Governments and International Organizations Come Together to Address Economic Challenges and Sustainability
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
Hunger rates rise in Latin America and the Caribbean
June 5, 2023 – It’s an unfortunate reality for Latin America and the Caribbean as the number of people suffering from hunger surged by 30 percent; 56 million people now facing hunger, a large increase from 43 million in 2019.
It was revealed by Mario Lubetkin, Deputy Director General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), where he further informed that the war in Ukraine, COVID-19, and the ongoing climate crisis are to blame for the surge.
Regarding the climate crisis, he emphasized that climate related challenges are on the rise as the region experiences combinations of droughts and floods; and to combat this, he expressed that proactive measures should be put in place to prepare farmers for potential severe impacts.
To help mitigate the surge in hunger rate, he put forth a three fold approach.
The first is the importance of effectively managing the current situation by whatever means necessary; for the second, he fingered the need for the creation of sufficient funds to mitigate the impact on farmers, for the third, he highlighted the need for collaboration among Governments, public sectors, and private sectors in order to mollify the burden of rising prices on consumers.
These highlighted efforts are in line with the aspirations and duties of the FAO which is devoted to supporting family farming, which makes up 80 percent of the workforce in the Agriculture sector.
Additionally, Lubetkin spoke of FAO’s commitment to quality products and brought attention to the United Nations Decade of Family Farming, which is geared towards eradicating hunger, ensuring food security, and promoting sustainable development in rural areas.
The organization also aims to enhance food security, a needed element in the regions, through innovation and digitization processes for example “1,000 digital villages,” one of their projects aids countries in using digital tools in agri-food systems and rural territories.
Better Health for Indigenous population in Americas
June 5, 2023 – A new resolution has been approved by health ministers from CARICOM alongside their counterparts in the Americas to accelerate actions to improve health for the indigenous populations.
With the resolution, countries will develop finance and put in place national health clients for the indigenous population. This will ensure that they receive equal rights, that is their access to the highest attainable physical health services.
Measures will be implemented to combat the social determinants of health, such as poverty, poor housing, and lack of access to education, economic opportunities, and water and sanitation which all unfortunately affects the indigenous populations immensely.
It also seeks to foster investment into the training of indigenous health care workers; and it plans to safely incorporate evidence-based traditional and complementary medicine into Indigenous health services.
Additionally, generating more disaggregated data, enabling countries to broaden their knowledge of the specific health situation of Indigenous populations, which is another goal highlighted, and can attract more improvements for the indigenous people as more countries will be informed.
Furthermore, an intercultural and intersectoral approach in the development of Indigenous health policies that overcome barriers pertaining to gender, geographic location, age, language, digital connectivity, was stressed by countries of the Americas, and for good reason as those barriers are influential in the low health standards.
Dr. Marcos Espinal, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), highlighted the necessity and urgency of the resolution.
He pointed to the fact that indigenous peoples in the Americas are more prone to experience higher rates of infectious disease like tuberculosis, as well as increased levels of non communicable diseases like diabetes. Also, for women, that is indigenous women maternal health care is of very low quality and so, the resolution will improve it alongside adolescent health care including access to sexual and reproductive health services.
“This is why this resolution is so crucial for our region, because it is based on strategies that address the specific environmental and social contexts in which Indigenous persons live,” he added.
The resolution came on Tuesday May 30th during the 76th World Health Assembly (WHA), and is anticipated to have significant implications for the Americas, home to more than 62 million Indigenous persons.
The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) said it will continue to work with countries of the Americas to ensure the health of Indigenous Populations.
More people travel in 2023 than 2019, Pre-pandemic levels surpassed in US
By Dana Malcolm
#USA, June 5, 2023 – Travel numbers in the United States have now officially surpassed the 2019 levels representing a complete comeback for the travel and tourism industry from the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Statistics from the recent Memorial Day (May 29th) holiday weekend recorded the surge according to data from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
A total of 2.57 million passengers traveled by air on Memorial Day, almost a hundred thousand more than the 2.49 million that took to the air in 2019. On Tuesday May 30th, the increase was visible once again with 2.3 million passengers traveling through US airports, an increase over the 2.2 million that traveled on the same day in 2019.
The days leading up to memorial weekend also saw significant increases, in fact, nearly every day in the week of May 24th to 31st beat 2019 numbers. It points to the record summer travel numbers that travel experts are predicting.
US News agencies are also reporting good news to go along with the surge: the airports managed to keep up smoothly.
CBS says that in total more than 42 million residents traveled and there was ‘relatively smooth sailing’ at the baggage counters and check in.
Airline service has been a concern of the US Travel Association which insists more workers are needed for the summer season. The Association predicts that just over half of all Americans (53 percent) and 81 percent of leisure travelers have travel planned in the next six months.
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