th Session

The post UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up on UN Sustainable Development Activities – 14/05/2020 appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

Kategorien: english, Ticker

UN Monitor : COVID-19 Tour d’horizon 05/05/2020

9. Mai 2020 - 15:31

English version

Télécharger UN Monitor (version pdf).

Le Forum politique de haut niveau 2020 (FPHN) doit examiner la mise en œuvre de l’Agenda 2030 pour le développement durable et les progrès accomplis dans la réalisation des SDG du 7 au 16 juillet 2020. Le Département des affaires économiques et sociales des Nations Unies (DAES) a publié un programme provisoire et une note conceptuelle pour le FPHN 2020. Le DAES a également annoncé de nouvelles modalités pour les manifestations et expositions virtuelles parallèles :

“Compte tenu de la situation liée à COVID-19, après un examen approfondi, il a été décidé que tous les événements et expositions parallèles seront organisés virtuellement. Néanmoins, nous invitons les parties intéressées à soumettre leur candidature pour organiser une exposition ou un événement parallèle pendant le FPHN 2020 en suivant les lignes directrices et les critères. La procédure de candidature sera ouverte jusqu’au 29 mai 2020. Après la clôture des inscriptions le 29 mai, le Secrétariat continuera à examiner les candidatures et à informer les organisateurs approuvés afin qu’ils fournissent des liens vers les plateformes virtuelles de leurs événements et expositions. Seuls les événements et expositions qui ont été approuvés feront partie du programme officiel des événements et expositions parallèles du FPHN.”

Le résultat du FPHN – comme les années précédentes – sera une déclaration ministérielle adoptée après négociations par les États membres – et soumise à la procédure de silence en vigueur en raison du coronavirus. Ces négociations progresseront au cours du mois prochain, les co-facilitateurs étant l’ambassadeur de Bulgarie, Georgi Velikov Panayotov, et l’ambassadrice du Liban, Amal Mudallali, qui dirigeront le processus. La déclaration sera basée sur une structure récemment publiée, incluant, mais sans s’y limiter :

“Impact de COVID-19 sur la mise en œuvre de l’Agenda 2030, les SDG et la décennie d’action” ;

“Ne laisser personne pour compte, les droits humaines, la lutte contre les inégalités et les besoins des plus vulnérables, l’égalité des sexes, l’inclusion sociale et l’impact de COVID-19” ;

“Moyens de mise en œuvre, financement (y compris l’allégement de la dette, la lutte contre les flux financiers illicites, le système commercial multilatéral), augmentation des dépenses de santé, technologies, numérisation, renforcement des capacités, assistance technique, données, interface science-politique, innovation, impact sur la société”.

En 2019, la Déclaration politique du FPHN, co-animée par l’ambassadrice des Bahamas, Sheila Gweneth Carey, et l’ambassadeur. Olof Skoog de Suède, a été menée à travers une série de négociations informelles en personne au cours desquelles les États membres ont longuement discuté d’un projet zéro et d’un second projet. Les négociations ont comporté une procédure de silence non pas pour l’ensemble du processus mais seulement pour résoudre les dernières questions en suspens et avec une certaine transparence sur les questions en débat/différend.

Après les négociations en personne, le document a fait l’objet de deux cycles de procédure de silence et le délai a été prolongé non pas une fois, mais deux fois pour donner aux délégations plus de temps pour négocier et s’entretenir avec les capitales. L’accord par le silence a été rompu par une délégation qui souhaitait inclure les déchets plastiques dans les océans dans la section de la déclaration sur la dégradation de l’environnement. La déclaration modifiée a été soumise à nouveau avec succès : le silence n’a pas été rompu et la déclaration a été adoptée.

La déclaration ministérielle de 2020 utilisera le processus de la procédure de silence d’une manière différente, avec des négociations virtuelles et par courrier électronique à la place des informels en personne, et le rôle de correspondant des co-facilitateurs a été renforcé. Pour plus de détails, voir UN Monitor : COVID-19 et la procédure de silence.

Préparatifs régionaux pour le Forum de haut niveau

L’ONU a organisé des forums régionaux sur le développement durable pour préparer le FPHN 2020.

Le Forum régional africain sur le développement durable s’est réuni en personne du 24 au 27 février et a publié un rapport de synthèse soulignant les principales conclusions et recommandations. Parmi celles-ci : “L’Afrique est la région du monde qui contribue le moins aux émissions de carbone, mais elle est la plus vulnérable au changement climatique”. Le rapport souligne également qu’avant la COVID-19, des appels à l’allégement de la dette ont été lancés :

“L’augmentation de la dette publique et des flux financiers illicites est un défi majeur pour le financement des investissements en faveur du développement durable. En 2018, la dette publique totale de l’Afrique représentait en moyenne 59 % du PIB, avec des ratios supérieurs à 100 % dans au moins six pays. Au cours de la période 2011-2016, l’Afrique a perdu environ 100 milliards de dollars par an en raison d’une mauvaise facturation commerciale”.

Le Forum régional de la CEE-ONU s’est réuni virtuellement le 19 mars 2020 en se concentrant sur le Rapport mondial sur le développement durable (GSDR), un élément clé qui sous-tend à la fois la Décennie d’action et le thème du FPHN 2020, ainsi que sur le tout premier rapport régional sur les progrès du GSDR. Le rapport du président sur la réunion note :

“La GSDR 2019 a identifié quatre leviers qui peuvent contribuer à alléger la pression sur les ressources disponibles : la science et la technologie, le système économique et financier, les structures de gouvernance et le comportement collectif et individuel. Il est important de noter que la technologie seule ne résoudra pas le problème, mais elle peut aider à utiliser les ressources plus efficacement. La science et la technologie doivent être combinées avec des changements dans tous les autres leviers”.

Le Forum régional de l’Asie Pacifique, initialement prévu pour le 20 mai, se déroulera désormais sous forme virtuelle. En outre, le Forum pour l’Amérique latine et les Caraïbes, initialement prévu pour le 31 mars, a été reporté. Le Forum arabe, qui devait initialement se dérouler du 7 au 9 avril, a également été reporté.

Finances et développement durable

À la suite du Forum virtuel sur le financement du développement (FdD) du 23 avril, les États membres ont adopté un document final intitulé “Suivi et examen des résultats du financement du développement et des moyens de mise en œuvre de l’Agenda 2030 pour le développement durable”. Ce document réaffirme l’importance du financement de l’Agenda 2030 à la lumière de la COVID-19.

Le Groupe d’experts sur la responsabilité financière, la transparence et l’intégrité (FACTI) continue de se réunir virtuellement pour discuter des questions liées à son mandat. Deux prochaines réunions virtuelles seront ouvertes à toutes les parties prenantes (inscription requise), avec une réunion le 5 mai sur “l’amélioration de la coopération en matière fiscale” et une réunion le 8 mai sur “la coopération et le règlement des différends“. Le Panel FACTI positionne son travail comme faisant partie intégrante de l’Agenda 2030 :

“L’Agenda 2030 pour le développement durable et le programme d’action d’Addis-Abeba contiennent de nombreux engagements des États membres en matière de responsabilité financière, de transparence et d’intégrité. Toutefois, les progrès réalisés dans le cadre de ces engagements sont insuffisants, ce qui réduit la capacité des États à mobiliser des ressources et compromet les efforts déployés pour réaliser avec succès les objectifs de développement durable. Les transactions cachées, secrètes, frauduleuses et trompeuses empêchent les États de faire respecter la loi, de percevoir leur juste part d’impôts et d’assurer l’équité et l’inclusion dans nos économies”.

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Feminist Solidarity for a Collective Response to COVID-19

7. Mai 2020 - 19:36

Members of the Civil Society Community have launched a website on feminist responses to COVID-19, an initiative born out of an alliance between members of feminist networks working on multilateral platforms. The below guest blog is an introduction to the initiative, a feminist analysis of COVID-19 and a collection of feminist principles and actions needed to create urgent and systemic change.

This blog was published by Emilia Reyes of Equidad de Genero: Ciudadania, Trabajo y Familia and Bridget Burns of Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)

You can find the initiative at:

Feminist Solidarity for a Collective Response to COVID-19

By Bridget Burns and Emilia Reyes

Today, we come together to launch, a volunteer online data repository of information on feminist principles and actions, as well as policy responses to the COVID crisis.

We find ourselves in a crisis among crises. A global pandemic that does not serve as a great equalizer, but as a great exacerbator, similarly to how climate change magnifies, amplifies, and compounds inequalities. It’s a moment that is challenging us to create urgent and systemic change, and that is showing the deep fault lines in how our societies are organized. It’s a moment of reckoning, of revaluation of whose labor is essential, of how to create resilient communities able to provide social protection and care.

Working at the intersections of multiple forms of crisis is not a new task for feminist advocates. As the world’s consciousness awoke to the devastating scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, it took only a matter of days for global feminist networks to come together to share reflections on the crisis and how we could build together towards collective action.

Many of these networks had spent the months of January and February strategizing together to influence the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) due to take place in New York in early March and to undertake a critical review of the Beijing Platform for Action — signed by Governments in 1995. The CSW was canceled at the end of February, the first major UN conference canceled due to coronavirus. For these groups of feminists, in addition to local and national concerns, a void in multilateral efforts to address the crisis posed a clear risk for the effectiveness of the responses. Bearing in mind the need to hear about different realities on the ground as well as to share personal concerns after building meaningful friendships and alliances through many years of joint activism, a collective response was called for.

In our first call at the end of March, the agenda was quite simple: How are you doing? What are you feeling and experiencing? What do we need to respond to this crisis? Both familiar and unfamiliar voices of the activists who joined were immediate balms of comfort for all of us. It was an intense hour and a half call, with a multiplicity of dimensions laid out: we shared concerning reports of local challenges and started to exert analysis of the current situation from different angles. But most of all, we shared our personal assessments and collective fears.

That first call resulted in a number of key reflections that have framed our work in the short term:

  • First, that this is a deeply personal and embodied crisis, one being faced by each and every person in their own intersecting ways. It became evident now more than ever we should fully embrace and lift up feminist leadership in promoting self-care, in being kind and compassionate not only to others but to ourselves, in reaching out to each other and finding comfort in feminist solidarity.
  • Second, that this is a moment that demands re-valuing and centering care. The world is understanding what feminists have been working on for decades: a full scale re-evaluation of what work is “essential”. With this, comes an understanding of the gendered nature of this crisis and who is at the frontlines. Even more so, comes a concern about those whose work is already informal and precarious, who may not have access to social protection measures even where such measures are in place.
  • Next, that this crisis interlinks deeply with migration and migrant justice: the impact of closing borders and implementing punitive and authoritarian measures in the long-term has to be understood in the context of human rights.
  • The impact on the realization of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) will be devastating. We are already seeing SRHR essential services being deemed “non-essential”, all in the context of a public health emergency and strained health infrastructure.
  • Finally, this pandemic requires solutions that are framed in the context of global justice. We wondered what relief looks like from an equity perspective and what are frameworks for developing and least developed countries for a just response to this crisis.

These were the starting points for deciding we wanted to promote collective action. Our first initiative was to develop a set of principles to outline a Feminist Response to COVID-19. We are very proud of launching these principles globally today. They include that, COVID-19 responses:

  • Must center the well-being of all people in an intersectional manner;
  • Must ensure the health and safety of all, including ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  • Must promote a comprehensive paradigm shift, relying on adequate and equitable financing;
  • Must be based on and strengthen democratic values;
  • Must promote a just and equitable transition for people and the planet;
  • Must be guided by cooperation, multilateralism, and global justice.

Cross-cutting and inherent to all these principles is the promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights and gender equality.

In addition, as part of our collective reflections we noted that 1) there was a lot of impressive feminist work and analysis already being published in response to COVID-19, 2) there were policy and community responses, both progressive and regressive, that had to be tracked across countries and, 3) that there was a need to support activists with tools in feminist digital organizing.

On parts 1 & 2, the collective embarked on building out a voluntary database to serve as an online repository of the work of feminist activists in response to the COVID crisis. The project became an immense and powerful locus to concentrate the collective effort and promises to be a source for many future actions. The site has four key sections:

  • The Principles for Response, as outlined above.
  • Response Tracker. This marks policies or laws, temporary measures, or observed responses by country and by theme (for example, SRHR or education).
  • Online Dialogues. This is a repository of online dialogues and webinars that have been held discussing the intersections of gender, feminism, care, women’s rights and COVID-19.
  • Resources. This section contains a collection of feminist statements and analysis, mutual aid resources and organizing tools.

The site is dynamic, with new data and features being added weekly, and fueled currently by a team of over 25 volunteer researchers from around the world. In the coming weeks, a public facing form will allow for individuals to upload information and analysis themselves that has been omitted.

On digital organizing, while we know there are a great many tools and platforms available to host virtual forums and conferences, collectively write and brainstorm digital media, reach broad audiences online, and more, there are also a variety of challenges to accessing these tools. The digital divide, as well as lack of information about how to use various platforms that exist, often limit feminists’ (and everyone’s) chances to participate in virtual organizing. To respond to this, members of the collective from Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) and Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) planned a series of three teach-ins for organizing virtual meetings, centered around three kinds of skills to grow together, which can be accessed here. The series of teach-ins were a great success, with feminists all around the world exploring new possibilities and sharing technical expertise of tools and best practices on how to navigate current risks and challenges for activists in the digital era.

What do some of these resources look like?

We have seen collective feminist responses in relation to:

  • Feminist funding. “A group of philanthropic funders, rooted in feminist funding principles including flexibility and self-determination, are leading the way in providing flexible for their grantees during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Read here.
  • Calls to Action. In early April, thousands of organizations & individuals signed on to the Feminist Alliance for Rights Call for a Feminist COVID-19 Policy, “to demand States to adopt a feminist policy to address the extraordinary challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in a manner that is consistent with human rights standards and principles.”
  • Resourcing. Multiple feminist networks moved quickly to engage in mutual aid. OutRight Action International has launched the COVID-19 LGBTIQ Emergency Fund — to respond to the urgent needs of LGBTIQ people and communities around the world, particularly in the global South. The Urgent Action Fund has launched a COVID Crisis Fund for Feminist Activists to help deploy resources to activists on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak. And beyond traditional feminist funders, collectives such as Women2030 and the Women’s Major Group have been reorienting programming and support to urgent responses and building resilience to the crisis.
  • Localized Responses. FEMNET, the African Women’s Development and Communications Network launched a campaign called #Dignified Response and are building out a platform for African stories of response and impacts of the pandemic.
  • Analysis. One of the key inputs many feminists and organizations have been making is in providing analysis of the crisis, from critical gendered and human rights perspectives, aiming to ensure that we both take into account the vast inequalities in the impacts of this crisis and center feminist solutions and care in building a just recovery.

What’s Next?

Global solidarity is the starting point. To map out possible scenarios, to react in an effective way, to shift them within our capacities, to envision the just and equitable post-pandemic future we want, and to promote collective action to achieve it — these are our drivers. Our means are varied.

Sharing, tracking and building out collective action from all of this work is part of what our collective reflections have aimed to do: first putting in place the infrastructure and methodologies to mark this moment, and now building a collective response. We expect to be able to promote more articulated work towards the urgent challenges at the global level with this pandemic, such as:

  • Supporting specific campaigns and working to cancel debt globally — an issue that feminists have long known directly impacts the available fiscal space for countries to enact policies for the benefit of gender equality and environmental integrity.
  • Fighting for redistributive justice by means of promoting progressive taxation, as well as the eradication of corporate tax abuse and tax avoidance; in a larger scale, to denounce the corporate capture of the response at all levels.
  • Correspondingly, contributing to a joined up approach to strengthening multilateralism in this moment, via inclusive and transparent processes and a renewed commitment to democratic and inclusive initiatives. This would include defying the business-as-usual approaches to immediate reactions: Intellectual Property Rights and trade clauses are being used by corporations to profit from vaccines, medical treatment, technology, even food systems.

We will be mapping collectively the challenges we will address together, and we have no doubt our voices will contribute to a larger global call for a meaningful paradigm shift instead of a return to an unjust “normal.”

We continue to hold our calls weekly, finding in inspiring voices the strength to keep on promoting change. To be in collective is a political act. Being in community, with allies, partners, friends, is what drives effective and resilient responses to the current crisis. Feminist organizing, principles and solidarity in the face of COVID-19 can be a powerful driver of transformation.

Emilia Reyes is the Program Director of Policies and Budgets for Equality and Sustainable Development, at the Mexican feminist organization Equidad de Género: Ciudadania, Trabajo y Familia. Activist and expert on gender responsive public policies and budgets and sustainable development, including comprehensive disaster risk management and climate change. At the global level, she is the former Co-Chair of the HLPF Major Groups and other Stakeholders Coordination Mechanism, and Organizing Partner of the Women’s Major Group for the Sustainable Development Agenda. She is the Co-Convener of the Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development.

Bridget Burns is the Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) in the United States. A feminist and environmental activist, Bridget specializes in policy advocacy, research and movement building at the intersection of gender equality, women’s rights and environment/climate justice. Bridget serves as the co-Focal Point of the Women and Gender Constituency, which supports the political participation of women’s rights advocates into the United Nations climate process.

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UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up 05/05/2020

5. Mai 2020 - 17:28

Download UN Monitor (pdf version).

The 2020 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is scheduled to review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and progress towards the SDGs on 7- 16 July 2020. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has released a provisional programme and concept note for the 2020 HLPF. DESA has also announced new modalities for virtual side events and exhibitions:

“Given the situation linked to COVID-19, after careful consideration, it has been decided that all Side-events and Exhibitions will be held virtually. Nevertheless, we do invite interested parties to submit their applications to organize an exhibit or a side event during the 2020 HLPF following the guidelines and criteria. Application process will be open until 29 May 2020. After registrations are closed on 29 May, the Secretariat will still screen applications and inform approved organizers so that they provide links to the virtual platforms of their events and exhibitions. Only those events and exhibitions that have been approved will be part of the official programme for HLPF Side-events and Exhibitions.

The outcome of the HLPF – as in previous years – will be a Ministerial Declaration adopted after negotiations by Member States – and subject to the silence procedure in place due to the coronavirus. These negotiations will move forward in the coming month, with co-facilitators Ambassador Georgi Velikov Panayotov of Bulgaria, and Ambassador Amal Mudallal of Lebanon steering the process. The Declaration will be based on a recently released structure, including but not limited to:

“Impact of COVID-19 to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, SDGs and the decade of action and delivery”;

“Leaving no one behind, human rights, addressing inequality and the needs of the most vulnerable, gender equality, social inclusion and the impact of COVID-19”;

“Means of implementation, financing (including debt relief, combatting illicit financial flows, multilateral trading system), scaling up health spending, technologies, digitalization, capacity building, technical assistance, data, science-policy interface, innovation, impact on society.”

In 2019, the HLPF Political Declaration, co-facilitated by Ambassador Sheila Gweneth Carey of the Bahamas and Ambassador. Olof Skoog of Sweden, was conducted through a series of in-person, informal negotiations during which Member States discussed, at length, both a zero draft and second draft. Negotiations included a silence procedure process not for the complete process but only to resolve the final outstanding issues and with some transparency on the issues in debate/dispute.

After in-person negotiations, the document went through two rounds of silence procedure and the deadline was extended not once, but twice to give delegations further time to negotiate and confer with capitals. Agreement by silence was broken by a delegation wishing to include plastic litter in oceans in the declaration’s section on environmental degradation. The amended Declaration was re-submitted with success: silence was not broken and the Declaration was adopted.

The 2020 Ministerial Declaration will also use silence procedure process in a different way, with virtual and email negotiations in place of in-person informals, and the penholder role of the co-facilitators heightened. For details see UN Monitor: COVID-19 & Silence Procedure.

Regional preparations for HLPF

The UN has been holding Regional Fora on Sustainable Development (RFSD) to prepare for the 2020 HLPF.

The Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development met in-person 24-27 February and issued a summary report highlighting major findings and recommendations. Among them: “Africa contributes the least to carbon emissions globally, but is most vulnerable to climate change.” And pre-dating the COVID-19 calls for debt relief, the report highlights:

“The increasing public debt and illicit financial flows are critical challenges to financing investments for sustainable development. By 2018, Africa’s total government debt averaged 59 per cent of GDP, with ratios higher than 100 per cent in at least six countries. During 2011–2016, Africa lost about $100 billion per annum in trade mis-invoicing.”

The UNECE RFSD met virtually on 19 March 2020 with a focus on the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), a key element driving both the Decade of Action and the 2020 HLPF theme, and the region’s first ever regional report on SDG progress. The Chair’s report of the meeting notes:

“The 2019 GSDR identified four levers that can help relieve the pressure on the available resources: science and technology; the economic and financial system; governance structures; and collective and individual behavior. It is important to note that technology alone will not solve the problem, but it can support using resources more efficiently. Science and technology should be combined with changes in all of the other levers.”

The Asia Pacific RFSD was originally planned for 20 May, will now take place in a virtual format. Further the Latin America and Caribbean RFSD, originally intended for 31 March, was postponed. The Arab RFSD originally meant to take place 7-9 April, has also been postponed.

Finance and sustainable development

Following the virtual Financing for Development (FfD) Forum on 23 April, Member States adopted an outcome document titled, “Follow-up and review of the financing for development outcomes and the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The document reaffirms the importance of financing the 2030 Agenda in light of COVID-19.

The Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) Panel is continuing to meet virtually to discuss issues related to their mandate. Two upcoming virtual meetings will be open to all stakeholders (registration required), with a 5 May meeting on “Improving Cooperation in Tax Matters” and an 8 May meeting on “Cooperation and Settling Disputes”. The FACTI Panel positions its work as part and parcel of the 2030 Agenda:

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda contain many pledges of Member States related to financial accountability, transparency and integrity. However, insufficient progress has been made on these commitments, eroding the ability of States to raise resources and undermining efforts to successfully achieve the SDGs. Hidden, secret, fraudulent and misleading transactions prevent States from enforcing the law, collecting their fair share of taxes, and ensuring equity and inclusiveness in our economies.”

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UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up 30/04/2020

30. April 2020 - 19:56

Download UN Monitor (pdf version).

The International Labour Organization (ILO) issued a COVID-19 monitor on the world of work in light of the global coronavirus on 29 April. This was accompanied by a press release specifically focusing on informal work. It reports that: “1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – that is nearly half of the global workforce – stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed” due to COVID-19.

The Monitor notes that “the first month of the crisis is estimated to have resulted in a drop of 60 per cent in the income of informal workers globally. This translates into a drop of 81 per cent in Africa and the Americas, 21.6 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and 70 per cent in Europe and Central Asia. Without alternative income sources, these workers and their families will have no means to survive.”

Accordingly, the ILO emphasizes: “Measures for economic reactivation should follow a job-rich approach, backed by stronger employment policies and institutions, better-resourced and comprehensive social protection systems. International co-ordination on stimulus packages and debt relief measures will also be critical to making recovery effective and sustainable. International labour standards, which already enjoy tripartite consensus, can provide a framework.”

Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General stated that “as the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent. For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing. They have no savings or access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, these enterprises will simply perish.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a statement on COVID-19 and its impact on businesses and workers on 27 April. She reminds policy makers that “special attention needs to be paid to day labourers, non-contract workers, temporary employees, and those without social protection coverage who work in your supply chains”.

She stated that "the baseline responsibility, for all businesses, is to respect human rights in their own operations and business relationships” and “to act in the longer term to uphold economic, social, civil and political rights”. Her remarks concluded with the following:

“This response to the pandemic must be global. We also cannot afford to leave any country behind. If developing countries, with the least capacity to contain the pandemic, become repositories for the virus, driving new waves of contagion, that would be a human rights disaster and an economic disaster.

One day, the streets, skies and shipping lanes will fill again, but the world will be changed. How businesses respond to the crisis will shape their own futures as functioning entities, and it will contribute to shaping the future of millions of people – your direct employees, and many others.

Preventing, mitigating and addressing the damage being done to human rights will be key to maintaining trust – with clients and consumers, your employees, your shareholders and your communities. It will be key to building a world of greater resilience.”

The UNDP Human Development Report Office (HDRO) has released a report featuring a series of “Global Preparedness and Vulnerability Dashboards” with the aim of assessing preparedness of countries to respond to COVID-19.

The report identifies preparedness based on a country’s ability “to respond and cope with the impacts of COVID-19 crisis, including a nation’s level of human development, healthcare system capacity and internet access”.  It notes that “the level of human development and its inequality, together with healthcare system capacity, can portray countries’ preparedness to respond effectively and efficiently to a health crisis”.

With regard to vulnerability, the report highlights “poverty, social protection and labour programmes, and an economy’s exposure to the immediate economic impacts of travel bans. Poverty adds to the high risks of long-lasting consequences.” It emphasizes the elements of human development and multidimensional poverty, recognizing “1 in 4 people still live in multidimensional poverty or are vulnerable to it, and more than 40 percent of the global population does not have any social protection”.

The report also recognizes high levels of globalization as an area of vulnerability citing that although it “has brought new opportunities and efficiency gains, but, as witnessed with COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions at one point of the chain can trigger serious local problems elsewhere. The effects of such events may be detrimental for countries and people that, for example, heavily depend on tourism such as island countries, inflows of remittances, or receiving official development assistance.”

The Rise for All initiative was launched on 27 April by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. The initiative is “a global advocacy effort to support the UN roadmap for social and economic recovery from COVID-19, and to fully fund the UN Response and Recovery Trust Fund”.

Among the early women leaders “joining the cohort” are the President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, the Prime Minister of Norway and Sustainable Development Goals Advocate of the Secretary-General, Erna Solberg, Sustainable Development Goals Advocate of the Secretary-General Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda Gates, Sustainable Development Goals Advocate of the Secretary-General Dia Mirza, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador of Pakistan, Muniba Mazari, along with the Executive Directors of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, of UN Women, Phumzile MlamboNgcuka, and of UNFPA, Natalia Kanem.

Rise for All announced its support of the “United Nations Framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19: Shared responsibility, global solidarity and urgent action for people in need”. The framework calls for responses to help build “a more sustainable, gender-equal, and carbon-neutral path—better than the ‘old normal’.”

The framework focuses on:

  1. protecting existing health services and strengthening health systems’ capacity to respond to COVID-19;
  2. helping people cope with adversity, through social protection and basic services;
  3. protecting jobs, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and informal sector workers through economic recovery programmes;
  4. guiding the necessary surge in fiscal and financial stimulus to make macroeconomic policies work for the most vulnerable and strengthening multilateral and regional responses; and
  5. promoting social cohesion and investing in community-led resilience and response systems.

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UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up 28/04/2020

29. April 2020 - 3:16

Download UN Monitor (pdf version).

WHO ACT Accelerator

On 24 April, the World Health Organization announced a multi-stakeholder initiative called the “Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, or the ACT Accelerator”. The ACT Accelerator describes itself as “a collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable global access to new COVID-19 essential health technologies”. It is “grounded in a vision of a planet protected from human suffering and the devastating social and economic consequences of COVID-19”.

The multi-stakeholder initiative was launched in Geneva by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus along with French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). It gathers together an identified “group of global health actors” including, along with BMGF, the Coalition for Epic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI-the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund for Sustainable Development Data, UNITAID, the Wellcome Trust, WHO and the World Bank along with “private sector partners and other stakeholders”.

Thomas Cueni, Director-General of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, a private sector partner to the initiative, highlighted this multi-stakeholder dimension, noting: “Today, scientists in the public and private sector hold the keys to our common goal: the swift end of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

On 4 May, the European Commission will begin a pledging campaign for financial support for the initiative. European Commission President von der Leyen stated:

“We need to bring the world, its leaders and people together against coronavirus. In just 10 days, we will launch a global pledging effort. A real marathon. Because beating coronavirus requires a global response and sustained actions on many fronts. We need to develop a vaccine, to produce it and deploy it to every corner of the world. And we need to make it available at affordable prices.”

Responses to the initiative question the modalities—how exactly will the initiative facilitate access and for whom? Third World Network (TWN) notes, “many such initiatives in the past remain underfunded and are yet to reach the market. For example, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), launched in 2017 after the Ebola outbreak of 2014/2015, has not been able to deliver on its promise yet. The main obstacle for these initiatives is the lack of interest of the big pharmaceutical companies to take forward the research in the absence of profit and proprietary rights”.

Further, TWN adds, “on the same day as the ACT Accelerator’s launch, the Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Francis Gurry, released a statement claiming that ‘there does not appear to be any evidence that Intellectual Property (IP) is a barrier to access’”.

In helping to launch the initiative, UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted: “A COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Not a vaccine for one country or one region — but a vaccine that is affordable, safe, effective, easily-administered and universally available — for everyone, everywhere”.

At an informal briefing to the Human Rights Council on COVID-19, Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights has emphasized that, “ we must build back better. No country was prepared for this shock, which in every State has been exacerbated by inequalities, particularly in access to health-care, social protections and public services”.

UNCTAD: debt deal to prevent “From the Great Lockdown to the Great Meltdown”

The UN trade and development body (UNCTAD) reiterated its call for a US$1 trillion “debt deal” in a report titled “From the Great Lockdown to the Great Meltdown: Developing Country Debt in the Time of Covid-19”. As the report notes, by the end of 2018, “the total debt stocks of developing countries – external and domestic, private and public – stood at 191 per cent (or almost double) their combined GDP, the highest level on record”. Given this, “a developing country debt crisis [was] already under way prior to the Covid-19 shock”.

The report emphasizes that “Covid-19 hits developing economies at a time when they had already been struggling with unsustainable debt burdens for many years”. It showcases how many developing countries spend more than a quarter (25%) of domestic revenue on debt servicing.

In this context, the report calls for longer and more comprehensive standstills than currently offered by the IMF and G20 proposals. It notes:

“The purpose of temporary standstills is to provide macroeconomic ‘breathing space’ for crisis-stricken developing countries to free up resources, normally dedicated to service in particular external sovereign debt, for two interrelated uses: First, to facilitate an effective response to the Covid-19 shock through increased health and social expenditure in the immediate future and, second, to allow for post-crisis economic recovery along sustainable growth, fiscal and trade balance trajectories.”

High-level Political Forum (HLPF) Review 2021-2023

The intergovernmental negotiations for the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) review process and the High-level Political Forum will continue virtually. At the virtual 8 May meeting, Member States will discuss a zero draft document, currently under silence procedure. Co-facilitators Kaha Imnadze of Georgia and Jean-Claude do Rego of Benin note that the zero draft “addresses only immediate provisions including themes for ECOSOC and HLPF for the cycle 2021-2023 and the sub-set of goals together with areas of acceleration to be reviewed during the second HLPF cycle”. These include:

“For 2021: “Human well-being and the SDGs: Recovering after the COVID-19 crisis”;
For 2022: “Achieving sustainable and just economies and promoting sustainable development”;
For 2023: “Universal access to energy in harmony with nature”

The zero draft also outlines an “in-depth review cycle” and “areas of acceleration” for the SDGs as follows:

“For 2021: Goals 1,2,3,4,5,6,8,16 and 17, and, as areas for acceleration: Human health, well-being and capabilities; and Sustainable food systems and healthy nutritional patterns

For 2022: Goals 5,6,8,9,10,11,12,16 and 17; and, as areas for acceleration: Sustainable and just economies; and promoting sustainable urban and peri-urban development

For 2023: Goals 5,6,7,12,13,14,15,16 and 17; and, as areas for acceleration: Achieving energy decarbonization; universal access to sustainable energy and securing the global environmental commons”.

The post UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up 28/04/2020 appeared first on Global Policy Watch.

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UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up 23/04/2020

24. April 2020 - 19:13

Download UN Monitor (pdf version).

Member States adopted General Assembly Resolution “International cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19” on 20 April under silence procedure. The resolution, drafted by Mexico and sponsored by 75 other delegations, states that the current crisis calls for:

  • “rapidly scaling manufacturing and strengthening supply chains that promote and ensure fair, transparent, equitable, efficient and timely access to and distribution of preventive tools, laboratory testing, reagents and supporting materials, essential medical supplies, new diagnostics, drugs and future COVID-19 vaccines, with a view to making them available to all those in need, in particular in developing countries”.

In addition, the resolution:

  • “Calls upon Member States and other relevant stakeholders to immediately take steps to prevent, within their respective legal frameworks, speculation and undue stockpiling that may hinder access to safe, effective and affordable essential medicines, vaccines, personal protective equipment and medical equipment as may be required to effectively address COVID-19;
  • “Requests the Secretary-General, in close collaboration with the World Health Organization, to take the necessary steps to effectively coordinate and follow up on the efforts of the United Nations system to promote and ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment needed to face COVID-19.”

Pakistan joined the consensus but noted concerns in their explanation of position, saying:

“However, we regret that the draft resolution could not include reference to ensure access to information, preventive and other health care for all persons arbitrarily deprived of their liberty especially those in regions under foreign occupation. Such reference would be in line with guidance issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and our agreed goal to leave no one behind and reach farthest behind first.

We also note that the resolution does not call for assurance of adequate financial resources to developing countries to enable them to meet the enormous challenges of addressing the health emergency and preserving sociology-economic development.”

Over 300 CSOs from all regions have issued a letter calling on the UN Secretary-General and the WHO Director-General “to secure binding commitments from biopharmaceutical and other manufacturers for access to affordable medical products”. Further, they call for “the sharing of knowledge and technology needed to ramp up production of much needed medical products”. Towards this end, the letter is calling for the operationalization of existing fair and equitable benefit sharing obligations of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Nagoya Protocol, which are legally binding documents related to genetic materials including those for developing medical products.

Two additional draft resolutions related to COVID-19 have been introduced by Member States but failed to reach consensus and were not adopted. Silence procedure on both drafts was broken.

The first, "United response against global health threats: combating COVID-19": "reaffirms the necessity to support economies, protect workers, businesses, especially micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises, and the sectors most affected, and shield the vulnerable through adequate social protection".  It also "stresses the need to give appropriate consideration to the issue of halting and reversing the global threats posed by epidemics through the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development".

The second, “Declaration of solidarity of the United Nations in the face of the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)” states:

“We call for the expansion of global manufacturing capacity to meet the increasing needs for medical products and equipment to cope with the pandemic, ensuring that essential medical supplies and pharmaceuticals are made widely available, at affordable prices, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed and as quickly as possible.

We invite the international financial institutions to support countries in need using all relevant financial instruments to the fullest extent, including addressing risks of debt vulnerabilities in low-income countries.

We are resolved to cooperate in addressing the disruptions to international trade and the market uncertainty due to the pandemic, mitigating the damage caused to the global economy by the spread of COVID-19, and promoting economic growth throughout the world, especially in developing countries.”

The President of the General Assembly has appointed co-facilitators for COVID-19 Related Initiatives. The co-facilitators, Adela Raz of Afghanistan and Ivan Šimonović of Croatia will work with Member States to: “inter alia, facilitate the exchange of views, coordinate approaches and initiatives, as well as leverage the influence of the Assembly to effectively advocate for measures aimed at defeating COVID-19, while mitigating its social and economic impact”.

A first order of business for the co-facilitators will include a virtual town hall meeting for Member States and Observer States, with participation limited to one person per delegation. The objective is to:

“discuss how the General Assembly could coordinate approaches and combine initiatives, as well as leverage its influence to effectively advocate for measures aimed at defeating COVID-19, while mitigating its social and economic impact. We invite you to share your views concerning which aspects of COVID-19’s current and future challenges that still need to be addressed in a comprehensive and collective manner, among other things. We hope the meeting will be a first step in a meaningful, transparent and inclusive consultation process that may result in a comprehensive and action-oriented response by the Assembly.”

In addition to Member State initiatives concerning COVID-19, Secretary-General António Guterres has highlighted the importance of human rights in COVID-19 responses and recovery. Introducing his latest report on the subject, he stated:

“A human rights lens puts everyone in the picture and ensures that no one is left behind. Human rights responses can help beat the pandemic, putting a focus on the imperative of healthcare for everyone. But they also serve as an essential warning system — highlighting who is suffering most, why, and what can be done about it. We have seen how the virus does not discriminate, but its impacts do — exposing deep weaknesses in the delivery of public services and structural inequalities that impede access to them.  We must make sure they are properly addressed in the response.”

At a virtual Financing for Development (FfD) Forum on 23 April, the Secretary-General stated, “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.”

He also discussed the issue of debt burden, a long-standing issue on the UN’s Financing for Development agenda, saying:

“Beyond an initial debt moratorium, targeted debt relief will be needed. This should be followed by efforts to strengthen debt sustainability, including debt swaps, and a mechanism to address sovereign debt restructuring in a coordinated and comprehensive manner, that takes account of the need for countries to step up their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We must also address structural issues in the international debt architecture, to prevent defaults leading to prolonged financial and economic crises”.

Further to Guterres’ call for a debt restructuring mechanism at the virtual FfD Forum, UNCTAD reiterated the call for a global deal on debt, saying "more systematic, transparent and coordinated measures towards writing off developing country debt across the board are urgently needed".

The final FfD Forum outcome document is available, along with a response from CSOs, reiterating their call for an Economic Reconstruction Summit. At the virtual FfD Forum, the President of the Economic and Social Council indicated she is “planning to hold an ECOSOC meeting that would bring together experts and policy makers to help governments to effectively respond to the crisis, and get back on track to achieve the SDGs”.

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Corona: Curse or Opportunity?

23. April 2020 - 19:56

Guest blog by Ziad Abdel Samad

Ziad Abdel Samad of the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) offers a critical analysis of the far-reaching impacts of the coronavirus and its role in exposing fault lines, from social safety nets to global trade and financial systems. In this guest blog, which highlights the experience of Arab States, he also explores the importance and impact of the state and interstate dynamics in protecting humanity a human rights.

Never has the world witnessed such a state of panic, not even in world wars, where vast areas remained relatively safe. But the current Corona epidemic seems like a state of global war that will not exclude anyone or any region of this planet. Countries have closed their borders and airports, stopped their railways, and reduced the movement of shipping. Regions inside the same state were isolated and citizens voluntarily quarantined in an unprecedented manner. Distance education has become the way to complete the academic year, depending on the infrastructure required to communicate via the Internet and appropriate applications.

In health services, a significant gap became apparent in the unfair health systems of some countries, regardless of their economic development. They were unable to respond quickly to urgent emergency needs to help hundreds of thousands of patients and carriers of the virus, especially since the number of intensive care beds and available basic medical supplies did not exceed regular needs before the outbreak.

These challenges brought about by the current epidemic crisis, revealed the inherent dangers in the trends promoting foreign investment to achieve growth without binding them to human rights and environmental protection standards, rather than dismantling existing universal social protection schemes or standing in their way, replacing them with “social safety nets” based on selective interventions to protect the most vulnerable. In 1994, the Arab NGO Network on Development (ANND) shed light on this aspect in a regional report that delved deep into the nature of current social protection systems in the Arab countries. The report stressed on the dangers inherent in the private sector becoming the driver behind the economy in the absence of any form of social responsibility.

In the midst of this state of panic and helplessness towards a new, invisible enemy, states closed their doors and dealt with their own crises without resorting to cross-border cooperation, as was the case in other emergency situations with catastrophic repercussions. It appeared as if an earthquake had hit globalization and the global system, along with its mechanisms and institutions.

“The speed in which the Corona pandemic spread and related challenges were a further indication that there is no alternative to the state as the main protector of people at critical moments, through adopting measures, policies, and regulations for its containment.”

What are the implications and how can the current situation point the way to the future?

The Global System Today

Globalization, allowing the free flow of goods, money, people, and ideas, corresponded to the adoption of a series of multilateral international trade agreements whose powers extended beyond trade in goods to cover services; production, protection, and support mechanisms; local policies dealing with competition and investment; and intellectual property issues, such as scientific and medical research and pharmaceutical innovation, including essential medicines, which could save millions of lives from fatal diseases like cancer, HIV/AIDS, and so on.

Multinational corporations, however, did not stop at these agreements. They placed restrictions on the role of States and their ability to protect the rights of their citizens. Labor laws and tax regulations were designed to hinder the existence of social protection systems in favor of private health insurance. Country reports in the abovementioned Arab Watch on Economic and Social Rights: “In most Arab countries, social policies with a protectionist character regressed, both in rich and poor states.” It was a result of loosening controls on the flow of capital, which freed investments from all social and environmental obligations.

The systemic crisis emerged in several regions of the world before the discovery of Covid-19. The US was in the midst of a trade war against its capitalist partners in Europe, North America, and Asia, and especially directed against China. International organizations formed in the aftermath of the Second World War, based on an international law having human rights as its primary foundations were weakened. By the end of last century, the role of the United Nations began to wane, replaced by Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO. Earlier this century, the role of all these institutions declined and gave way to industrialized nations in the G7 then the G8 and then the G20 (especially following the 2007 crisis).

Wars had been raging in the Middle East before the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. Russia allied with China and created a new axis looking for a key role in politics and global markets, challenging the dominant pole, while the role and influence of the EU, as well as traditional US allies such as the Gulf states and Japan, declined significantly. The US itself was witnessing transformations in its priorities, faced by a long-term threat from China. In these circumstances, several countries around the planet saw the emergence of popular movements calling for justice and dignity, in a clear expression of the depth of the crisis in the global order.

As Covid-19 appeared, countries around the world, including industrialized states, seemed unable to confront the pandemic. They began imposing total lockdowns and calling for a “voluntary” state of emergency, deploying armies to enforce them and earmarking billions of dollars to mitigate the impact. But the efforts were too late. Only, China, the source of the pandemic, managed to contain it through strict, swift, and tight measures, in line with the totalitarian nature of its regime, which does not give any consideration to human rights or democracy. Taiwan also succeeded in curbing the spread of the epidemic, despite being China’s neighbor and the high risk of the disease’s spread to its shores before anyone else. It promoted strict protection measures in cooperation between the health sector and immigration and citizens’ departments without resorting to suppression and human rights violations.

Key Phenomena in Today’s World

First: Some had anticipated what is currently happening. It was not just Hollywood that expected that Earth will be threatened by epidemics and enemies from another planet. Bill Gates had predicted a pandemic that would threaten the human race and scientific research will take a while to find a cure. He did not see this in a crystal ball, but a result of the reflection on development of production and consumption patterns unfettered by any legal or moral constraints. Epidemics originating in Africa and Asia began to quickly spread throughout the world (Ebola, SARS, mad cow disease, avian flu, swine flu, etc.). Although they were contained within a short period of time, Gates predicted a pandemic that will not be easily contained causing global chaos and panic.

Second: The quick spread of Covid-19 and related challenges are proof that there is no alternative to the state in protecting people in critical situations, whether through measures or through policies and regulations to stop the spread of the disease. More importantly, however, public facilities have proven to be the most reliable and most effective in receiving the first shockwave and leading the confrontation on the frontlines, with the private sector lagging behind. This fact has been confirmed around the world, particularly in Arab countries threatened by the pandemic. Authorities in Italy, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan, as well as in Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco, led the confrontation without resorting to dictatorship and the private sector played a complementary role.

Third: Faced by the global panic around Covid-19, closures, and isolation, we must reconsider the global system and its ability to protect people. Moreover, we must contemplate its ability to create successive crises: financial, economic, environmental, climatic, nutritional, health-wise, political, security-wise, and in the face of pandemics, which could prove to be the deadliest of all. Climate change is one crisis threatening human security. Industrial countries failed to sign international treaties to limit greenhouse gas emissions and reduce global warming, a situation which contributes to the spread of diseases and epidemics due to their severe and critical impact on biodiversity, natural balance, and the environment.

The current crisis revealed the fragility of the global trade and financial systems, on one hand, and solidarity mechanisms, including financing and aid, on the other. It brought to the surface the deficiencies in international organizations, which have failed to regain their prescribed role more than a month after declaring a pandemic, starting with groups of industrialized countries that had led the world during dangerous turns. The role of international organizations has diminished, especially specialized UN agencies. Local human resources, knowledge, and expertise was more proactive, more informed, and more capable of reading the situation and guiding governments and stakeholders. What they need is financial aid, rather than technical support or knowledge resources.

Fourth: It appears that all this money spent on the arms race and militarization during the second half of last century, aiming for deterrence in peace situations or resorting to force in cases of intransigence, has been wasted, most recently, in the endless war on terror that began in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the repercussions were in the form of multi-faceted destruction and, perhaps most seriously, the devastation of the social and cultural fabric, which will take generations for humanity to address. The use of economic sanctions as a weapon and the blockades seeking to curtail the practices of non-democratic regimes that violate human rights are causing further violations and deeper inequality. People are paying the price, while leaders remain in their positions and have at their disposal all the resources and wealth to achieve their political and personal goals.

Prospects for the Future

The world today is at a critical juncture. Choices that people make will have great implications on their future and that of later generations.

Faced by the challenges to globalization – as a system based on commodifying everything in life and their speedy proliferation across borders, characterized by isolationism and protectionism, each state decided to deal with its own affairs and compete in a race to find a cure for the pandemic. They neglected the required exchange of knowledge, cooperation, and communication, especially among social research centers and laboratories, which suggests that the ultimate goal of this race is commercial rather than humanitarian. Closure decisions will also force many workers in the informal sector, almost half of the workforce, as well as daily and freelance and gig workers, to lose their only source of income. Countries with enough resources decided to allocate billions of dollars in aid to their populations. But how will poor countries with huge deficits and debts manage to bridge the gap resulting from similar measures?

Closures encompassed schools and universities that had to shift to distance learning through digital technology. However, the capacity to use such technology is almost exclusively limited to students from private universities or schools and cities with reliable and advanced infrastructure. Students in public education and residents of rural and remote areas or poor suburbs do not have access to such advanced technologies.

The impact of such a situation on human livelihood and dignity will most likely appear following the pandemic and could lead to political instability and stir popular unrest and protest calling for fair solutions to economic and social conditions and more transparency and accountability at the regime level. An alternative to closures would be to seek solidarity mechanisms that could contribute to overcome the crisis and maintain a measure of justice between nations and inside each country. It should include mechanisms for cooperation between various sectors, such as migration, education, and administrative and technical development, especially in the areas of scientific research “in order to provide essential medicines that guarantee universal access to them as a right.”

Finally, will humanity be able to interpret the situation and draw its lessons? The current crisis is about health on the surface, but in its core, it is about politics, the economy, the environment, and security. The confrontation must thus be inclusive of all these dimensions to reach solutions addressing the essence of the situation and not merely the surface. It must include the nature of the global order and emphasize the need to build a real economy on solid and ecological foundations that include effective and fair distribution mechanisms and financial controls, the promotion of democracy and transparency, especially in relation to trade and reviewing the question of debt, which are generating more marginalization and poverty and promoting social inequality between and within countries.

Will humanity admit that current production and consumption patterns are unsustainable and will destroy nature, biological diversity, and the climate, including humans and their safety, and that it must shift to alternative, sustainable, and qualitatively different patterns?

Will humanity admit that security will not come through arms spending in the trillions of dollars, which threatens the security and safety of humanity and deprives people from the resources needed to address economic, social, and cultural challenges? Will it see that the alternative is the promotion of the concept of human security?

But these choices are bolstered by major interests and power centers and will not change unless people begin to break their own chains. They must seek to create more fair and democratic systems, which respect human dignity and say “no to leaders who abused their authority and decided to defend the interests of a wealthy minority that is no more than 1% of the population, instead of their peoples’ interests and rights.”

Only the people will decide if the curse of Covid-19 will lead to more isolation, struggle for influence, sharing markets and spoils, trade wars, and inequalities or if it will be an opportunity for more solidarity, cooperation, integration, justice, equality, dignity, and world peace and security.

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