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COVID-19: Immediate Socio-Economic Response Plan - United Nations in India

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I. Introduction

The world faces severe and acute public health and socio-economic emergencies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Nations is working closely with countries across the world to contain the pandemic, respond to its grave repercussions, and build back better. In that context, globally, the UN system has developed strategic plans and frameworks to support its Member States. These include: (i) the Novel Coronavirus Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan that outlines the public health measures that the international community stands ready to provide to all countries to prepare for and respond to COVID-19; and (ii) the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 that sets out the framework for the United Nations’ urgent socio-economic support to countries and societies in the face of COVID-19.

In India, in response to the above and guided by our counterparts in the government of India, the UN agencies have developed the Novel Coronavirus Disease Joint Health Response Plan by UN Agencies and Partners, led by WHO-India, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and with the support of other development partners. The UN in India is also preparing a COVID-19 Socio-economic Response and Recovery Plan, in partnership with the government. As it will take time for many of the medium term recovery needs to be assessed, and as immediate response needs were evidently urgent, particularly for the most vulnerable groups, the UN quickly repurposed many of its ongoing programmes to help the national response to the development emergency. This document captures the immediate response by the UN agencies in India. It is a dynamic response, and is being updated as the pandemic unfolds in India.

The Honourable Prime Minister of India, in his address to the nation on 12 May 2020, shared his clear and compelling vision of building a self-reliant India, stressing the five Pillars – the economy, infrastructure, system, demography and demand and stressed the need to recover with bold reforms. In this context, the UN System in India proposes to engage with the government in a few big areas of reform that COVID-19 has thrown into high relief – two of which – health systems reform and urban dimensions of the COVID crisis are outlined in Section II below. As the full scale and scope of COVID-19's socio-economic impact becomes clearer, the UN will propose other areas for concerted partnership.

The UN’s response to COVID-19 is guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its central promise to ‘leave no one behind’. The UN recognises that the colossal impacts of COVID-19 are still unfolding around us and we are deep into unchartered territory. Countries and the UN are having to respond without a roadmap. But, we have a common compass. The response must be people-centred, informed by our values of inclusiveness and humanity, and cognisant of the innate value, dignity and worth of each individual. It must be fair, green and, above all, inclusive. The crisis invoked by COVID-19 is exposing the precise failures that the Agenda 2030, the Paris Agreement and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda address. It is in many ways the failures in achieving the MDGs and the delays in SDG progress that have rendered countries around the world so vulnerable to this multi-faceted crisis. The recovery and rebuilding must, therefore, seek ways and means to capitalize on the opportunities created by the crisis, to get back on track toward achieving Agenda 2030.