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Guterres calls for ‘paradigm shift’ to recover from COVID setbacks

Traders at this market in Luanda, Angola, have adopted measures to keep themselves safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
© FAO/ C. Marinheiro
Traders at this market in Luanda, Angola, have adopted measures to keep themselves safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guterres calls for ‘paradigm shift’ to recover from COVID setbacks

Economic Development

A “paradigm shift” aligning the private sector with the global goals is needed to address the challenges of the future, including those triggered by COVID-19, the UN chief said on Monday, addressing the Financing for Development (FfD) Forum. 

Secretary-General António Guterres painted a grim picture of the past year during which more than three million have died from the virus. Around 120 million have fallen into extreme poverty and the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs have been lost. 

He noted that as the speed of infections is increasing, “the crisis is far from over”.   

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“An enormous push at the highest political level” is needed, said Mr. Guterres, 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 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.  

Testing multilateralism 

Advancing an equitable global response to recover from the pandemic is “putting multilateralism to the test”, the UN chief said, adding, “so far, we have failed”. 

To illustrate this, he pointed out that just 10 countries globally account for around 75 per cent of COVID vaccinations given, noting that some estimates put the global cost of unequal access and vaccine hoarding at more than $9 trillion. 

Mr. Guterres underscored the need for “unity and solidarity” to save lives and prevent catastrophic debt and dysfunction.  

Call for critical actions  

To set the course for a sustainable and resilient COVID response and recovery, the UN chief called for urgent action in six areas, beginning with closing the funding gap of the UN-backed vaccine initiative, COVAX

“To end the pandemic for good, we need equitable access to vaccines for everyone, everywhere”, he said. He also called for development assistance, to go primarily where it is most needed. 

Debt crisis solutions 

The debt crisis needed to be properly addressed, he said, including “debt suspension, relief, and liquidity”. 

“But we need to go beyond debt relief”, he continued, urging a strengthened “international debt architecture to end the deadly cycles of debt waves, global debt crises and lost decades”. 

Investing in a new social contract, based on solidarity in education, green jobs, social protection, and health systems was the UN chief’s fifth priority action, which he maintained was “the foundation for sustainable and inclusive development”. 

“This Forum must provide ambition and momentum, to finance a resilient, inclusive, equitable and sustainable future for all”, the Secretary-General concluded. 

90-year setback 

The President of the General Assembly, Volkan Bozkır, observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has “precipitated the single largest economic contraction in 90-years, devastating lives and livelihoods in the process”.  

Even with vaccines providing a light at the end of the tunnel, he said that “we are nonetheless faced with years of socioeconomic impact” ahead.  

However, the Assembly president said the 2021 FfD Forum was an opportunity “to lay the foundation for a proper recovery”. 

“Let us seize the opportunity of this crisis to effectively shift toward a more sustainable and resilient path, to demonstrate the strength and utility of the multilateral system, and to build a world that we will proudly pass down to future generations”, he added.

A year into COVID-19 – how do we invest to recover better?