UN deputy chief Amina Mohammed has said as many as 100 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020, the first rise in global poverty since 1998.
“We need all hands on deck if we are to rebuild our economies sustainably and inclusively,” she said in a video message on Wednesday.
Noting that the report calls for better international tax cooperation and more equitable access to digital technologies, she said the sustainable management of natural resources, and value-added approaches to trading goods, will also be critical.
The 2030 Agenda remains the agreed framework for recovering in ways that accelerate progress on climate change, poverty and gender inequality, and address the fragilities exposed or exacerbated by the pandemic. “We must all do more,” she said.
With multilateral cooperation under strain, senior UN officials, Nobel laureates and eminent academic experts, gathered virtually on Wednesday for the launch of a new report recommending “an adjusted approach” to economic development, and a policy dialogue exploring how countries can recover from COVID-19, in ways that lead to real structural transformation.
“Parallel threats linked to health, economic and social crises have crippled countries and left us at a standstill”, said Liu Zhenmin, Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), as he presented a new report by the High-level Advisory Board on Economic and Social Affairs.
Titled 'Recover Better: Economic and Social Challenges and Opportunities', the report analyses economic trends critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and recovery from COVID-19.
Among its recommendations is a greater focus on the environment, he said, as well as promotion of research and development, investment in infrastructure and education, and improvement in economic equality.
“Overcoming the crisis and getting back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will require a strengthened multilateralism,” he said.
COVID-19 has laid bare how much leadership, foresight and collaboration among all governments and stakeholders, matter.
During two policy dialogues, 12 experts wrestled with whether the world is currently in a recession and if so, what it will take to recover in ways that can thoroughly reform underlying vulnerabilities, according to UN News.
“There is no trade-off between economic efficiency and equality,” said Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), who contributed a chapter on the topic.
45 million at risk
During a panel on the theme, “Ensuring a sustainable recovery through more inclusive and strengthened multilateralism”, she underscored the urgent need for structural change.
Between 2000 and 2010, 60 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean moved out of poverty. Now, 45 million risk being pulled back in.
“The market is not going to equalize society. We need a new social and political compact altogether,” she said, pointing out that Costa Rica, Uruguay and Cuba – societies that have high trust in government - have fared better during the pandemic than others.
She also called for a progressive tax system, as countries in the region have a 23 percent tax burden, lower than those in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as more regional integration. “The post-pandemic world is going to be a world of regions, a world of blocs.”
Ricardo Lagos, former President of Chile, suggested the creation of an internationally binding agreement on pandemics, forged under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Europe’s Social Contract
Along similar lines, Marcel Fratzscher of research institute DIW Berlin, said that on 21 July, European countries agreed to establish a €750 billion ($850 billion) recovery fund, transferring resources from stronger to weaker countries with the goal of rebuilding Europe.
“There is an institutional framework being put into place that could ultimately lead to fiscal union help strengthen capital market union,” he said.
Others drew attention to the significant drop in global trade, which Merit Janow, Dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said was occurring in the context of growing nationalism, geopolitical tensions and strain around multilateral institutions -- all underscore the vulnerability of global supply chains.
The first priority should be to keep the global trading system open, she said. Practical, problem-solving approaches will be needed, which countries might undertake regionally or through “coalitions of the willing.”
She pointed out that when the World Trade Organization appellate body disbanded, a cluster of countries agreed on arbitration for some purposes.
Africa Needs 4 Million Teachers
In a second discussion on “Assessing the state of the global economy and recovery pathways”, Cristina Duarte, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa, who is the former Minister of Finance, Planning and Public Administration of Cabo Verde, said that for Africa, recovering better requires a look at why, after 25 years of uninterrupted growth, systems are still lacking.
She said Africa must mobilise itself - beyond emergency solutions - to understand the nature and quality of economic growth. The continent was not socially inclusive before the pandemic hit, lacking jobs for 60 per cent of its young people.
She said Africa needs 4 million more teachers and a further 1 to 2 million health professionals – and importantly – to break away from ideas that equate poverty management with development management. Income redistribution, rather than economic growth, must be at the centre of all recovery strategies.
Heizo Takenaka of Toyo University said Japan’s experience with COVID-19 revealed the need to carefully consider the governance systems in place during an emergency. “We should be very careful about the possibility of asset inflation from here on, considering that monetary authorities are applying a huge amount of money in many countries.”
Broadly speaking, Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz said that at a moment when more global cooperation is badly needed, strong forces are fraying the global economy.
While the “Trump-kind of protectionism” will go by the wayside, he argued, the deeper problem is that supply chains have not been resilient and instead made countries more vulnerable.
He described the disappearance of optimism prevailing after the US-Soviet Cold War era, that countries were converging around liberal democratic models and free-market economies.
Under the turmoil of COVID-19, authoritarianism is now flourishing in some parts of the world, which has led to a split among nations.
“Post-COVID-19, the world is going to have a very different architecture, no matter who is in the White House, no matter what is going on around the world,” he explained.
Worse than the Great Depression?
He said the global economic downturn will be the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s - and in many dimensions, worse than that seismic failure of the global system. “We should use the massive amount of government intervention in countries…to create a new world that is more in accordance with our views of what our societies should be.”
Countries that have done well, he said, have high trust in government, high social solidarity, an understanding of the externalities associated with disease spread, and trust in science.
“Forty years of denigrating the role of the State means that in some countries, the State was not able to perform a role that was essential,” he added.
Many countries have recently reported successful development in their Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials, bringing a hope to the world during the precarious Coronavirus situation.
Besides, the health experts called for an objective, rational and scientific attitude towards vaccine candidates, said a report of Xinhua on Wednesday.
According to data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday, it is said that at least 24 COVID-19 candidate vaccines are in clinical evaluation, and another 142 in preclinical evaluation.
On Monday alone, four countries reported their new research results of COVID-19 vaccines.
Chinese experts said in a new study published in medical journal The Lancet that a phase 2 trial of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate has found that the vaccine is safe and induces an immune response.
"The phase 2 trial adds further evidence on safety and immunogenicity in a large population than the phase 1 trial. This is an important step in evaluating this early-stage experimental vaccine and phase 3 trials are now underway," said Professor Fengcai Zhu from Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China.
A report published also in The Lancet reveals the results of the phase 1/2 trial of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.
It indicates no early safety concerns and produces strong immune response.
According to the University of Oxford, the trial involves more than 1,000 healthy adult volunteers. The vaccine provoked a T cell response (white blood cells that can attack cells infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus) within 14 days of vaccination, and an antibody response within 28 days.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that together with the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, it has successfully completed clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine with the participation of volunteers.
"Without exception, all volunteers, having received immunity from the coronavirus, felt fine," First Deputy Defense Minister of the Russian Federation Ruslan Khadzhismelovich Tsaikov told Moscow's Argumenty i Fakty newspaper.
German biotech company BioNTech and U.S. pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer announced that data from their experimental COVID-19 vaccine showed that it was safe, and induced an immune response and high-level T-cell responses against the novel coronavirus in patients.
Earlier this month, research institutes in other countries also reported progress in their COVID-19 vaccine trials.
In a study published July 14 in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers reported that the COVID-19 vaccine mRNA-1273, co-developed by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and U.S. biotech firm Moderna Therapeutics, induced immune responses and no serious side effects in volunteers in the second clinical trial.
Moreover, the University of Queensland in Australia, Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, among other institutes, also reported positive results in their COVID-19 vaccine research.
Despite the good news on COVID-19 candidate vaccines, experts warned of uncertainties of vaccine development and clinical trials, as well as multiple risks and challenges including virus mutation, while appealing for an objective, rational and scientific attitude towards vaccine research.
Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said on July 3 that there is no accurate timetable for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
While a vaccine candidate might show its effectiveness by year's end, the question is how soon it could be mass produced, he added.
Saudi Arabia's Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said recently that researchers should avoid being over-optimistic about the significant progress of some candidate vaccines in clinical trials, and wait for further trial results.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier said that the effectiveness of developing vaccines cannot be guaranteed.
Some studies showed that the level of anti-bodies will decline after COVID-19 patients recover. Joint efforts of scientific research teams are needed to tackle issues including how COVID-19 vaccines provide sufficient long-term immunity and how to deal with possible virus variation.
The WHO urged that before a COVID-19 vaccine is officially available, all countries should consistently take full-flung prevention and control measures.
At least nine people were killed and six others injured after a military helicopter crashed, Colombia's army said Tuesday.
The wreckage of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter carrying 17 people was found along the Inirida River in southeast Colombia.
The injured have been taken to a nearby hospital, the army said in a statement said, while a special rescue team "continues the search" for the missing victims.
"Unfortunately, we have found the bodies of nine of our personnel," a military spokesperson tweeted.
"At the site where the helicopter plummeted, personnel in the area reported that 17 members of the national army were traveling aboard the aircraft," the army said earlier in a defense ministry statement.
According to the General Command of Colombia's Military Forces, the helicopter had been involved in a military operation against an organised armed group in the department of Guaviare before it crashed early Monday morning.
The army's aviation division has sent specialists to the site to determine the cause of the accident.
Henrietta Fore, the head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has warned that “the pandemic is making a global childcare crisis even worse.”
Her remark came after the release of a UN study that shows at least 40 million children have missed out on early childhood education due to measures to combat COVID-19. The study wad published on Wednesday, reports UN news.
The research brief looks at the state of childcare and early childhood education globally, and includes an analysis of the significant disruption that widespread closures of these vital family services, due to the pandemic, are having.
Women and the poor bear the brunt
The shutdowns have also left many parents struggling to balance childcare and paid employment, a situation that is placing a larger burden on women who, on average, spend more than three times longer on care and housework than men.
In poorer countries, the closures have made life even harder for many families with young children, for whom schools are an essential provider of a range of services, including nutrition, stimulation and the development of social, emotional and cognitive skills.
40 percent of young, lacking any support
The study shows that in 54 low- and middle-income countries, around 40 percent children aged between three and five, were not receiving social-emotional and cognitive stimulation from any adult in their household.
The only option for millions of parents, particularly women working in the informal sector, who have no form of social protection available to them, is to bring their young children to work: more than 90 percent of women in Africa, and almost 70 percent in Asia and the Pacific, work in this sector.
Access to quality childcare for all
UNICEF is calling for all children to have access to affordable and quality childcare, from birth to their entry into the first grade of school. In the report, the agency is offering guidance for governments and employers, on improving childcare and early childhood education policies.
Recommendations include the provision of high-quality, and affordable, childcare centres; paid parental leave for all parents; flexible work arrangements that address the needs of working parents; and social protection systems, including cash transfers that reach families working in the informal sector.
“Education disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing children from getting their education off to the best possible start,” said Fore. “Childcare and early childhood education build a foundation upon which every aspect of children’s development relies. The pandemic is putting that foundation under serious threat.”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged the policymakers to take effective steps to limit the coronavirus pandemic's scarring effects on women.
Citing that COVID-19 pandemic threatens to roll back gains in women's economic opportunities and widen gender gaps, the IMF came up with the call on Tuesday.
COVID-19 has "disproportionate" effects on women and their economic status, according to a newly-released IMF blog, co-authored by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, and Stefania Fabrizio, Cheng Hoon Lim and Marina M Tavares, reports Xinhua.
The blog highlighted several factors that resulted in the disproportionate effects: first, women are more likely than men to work in social sectors -- such as services industries, retail, tourism, and hospitality -- that require face-to-face interactions, the authors said, noting that these sectors are hit hardest by social distancing and mitigation measures.
Second, women are more likely than men to be employed in the informal sector in low-income countries, the authors said. "Informal employment -- often compensated in cash with no official oversight -- leaves women with lower pay, no protection of labour laws, and no benefits such as pensions or health insurance," they said.
Third, women tend to do more unpaid household work than men, about 2.7 hours per day more to be exact, the blog showed.
The authors pointed out that women bear the brunt of family care responsibilities resulting from shutdown measures such as school closures and precautions for vulnerable elderly parents. They said that after shutdown measures have been lifted, women are slower to return to full employment.
Fourth, pandemics put women at greater risk of losing human capital, the authors argued. "In many developing countries, young girls are forced to drop out of school and work to supplement household income," they said.
Stressing that it is "crucial" for policymakers to adopt measures to limit the scarring effects of the pandemic on women, the authors said this could entail a focus on extending income support to the vulnerable, preserving employment linkages, providing incentives to balance work and family care responsibilities, improving access to health care and family planning, and expanding support for small businesses and the self-employed.
They noted that elimination of legal barriers against women's economic empowerment is also a priority.
"Over the longer term, policies can be designed to tackle gender inequality by creating conditions and incentives for women to work," the authors added.
Citing an earlier IMF blog, the authors noted that particularly effective are gender-responsive fiscal policies, such as investing in education and infrastructure, subsidizing childcare, and offering parental leave.
"These policies are not only crucial to lift constraints on women's economic empowerment, they are necessary to promote an inclusive post-COVID-19 recovery," they said.