On 31 March 2020, the United Nations published its plan for the global response to the COVID-19 crisis and its socio-economic consequences. The report, “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19”, calls for a coordinated, multilateral response unprecedented in scale, and which demonstrates solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable communities and nations.
Alongside this, the Secretary General has established the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support low- and middle-income countries in the face of the pandemic. All businesses have a crucial role to play in supporting the global response.
“The world is facing an unprecedented test. And this is the moment of truth. … We must respond decisively, innovatively and together to suppress the spread of the virus and address the socio-economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing in all regions.”
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.
As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we have become grimly familiar with the daily announcements on the rising death toll - CURRENT COUNT ON DAY OF PUBLICATION. Alongside the tragic loss of life, the new report from the UN warns that the pandemic is “attacking society at its core”, and requires a coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 percent of global GDP.
The report highlights the complex, wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19: healthcare systems are overwhelmed; entire industries are being battered; global supply chains disrupted. The outlook for developing countries, least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developed countries (LLDCs), and small island developing states (SIDS) is grave, and workers in the formal economy, migrant workers and women - who make up the majority of care workers, both paid and unpaid - will be particularly affected. It is estimated that 1.52 billion children and youth are currently out of school or university, not only disrupting education but also leaving them vulnerable to increased hunger, child marriage, and domestic abuse.
ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The ILO has announced the onset of a global recession as bad as - or even worse - than that of 2009.
5 - 25 million jobs lost (ILO)
US$ 860 billion – US$ 3.4 trillion losses in labor income (ILO)
30% -- 40% downward pressure on global foreign direct investment flows (UNCTAD)
20% – 30% decline in international arrivals (UNWTO)
3.6 billion people offline (ITU)
1.5 billion students out of school (UNESCO)
To face this challenge, the UN’s report, published on 31 March 2020, sets out a roadmap of shared responsibility and global solidarity on three fronts: suppressing the transmission of the virus to control the pandemic; safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods; learning from this human crisis to “build back better”. A Global Road Map for Shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity
On the first front, the report calls for everyone to support the multilateral effort to stop the pandemic, led by the World Health Organization, and for scientific collaboration to develop a vaccine and effective therapeutics. Universal access to vaccines and treatment must be assured. In these efforts, the report calls for a people-centred approach encompassing community engagement, respect for human rights and inclusion, gender equality and dignity for all.
To safeguard lives, livelihoods and the economy, the report sets out examples of action at the global, regional and national levels to cushion the impacts of the virus. Examples include fiscal stimulus and “do no harm” trade policies; direct provision of resources to support workers and households; provision of health and unemployment insurance; scaling-up of social protection; and support to businesses (particularly SMEs) to prevent bankruptcies and job loss. In particular the report recognises the importance of protecting the situation of women, girls and young people.
Looking to the future, the report rightly notes that “the world will be faced with a choice in its recovery. Go back to the world we knew before or deal decisively with those issues that make everyone unnecessarily vulnerable to this and future crises.” There is an opportunity to collectively learn the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis and use them to build a more cooperative society marked by stronger health systems, gender equality, reductions in extreme poverty, and decisive action on the climate emergency. The road map for this already exists in the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
With the right actions, the COVID-19 pandemic can mark the rebirthing of society as we know it today to one where we protect present and future generations.
Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19
Partnerships as the “Cornerstone for Progress”
In this defining moment in history, the report reminds us that our success will be measured by our ability to cooperate, coordinate, and act to protect the most vulnerable members of our global society, and to build a more equal and resilient future for all. Governments, business and communities need to work together to find an exit strategy, and guard against the temptations of protectionism and isolationism. Civil society, women’s and grassroots organizations, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations must be included because they may be the primary - or only - point of contact for the most affected people.
The United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund
Launched on 30 March 2020, the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund is designed to help low- and middle-income countries respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
It utilises UN infrastructure - particularly UN Resident Coordinators working alongside national governments and NGOs - to provide technical and financial support for
The Fund will complement the WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and focuses on countries not included in the OCHA’s Consolidated Global Humanitarian Appeal for COVID-19.
An initial US $1 billion is needed for the first nine months. The fund is open to contributions from individuals, businesses, philanthropic foundations and IFIs, as well as donor governments.
A Specific Role for Business
The UN is now calling on all businesses to help scale the response across all sectors and countries, through their “supply chains, warehouses, resources and people power.” In particular, the report sets out three actions that all companies can take to support the global response:
In line with this Shared Responsibility call by the UN, Business Fights Poverty is adding daily to a Response Centre that provides business with practical tools to help companies take action to support the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. The Response Centre can be accessed for free here: https://snipbfp.org/C19_ResponseCentre
These resources have been developed by Business Fights Poverty in partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School Corporate Responsibility Initiative and other partners, and are funded with UK aid from the UK Government and a core group of supporting companies.
The Response Centre includes a searchable COVID-19 Action Mapping Tool of close to 300 examples of best practice, a Response Framework, and toolkits with specifc specific guidance, including on how businesses can support MSMEs in their value chains, how they can help their NGO partners and how they can respond to an increase in gender-based violence. Visit the site to these and other resources, and learn how to get involved.
We invite other individuals, businesses, civil society organizations, government agencies and networks to participate in our rapid co-creation process to scale our collective effort to drive global learning and local action to fight COVID-19. To find out more, visit: https://snipbfp.org/coronavirus