UN chief calls for investments in decent jobs and social protection for a fair recovery from COVID-19 – Manila Bulletin

UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called for investments in decent jobs and social protection, as well as a just transition to net zero emissions to enable a fair recovery from COVID- 19.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres JOHN THYS / AFP / POOL

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global economic and social crisis due to the widespread lack of investment in social protection and basic services. A renewed social contract should be at the heart of the recovery, he said at a high-level event on employment and social protection for poverty eradication.

“To break cycles of deprivation, we need to invest strategically in decent jobs and climate action, supported by strong social protection systems. A just transition to sustainable energy has enormous potential to create jobs and reduce inequalities of all kinds, ”he said. “We need universal social protection by 2030, including universal health care, income protection, education and skills training, especially for women and girls. All national stimulus packages and budgets should be based on, or at least aligned with, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, Guterres said.

He called for greater international solidarity in this regard.

“As part of our own efforts to support countries in all of these areas, I am pleased to announce the creation of a new global accelerator for jobs and social protection, in collaboration with the International Organization of work, ”he said.

The accelerator’s goal is to create at least 400 million jobs by 2030, mainly in green and care economies, and to ensure that 50% of those who still lack minimum social protection are covered by 2025, he said.

Almost two years after the start of the COVID-19 crisis, a huge divergence in the recovery is undermining global trust and solidarity. The pandemic has not only confirmed but worsened existing inequalities, he said.

In developed countries, access to vaccines has reopened economies, while stimulus payments and investments are predicting growth of 5-6% this year. In sub-Saharan Africa, this figure is around 2.5 percent. A recent report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development projects that the cumulative cost of delayed immunization alone will rise to US $ 2.3 trillion by 2025, with developing countries bearing the brunt , Guterres said.

“This could lead not only to a lost decade for development, but to a lost generation of poorly educated, unemployed and disgruntled young people,” he warned.

Across the developing world, the pandemic has caused lasting damage, while the debt burden is preventing governments from investing in the recovery. Advanced economies invest nearly 28% of their gross domestic product in economic recovery. For middle- and low-income countries, this figure is between 2 and 6.5 percent, a tiny fraction of a much smaller amount. Many of those same developing countries are facing the worst ravages of the climate crisis, which they have done nothing to create, he said.

This uneven and unfair recovery is eroding trust between the developed and developing world – trust that is essential for global cooperation in other areas, he warned.

The pandemic is expected to increase the number of extremely poor people to 224 million worldwide. More than three-quarters of these “new poor” live in middle-income countries. Many developing countries face crippling debt service costs as their national budgets are strained and their ability to raise taxes is reduced. These countries urgently need a helping hand. But many particularly vulnerable middle-income countries are not eligible for aid and debt relief under current rules, Guterres said.

He welcomed the recent issuance of US $ 650 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) by the International Monetary Fund. But obviously, they are distributed, by quotas, in large part to the countries which need them the least. It is important that a significant amount of these SDRs be redirected to the countries that need them most. Likewise, the Group of 20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and the Common Debt Framework have the potential to alleviate the debt crisis. But they are not enough. The DSSI should be extended until next year and made available to all middle-income countries that need it, he said.

Current global debt dynamics mean rich countries can borrow cheaply and spend to recover, while low- and middle-income countries struggle to keep their economies afloat. Without debt relief, many countries will find themselves in an unsustainable financial situation. Their peoples will pay with their lives, and with years of poverty and hunger, this failure of global solidarity, he said. “No government should be forced to choose between servicing its debts and servicing its people. Global cooperation is key to building resilience to future shocks, with economies that work for everyone, Guterres said.

The high-level event coincides with the release of Guterres’ policy brief on “Investing in Jobs and Social Protection for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Recovery”.


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Joel C. Hicks