International- Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the opening of the 2021 Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development:
More than 3 million people have lost their lives. Some 120 million people have fallen back into extreme poverty, while about 255 million full-time jobs have been lost. We have seen the worst recession in 90 years.
Advancing an equitable global response and recovery from the pandemic is putting multilateralism to the test. So far, it is a test we have failed. The vaccination effort is one example. Just 10 countries across the world account for around 75 per cent of global vaccinations. Many countries have yet to start vaccinating their health-care workers and most vulnerable citizens. A global vaccine gap threatens everyone’s health and well-being. The virus is dangerous everywhere if it spreads unchecked anywhere. And global value chains do not function if one link is broken.
Inequalities are also growing within countries, as women and girls and the most vulnerable groups have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. Nearly 170 million children around the world have been out of school for a year. We face a global education crisis with a devastating long-term impact on individuals and their communities, which could contribute to inequality across the generations.
We are here today to set the course for an equitable, sustainable and resilient response and recovery from COVID-19. I call for urgent action in six areas.
First, vaccines must be available to all countries in need. We must close the funding gap of the COVAX facility. To end the pandemic for good, we need equitable access to vaccines for everyone, everywhere.
Second, we must reverse the fall in concessional financing, including in middle-income countries. Development assistance is needed more than ever, and I urge donors and international institutions to step up.
Third, we must make sure funds go where they are needed most. Latest reports indicate that there has been a $5 trillion surge in the wealth of the world’s richest in the past year. I urge Governments to consider a solidarity or wealth tax on those who have profited during the pandemic, to reduce extreme inequalities.
Fourth, we must address the debt crisis with debt suspension, relief, and liquidity provided for countries that need it. The G20’s support for an extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) to the end of this year is welcome; but I urge a further extension into 2022.
Fifth, we must invest in people. We need a new social contract, based on solidarity and investments in education, decent and green jobs, social protection, and health systems. This is the foundation for sustainable and inclusive development.
Sixth, we need to relaunch economies in a sustainable and equitable manner, consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. The latest report by the United Nations Environment Programme showed that just 2.5 per cent of recovery spending has positive, green characteristics.
We are missing a once-in-a-generation opportunity for bold, creative solutions that will strengthen the response and recovery, while accelerating progress across the entire 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. The COVID-19 pandemic is our most immediate challenge. But we cannot ignore the other significant fragilities it has highlighted.
Climate change increasingly threatens the future of people and planet. We urgently need to implement policies and set targets and timelines to cut greenhouse gases to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Consumers and investors are demanding sustainable business and investment. We need a paradigm shift that aligns the private sector with the SDGs. To address the challenges of the future, including those revealed by COVID-19, we need an enormous push at the highest political level.
I urge everyone here today to participate. This Forum must provide ambition and momentum, to finance a resilient, inclusive, equitable and sustainable future for all.