NEW YORK, 28 May 2020 — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, will convene world leaders and international organizations today in a joint initiative to sharpen and accelerate our global response to the significant economic and human impacts of COVID-19, and advance concrete solutions to the development emergency.
This pandemic requires a large-scale, coordinated, comprehensive multilateral response to support countries in need, enabling them to recover better for more prosperous and resilient and inclusive economies and societies.
With more than 50 Heads of State and Government participating, the High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond is the most inclusive gathering of countries to focus on the socio-economic recovery and financing needs from the pandemic. We must continue to coordinate these efforts to avoid a devastating impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
We all face economic strain in responding to this pandemic, particularly low- and middle-income countries, many of which are seeing their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set back.
The High-Level Event looks at six urgent areas of action to mobilize the financing needed for the response and recovery. These include expanding liquidity across the global economy; addressing debt vulnerabilities; stemming illicit financial flows; increasing external finance for inclusive growth and job creation; and strategies for countries to recover better, achieve the SDGs, address climate change and restore the balance between the economy and nature.
“The pandemic has demonstrated our fragility,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “We are in an unprecedented human crisis, because of a microscopic virus. We need to respond with unity and solidarity, and a key aspect of solidarity is financial support.”
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness said “the COVID-19 pandemic demands that we take immediate action to address its impacts on the economies of all countries, in every region of the world and at every stage of development.” He added that he welcomes the six thematic areas of focus, including the “necessity to address the urgent need for increased liquidity, particularly for low- and middle-income countries.”
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “all countries are being tested by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it threatens to undermine our hard-won development gains. We know the best way to help all our people and economies rebound is to work together as a global community. We want to support collective and individual actions to enable a recovery that leads to more inclusive, sustainable and resilient economies, where no one is left behind.”
The cost of the pandemic
World Health Organization (WHO) figures show that the COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 340,000 lives, with more than 5.4 million cases globally. Unless we act now, UN projections indicate that the pandemic could slash nearly $US8.5 trillion from the global economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year, and potentially, an additional 130 million people during this decade.
Failing businesses are already causing a surge in unemployment. The International Labour Organization (ILO) expects that global working hours in the second quarter of 2020 will be 10.5 per cent lower than before the crisis, equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. Women are particularly affected, as they are overrepresented in sectors that have been the most affected with initial job losses. They are also the majority of those employed in the informal sector globally and on the whole tend to hold less secure jobs with fewer protections, less savings, and are more likely to live in, or close to, poverty.
The pandemic is causing economic distress even in countries that have not yet experienced the health impact in large numbers. Falling exports and growth are rapidly undermining the debt sustainability of many developing countries, particularly those that are heavily dependent on commodities, tourism revenues or remittances. Growing debt distress poses an enormous challenge to these countries, further constraining their ability to implement stimulus measures.
Even prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, almost half of all least developed and other low-income countries were in, or close to, debt distress. Debt servicing costs for these countries more than doubled between 2000 and 2019, to 13 per cent of government revenue, and reached more than 40 per cent in a quarter of all Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Effective domestic resource mobilization will be crucial for rebuilding economies. Yet trillions of dollars are thought to be held in undeclared offshore financial holdings. The cost of money laundering has been estimated at around $US1.6 trillion a year.
Meeting the challenges
In the face of this unprecedented health, social and economic crisis, many governments across the world have rolled out large fiscal stimulus measures equivalent to an estimated 10 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP). But most developing economies are finding it difficult or impossible to implement sufficiently large fiscal packages, which have so far averaged less than 1 per cent of their GDP.
In April 2020, the G-20 agreed to suspend debt service on bilateral official debt to 76 low-income developing countries to help increase liquidity to deal with the impacts of the crisis. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) offered further debt service relief to 25 of the poorest countries, and the World Bank has been coordinating with regional banks to discuss COVID-19 support, joint initiatives, co-financing, and ways to maximize net flows to the poorest and most vulnerable countries. But far more is needed, and quickly.
The High-Level Event will discuss a wide range of inclusive solutions, seeking input from the countries feeling the most impacted.
In the initial containment and crisis phase of the pandemic, nations have prioritized the health of people before turning to the economic and labour market consequences. As each nation charts its own course to recovery, countries are seeking to limit the economic fallout by taking steps to protect enterprises, jobs and incomes, and to stimulate the economy, and to do so in a way that protects women and families, young people, and the most vulnerable in our societies.
We must raise our ambitions in order to recover better, by building more prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable economies and societies. Countries cannot afford to leave unattended the underlying fragilities at the core of our current economic and social systems. We cannot wish away systemic risks, from the climate crisis to high and persistent inequality. Everyone will benefit if we address these risks by investing up front.
The Event will include a High-Level Segment in which Heads of State and Government will express their commitment to finding multilateral solutions to the global economic crisis and its effects on the most vulnerable. In addition, a High-Level Panel of leaders from international institutions will discuss the challenges and opportunities for urgent, decisive action. Following the Panel, the High-Level Segment among Heads of State and Government, and partners will continue.
Six critical areas of focus
The Event will also launch a collaborative effort to enable discussions on concrete proposals to overcome challenges in six areas, and progress will be reported back at the margins of the High Level Political Forum in July, the General Assembly in September, and at the end of the year that include:
- The need to expand liquidity in the global economy and maintain financial stability to safeguard development gains.
- The need to address debt vulnerabilities for all developing countries to save lives and livelihoods for billions of people around the world.
- The need to create a space in which private sector creditors can proactively engage in effective and timely solutions.
- Prerequisites for enhancing external finance and remittances for inclusive growth and creating jobs.
- Measures to expand fiscal space and foster domestic resource mobilization by preventing illicit financial flows.
- Ensuring a sustainable and inclusive recovery by aligning recovery policies with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The outcomes of the High-Level Event include the formation of six discussions groups, a collaborative effort that aims at providing concrete proposals by mid-July.
There is no time to lose. Solutions cannot wait, and decisive action is required.
Courtesy of Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica
The Incredible Story of David Avido of Kenya, 24 Year old designing for the Grass Roots to the Stars
By Dana Malcolm
#Africa, February 2, 2023 – One Kenyan designer began a sewing business out of the slums where he was born; now he dresses some of the Caribbean and Africa’s most famous faces.
Born the oldest son of a single mother and from Kibera Nairobi, David Avido Ochieng did not have an easy start. In Kibera, the largest urban slum in East Africa opportunities for international success are hard to come by and yet Avido can now say he has dressed the likes of former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Beyoncé, Chronixx, Romain Virgo, Tarrus Riley, Chris Martin, Ty Dolla Sign, Koffee and many more.
As explained on his website, David dropped out of school to work and support his family quite young. In just first form he was working on a construction site but he knew he wanted more from life. After quitting his job he danced and saved what he could and tried his best to complete his education.
He told Vogue magazine: “When I started dancing I used to save money in order to go back to high school, with the little that I could get from dancing and my mom’s money from doing work as a house help, we were able to raise 15,000 shillings and with that, I joined an adult school and skipped forms two, three and four.”
David picked up a sewing machine to make costumes and realized his talent. By 2015, his brand LookslikeAvido was born. He completed a fashion & design diploma at Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts and began to sew incredible pieces right at home in Kibera. Even as his brand is globally recognized, Kibera is where his workshop remains; David says, his homeland is his great inspiration.
“There is no barrier if you believe in your talent and take the next step. I want to encourage and create beauty, where people don’t expect.”
Talented and thoughtful Avido is well aware of the stereotypes surrounding him, his home and the black community globally.
“We know about injustice and violence, prejudice, racial and social discrimination – we experience it within Kenya and we experience it globally, as people look at us as the poor, the uneducated, the needy,” he said.
Featured in Vogue, CNN and other international publications, Avido remains connected to his origins in a tangible way and as his success grows his roots just go deeper. Twenty per cent of all sales of his jackets and other clothing items go directly back to Kibera; his website explains that all the tailoring, product photoshoots and collaborations ‘is all done here in Kibra.’
There is no fabric waste from his garments, instead, scraps are repurposed into masks and shopping bags for residents, all his tailors are local residents, a portion of profits are used to pay school fees and Avido and his team put in extra time to make school uniforms as well.
On his website, is a photo of him sitting around a sewing machine, his worktable resting on hard-packed earth with presumably a group of family and friends surrounding him, a source of pride. The introspective photograph could have been taken in Nairobi, Trinidad or Barbados, so nostalgic is the picture, the bench and the story of community success that it represents.
In a video posted to his YouTube, David sits at his new work desk, and beside him hangs a rack of clothes in the cramped space that serves as his kitchen as well.
“I’m the firstborn of Kibera,” He explains, “Every kid in Kibera is looking up to me— my main dream is to open up a place where I can inspire people to work.”
David has a dozen employees and is listed in Beyonce’s directory of black businesses; with an uncommon wisdom, the designer knows that his successes so far are not parking spaces but rather stepping stones as he faces his future announcing that the journey, for him, continues.
Cabinet Shuffle in Ukraine; Allegations of Profiteering off WAR funding
By Dana Malcolm
#Ukraine, February 2, 2023 – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy has been forced to shuffle his Cabinet amidst corruption allegations that have caused increased scrutiny from the United States on the war-torn country’s spending.
The country’s Defense Minister is under watch and the Acting Minister for Regional Development has been arrested over allegations of war profiteering or making an excessive profit from selling weapons and other goods to forces at war.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine says it is investigating not only overpriced rations for soldiers bought by the Defense Ministry but overpriced generators bought by the Infrastructure Ministry and a suspected $400,000 unlawful kickback to the Acting Minister.
In addition, the country’s Deputy Chief of staff resigned amid allegations he was using a humanitarian vehicle to go on personal visits. Ukraine has had a long history of issues with corruption, often ranking near the bottom of global transparency lists.
The overspending scandal comes just weeks after the US approved a $1.8 billion package of aid for the country and just days before they and other allies decided to send some of the most advanced tanks in the world to help them in their war against Russia.
When word of the scandal emerged, Zelensky immediately took action, by Monday night he had fired a number of high-ranking officers of State while others resigned and banned travel that was not strictly business for government officials.
US launches partnership to sponsor Caribbean refugees
By Shanieka Smith
#USA, February 2, 2023 – A private sponsorship program launched by the United States will allow Caribbean refugees to be sponsored by Americans via the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The Welcome Corps will then ensure that refugees settle into their new communities smoothly.
“This programme invites Americans to be partners and guides to refugees, as they build new lives in the United States and help them realise their full potential,” US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken said.
He said the private sponsors will come from groups such as veterans, civic groups, colleges, members of faith and business owners. By the end of the program’s first year, the aim is to rally a minimum of 10,000 sponsors who will successfully welcome at least 5000 refugees.
The Biden administration had previously announced that a limit of 30,000 migrants per month from Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti and Nicaragua would be implemented. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk and Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman, Yvette D Clarke opposed this decision.
“Unfortunately, the recently announced reforms from President Biden and his administration fail to deliver the change migrant communities deserve and have prayed for,” she said.
The re-evaluated decision now offers legal routes for migrants from the Caribbean and other countries to enter the US. In addition, new consequences will be implemented for those who choose to use illegal pathways.
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