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We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending people’s lives. But this is much more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is attacking societies at their core. The IMF has just reassessed the prospect for growth for 2020 and 2021, declaring that we have entered a recession – as bad as or worse than in 2009. The IMF projects recovery in 2021 only if the world succeeds in containing the virus and take the necessary economic measures.
In the face of such an unprecedented situation in recent history, the creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis – and the magnitude of the response must match its scale.
No country will be able to exit this crisis alone.
This report is a call to action, for the immediate health response required to suppress transmission of the virus to end the pandemic; and to tackle the many social and economic dimensions of this crisis. It is, above all, a call to focus on people – women, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector and on vulnerable groups who are already at risk.
Whole societies must come together. Every country must step up with public, private and civic sectors collaborating from the outset. But on their own, national-level actions will not match the global scale and complexity of the crisis. This moment demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies, and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries, who will be the hardest hit. Given the world’s extensive economic and social interrelationships and trade— we are only as strong as the weakest health system.
The first step is to mount the most robust and cooperative health response the world has ever seen. Health system spending must be scaled up right away to meet urgent needs and the surge in demand for tests, expanded treatment facilities, adequate medical supplies and more health care workers; and for health system preparedness and response in countries where the virus has not yet manifested or where there is no community transmission to date.
The strongest support must be provided to the multilateral effort to suppress transmission and stop the pandemic, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), whose appeals must be fully met. Scientific collaboration in the search for a vaccine and effective therapeutics must be promoted through initiatives such as the WHO-sponsored solidarity trials. Universal access to vaccines and treatment must be assured, with full respect for human rights, gender equality and without stigma.
The second step is to do everything possible to cushion the knock-on effects on millions of people’s lives, their livelihoods and the real economy. That means the direct provision of resources to support workers and households, provision of health and unemployment insurance, scale-up of social protection, and support to businesses to prevent bankruptcies and massive job losses. That also means designing fiscal and monetary responses to ensure that the burden does not fall on those countries who can least bear it.
A large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 per cent of global GDP is needed now more than ever. This crisis is truly global. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that developing countries have the best chance of managing this crisis, or COVID-19 will risk becoming a long-lasting brake on economic recovery.
The third step is to learn from this crisis and build back better. Had we been further advanced in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, we could better face this challenge - with stronger health systems, fewer people living in extreme poverty, less gender inequality, a healthier natural environment, and more resilient societies. We must seize the opportunity of this crisis to strengthen our commitment to implement the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. By making progress on our global roadmap for a more inclusive and sustainable future, we can better respond to future crises.
The recommendations in this report are geared to empower governments and propel partners to act urgently.
The United Nations family – and our global network of regional, sub-regional and country offices working for peace, human rights, sustainable development and humanitarian action, will support all governments, working with our partners, to ensure first and foremost that lives are saved, livelihoods are restored, and that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis. That is the logic of the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs. More than ever before, we need solidarity, hope and the political will and cooperation to see this crisis through together.