Social protection spending has increased by almost 270% with the pandemic |
Opening the session, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Liu Zhenmin, argued that the pandemic has highlighted the crucial role of social policies.
“The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated inequalities and multiple forms of deprivation,” Zhenmin said, recalling that many countries have responded by instituting emergency measures.
“A key lesson is the importance of universal access to social protection, to strengthen economic and food security, in times of crisis,” he said.
He said that From December 2020 to May 2021, total social protection spending increased by nearly 270%, to $2.9 trillion.
Today, the Under-Secretary-General believes that many of these measures must become permanent to get back on track and achieve the 2030 Agenda.
According to the latest UN data, the world is not on track to achieve the overarching Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of eradicating extreme poverty.
Without decisive action, the number of people living in extreme poverty is expected to reach 600 millionor 7% of the world’s population by 2030.
As societies around the world begin to move towards recovery, Zhenmin highlighted four priorities.
First, invest in people: with health, education and affordable housing as important elements in rebuilding livelihoods.
Second, to tackle the multiple causes of poverty, hunger and inequality by creating decent jobs and other income-generating opportunities, he said.
Third, build universal social protection systems that are adequate, comprehensive and sustainable.
And, finally, making food systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid said the meeting should address the end of the pandemic, framed by a few key questions.
“What does our world look like in the post-COVID era? What lessons have we learned from our responses? » He asked.
Noting that social protection measures have increased significantly, he reminded the meeting that implementation has been deeply uneven, particularly between developed and developing countries.
Despite this inequality, he believes that “the efforts made demonstrate that social safety nets work and could have enormous impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the people we serve.”
Mr. Shahid also called on Member States to view the pandemic as both a crisis and an opportunity.
“It requires us to be bold and ambitious in our intentions, and generous in our actions.“, he explained.
According to him, there are four important areas of action: investing and sharing technologies, resources and capacities; prioritize universal access to basic services and infrastructure; investing in training and education; and work quickly to close the gaps that have been exposed.
Noting that history is full of turning points, he called for efforts to make history remember the pandemic, like another time for a great pivot.
“As the moment humanity embraced a brighter future, turned to sustainability, abandoned tired excuses and pursued a path that empowered all, that protected our planet, that built the prosperity and left a new generation full of hope,” he concluded.