Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), has urged for closing the gap between rich and poor people within and between countries.
He stated that the first step is to halt the COVID-19 pandemic for everyone, everywhere.
In his address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Guterres remarked, “We urgently need a global vaccination plan to at least double vaccine production and ensure that vaccines reach 70% of the world’s population in the first half of 2022.”
He believes that an emergency Task Force made up of current and potential vaccine makers, as well as the World Health Organization, could put this plan into action.
“We have no time to lose. A lopsided recovery is deepening inequalities. Richer countries could reach pre-pandemic growth rates by the end of this year, while the impacts may last for years in low-income countries,” he said.
“Is it any wonder? Advanced economies are investing nearly 28 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) into economic recovery. For middle-income countries, that number falls to 6.5 per cent.”
He pointed out that for the least developed countries, it drops to 1.8 percent – a tiny fraction of a far smaller sum.
According to the Secretary-General, the International Monetary Fund estimates that cumulative economic growth per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa will be 75% lower than the rest of the world over the next five years, and that many nations will require an immediate injection of funds.
“I welcome the issuance of $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) by the International Monetary Fund. But these SDRs are largely going to the countries that need them least,” he said.
“Advanced economies should reallocate their surplus SDRs to countries in need. SDRs are not a silver bullet. But they provide space for sustainable recovery and growth.”
Mr. Guterres also reiterated his plea for a reform of the international debt architecture to make it more egalitarian.
He suggested the Debt Service Suspension Initiative should be prolonged until 2022 and made available to all highly indebted, vulnerable, and middle-income nations who seek it, calling it “solidarity in action.”
According to the Secretary-General, governments should not have to choose between debt service and human service.
He claimed that with effective international solidarity, a new social contract could be forged at the national level, including universal health coverage and income support, housing and decent job for all, high-quality education for all, and an end to discrimination and prejudice.
“I call on countries to reform their tax systems and finally end tax evasion, money laundering and illicit financial flows,” he stated.
“And as we look ahead, we need a better system of prevention and preparedness for all major global risks.
“We must support the recommendations of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.”
He reiterated that he had put forward a number of other proposals in their Common Agenda — including an emergency platform and a Futures Lab.
Mr Guterres, who also called for bridging the gender divide, said COVID-19 exposed and amplified the world’s most enduring injustice: the power imbalance between men and women.
“When the pandemic hit, women were the majority of frontline workers, first to lose their jobs, and first to put their careers on hold to care for those close to them,” he said.
“Girls were disproportionately hit by school closures that limit their development and increase the risk of abuse, violence and child marriage.”
He said bridging the gender divide was not only a matter of justice for women and girls; saying “it is a game-changer for humanity”.
He said societies with more equal representation were more stable and peaceful, and that they had better health systems and more vibrant economies.
“Women’s equality is essentially a question of power. We must urgently transform our male-dominated world and shift the balance of power, to solve the most challenging problems of our age,” he said.
He maintained that that means more women leaders in parliaments, cabinets and board rooms; “it means women fully represented and making their full contribution, everywhere”.
He urged governments, corporations and other institutions to take bold steps, including benchmarks and quotas, to create gender parity from the leadership down.