Secretary-General, at Economic and Social Council Forum, Spells Out Priority Areas for Urgent Action in Response to, Recovery from COVID-19

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Secretary-General, at Economic and Social Council Forum, Spells Out Priority Areas for Urgent Action in Response to, Recovery from COVID-19
SG/SM/20681 12 April 2021
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the opening of the 2021 Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development, in New York today:

Financing for Development in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic means an unprecedented effort to mobilize resources and political will.  Since the pandemic began one year ago, no element of our multilateral response has gone as it should.

More than 3 million people have lost their lives.  Some 120 million people have fallen back into extreme poverty, while the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs have been lost.  We have seen the worst recession in 90 years.  And the crisis is far from over.  Indeed, the speed of infections is now even increasing.

We need to heed the lessons now if we are to reverse these dangerous trends, prevent successive waves of infection, avoid a lengthy global recession and get back on track to fulfil the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Unity and solidarity will save lives and prevent communities and economies from falling into catastrophic debt and dysfunction.

Advancing an equitable global response and recovery from the pandemic is putting multilateralism to the test.  So far, it is a test we have failed.  The vaccination effort is one example.  Just 10 countries across the world account for around 75 per cent of global vaccinations.  Many countries have yet to start vaccinating their health-care workers and most vulnerable citizens.  A global vaccine gap threatens everyone’s health and well-being.  The virus is dangerous everywhere if it spreads unchecked anywhere.  And global value chains do not function if one link is broken.

Some estimates put the global cost of unequal access and vaccine hoarding at more than $9 trillion.  The same lack of solidarity means that some countries have mobilized relief packages worth trillions of dollars, while many developing countries face insurmountable debt burdens that will put the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) completely out of reach if not corrected.

Even in 2019, before the pandemic, 25 countries spent more on debt service than on education, health, and social protection combined.  Now, many Governments face an impossible choice between servicing debt or saving lives.  But in reality, there is just one choice:  to take action to avert a global debt crisis.

Inequalities are also growing within countries, as women and girls and the most vulnerable groups have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.  Nearly 170 million children around the world have been out of school for a year.  We face a global education crisis with a devastating long-term impact on individuals and their communities, which could contribute to inequality across the generations.

We are here today to set the course for an equitable, sustainable and resilient response and recovery from COVID-19.  I call for urgent action in six areas.

First, vaccines must be available to all countries in need.  We must close the funding gap of the COVAX facility.  To end the pandemic for good, we need equitable access to vaccines for everyone, everywhere…