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COVID-19 has already surpassed about 2 million cases worldwide with hundreds of thousands of deaths reported so far. This outbreak has forced the countries across the globe to observe complete lockdown. People are living under quarantine. Apart from impacting the daily lives of people, the world is seeing dire economic and social impacts.
The United Nations (UN) launched a new report titled ‘Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19’ on 31st March 2020. This report calls for united efforts at a global scale to counter the adverse socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It addresses the multidimensional concerns arising out of the current crisis. It entreats everyone to come together and act in a unified manner.
How and when did this report come into being?
The International Monetary Fund has announced that the world has entered a recession as bad, if not worse, as the one in 2009. It is a unique and unprecedented situation. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called COVID-19 the worst crisis since World War II. He has further said its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, economic unrest, and conflict”.
This crisis is not only a health crisis but a human crisis that has multifaceted long-term consequences. This has been by far the greatest challenge faced by the world since the formation of the UN. Thus, it requires a coordinated effort to overcome its many social and economic repercussions.
The efforts made towards dealing with the crisis must match the scale at which it prevails. No country can win this battle on its own. The Shared Responsibility report thus comes as a unified call for action. It seeks immediate response to put an end to the pandemic and its effects.
Its aims and objectives
The main objective of the report is to facilitate action through expedient health responses and urgent measures to address the socio-economic impacts. It appeals for an increased focus on the vulnerable nations as well as groups of people. Women, children, youth, elderly, people with disabilities, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector are always the worst hit during a crisis. Working on the notion that we are as strong as the weakest health system, this report aims for collective action. It provides for a three-step roadmap.
First, it aims for setting up a robust healthcare system. The health system must be competent to tackle the pandemic and respond to the needs right away. It involves worldwide collaboration. An increase in investment in the healthcare sector is essential. The universal demands of necessary equipment, facilities, and supplies must be met. The main focus is to suppress transmission and put an end to the pandemic by coordination and by adherence to the appeals of WHO.
Second, it aims for the mitigation of the negative impacts on society and the economy. This would involve provisions for support to households, workers and businesses, monetary and fiscal responses to prevent loss to the economy, and social protection. The report calls for a coordinated response where about 10 percent of the global GDP is brought to use to fight off the pandemic.
Third, it highlights the importance of learning from this crisis. Prior global targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement have not yet been met. The impact the world is facing today would have been less severe if those goals were achieved. Thus, the report calls this to be a learning opportunity. This crisis should teach us to enhance efforts towards achieving said global targets. In this manner, we would emerge stronger and more prepared to deal with future crises.
The objective of recommendations provided in this report is to empower nations and encourage them to act.
The report declares that the UN and its subsidiary agencies will offer full support to achieve these objectives. It underlines the need for maintaining a sense of global coordination and solidarity. The world needs to fight this battle together.
Some of the most prominent takeaways from this report are summed up as follows:
- Decisive and pro-active action is specified as a measure to decrease the spread and bring an end to COVID-19. The report recommends early preparations in countries with no cases. Speedy testing and detection of cases, quarantine measures, school closures, and isolation measures must be set up.
- The report highlights the importance of global collaboration. Immediate support to poor and vulnerable countries must be provided. The availability, development, production, and distribution of laboratory testing kits, essential medical supplies, new drugs, and vaccines must be scaled up.
- It discourages countries from resorting to protectionist measures. Instead, they are being encouraged to ensure the free flow of scientific research and technological innovations. The report specifies that it is only with a common vision that the world can tackle this pandemic.
- The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund is one of its kinds launched by the UN, WHO and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation. It is for providing financial support for health workers on the frontlines as well as for advancing research. The report urges for contribution to the same.
- To tackle the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, the report recommends the implementation of a large-scale coordinated global fiscal stimulus. This stimulus package must amount to at least a percentage in double-digits of global GDP. Such a fiscal stimulus will boost the economy in the long run. It is also recommended on a national scale.
- The report calls for explicit measures to boost the economy of developing countries. It asks for debt relief and concessional finance. This would help the domestic economics of these vulnerable countries to revive.
- It further seeks waiver of sanctions, tariffs and non-tariff measures to ensure free access to food, medicines and other essential supplies.
- Major central banks and international financial institutions can play a crucial role in fighting off the present impacts and aid in recovery. Coordination between these big players can boost liquidity.
- The report recommends coordination with the private financial sector at the regional level. This can aid in recovery. Regional companies must be roped in.
- It does not fail to mention the vulnerable groups that need protection more than the others. The report thus calls for a “human rights-based approach”. Proper availability of information in a manner that can be understood by the people is the need of this hour.
- It is crucial to have a humanitarian outlook. Women and girls must find a place in the response. Apart from them, the elderly, people with disabilities, daily wage laborers, migrants, prisoners among others need protection. Thus, the protection of human rights and a focus on inclusion is crucial at this time.
- The international community must come together to aid governments to support education. Governments can then provide distance and digital educational services.
- The short-term effects of the crisis have been positive for the environment at least. But, these are only short-lived. The situation will revert after lockdown unless countries focus on them. The report recommends the strengthening of approaches towards climate action and NDCs.
- To reduce the overall impact of this crisis, the report recommends partnerships between local and national authorities for global research and innovation. The report highlights the importance of community-based organizations (CBOs), Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs), civil society organizations and youth networks in raising awareness and improving social cohesion.
- The report also points out that we will overcome this crisis. And when we do, we must be mindful and remember all that was learned during our fight with the pandemic. This knowledge must be used to rebuild a world better than before.
‘Shared responsibility, Global Solidarity’–as the phrase suggests, is a call for worldwide collaboration. It calls the whole world to come together and stand united against this crisis. It asks everyone to share the responsibility to combat it effectively. The report provides a holistic analysis of the current magnitude of the crisis, the degree of its spread and how it is impacting the lives of the people all around the globe.
The report accurately highlights the importance of united global efforts by stating that “the world is only as strong as the weakest health system.” The world is interrelated and integrated, both socially and economically. Hence, if every country only focuses upon itself there would be no end to this crisis. The weakest and the most vulnerable countries need the most help. It is only by helping those that the evasion of this crisis is possible. The report calls for a global ceasefire to direct the focus of conflict-affected countries towards COVID-19.
The report displays a ‘people-centered approach’. It focuses on all the people who would be inevitably affected as a result of this crisis. It advocates for respecting human rights, ensuring social inclusion and engagement while maintaining equality and dignity.
It also lays down some recommendations to empower countries and propel partners into urgent action. These recommendations are structured into three tiers – global, regional and national. Not only does the report lay down the immediate measures that everyone should be undertaking at global, national and regional levels but also lays down measures for post-recovery.
The report does not restrict itself to the social and economic dimensions but also incorporates other major global concerns. For example, it addresses the sustainable development implications associated with this crisis. It reminds us that the world has not been prioritizing sustainable development efforts. And that this lack of effort and initiative will cost us a lot. It would lead to grave impacts. Had we focus on attaining Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals, the world would have been better prepared. There would have been stronger economies, better health care systems, and resilient societies.
Nonetheless, the report is imbued with a positive outlook on the future. Despite all, the crisis would strengthen economic and social cooperation throughout the globe. The report focuses on the importance of learning from the crisis and incorporating those lessons in our future actions. As the report states, we know what is to be done. It has been laid down in the roadmap for 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. By adequate investment in the same, our society would be further strengthened for any future ordeals.
UN through its Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity Report is displaying an agile response towards the management of this global crisis. It has promised to deliver help by setting up of COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and facilitating requisite efforts all across the world. This report acts as a reminder of the need for unified efforts to eliminate the adversities of COVID-19.
As stated by Antonio Guterres, “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive 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.” Thus, the situation calls for worldwide collaboration. It is the collective effort of humans that can protect and help other humans.
Limiting oneself within the border of one’s nation will not prove fruitful to anyone. It is high time that everyone joins hands and executes concrete efforts to put an end to this pandemic sustainably, equitably and resiliently. This is the only way that we would be able to restore society and economy into an improved version of itself.
Author: Avani Laad from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
Editor: Shalu Bhati from Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.