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Guterres: Poverty could rise by 500 million people

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres UN 4 February 2020 WPP photo

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres UN 4 February 2020 WPP photo

WebPublicPress (New York) United Nations – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres talked to the journalist in a virtual press conference in order  to update the what UN have been doing on COVID-19, which as UN chief said “continues its path of worsening destruction.” Here is what said.

“We mourn the lives lost – more than 200,000. We despair that many more will follow, particularly in places least able to cope. I am particularly worried about the lack of sufficient solidarity with developing countries — both in equipping them to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which risks spreading like wildfire, and to address the dramatic economic and social impacts.

As the virus rages, the United Nations has mobilized fully to save lives, stave off famine, ease the pain and plan for recovery. Our voice has been clear, calling for solidarity, unity and hope. We appealed for a global ceasefire so that the world can face together our common enemy: COVID-19.

We set out a U.S.$2 billion Global Humanitarian Response Plan for the most vulnerable populations, including refugees and internally displaced persons. Donors have generously pledged $1 billion. The plan must be fully funded.

With the World Health Organization, we participated in the launch of the ACT Accelerator – a global collaboration to speed up the development, production and equitable access to new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

These must be available to everyone, everywhere, and they must be affordable as a quintessential global public good.  I call on donors to help kick-start this effort with generous contributions at Monday’s pledging summit in Brussels.

We placed the UN system network of supply chains at the disposal of developing countries – and millions of test kits, respirators and surgical masks have now reached more than 100 countries. Our solidarity flights have now delivered almost 1,200 metric tons of test kits and other essential medical supplies to 52 countries in Africa.

We appealed for compassion and mutual respect in response to COVID-related stigma and hate speech. And since the beginning, mobilizing contributions from the entire UN family, a series of reports and policy briefs have provided analysis and advice for an effective, coordinated response by the international community.

Our first report documented the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19, and was followed by a framework to guide our country teams in their support of government action in response and recovery.

We highlighted the disproportionate impacts on women, including a horrifying rise in domestic violence. One hundred and forty-six governments have voiced their support for my call, and for the proposals I made.

We underscored the dangers facing children, including the approximately 1.6 billion children and young people who are out of school.

UN agencies raised the alert about the risk of rising food insecurity. An additional 130 million people could be suffering acute hunger by the end of the year.

We provided guidance on how to address the increasingly urgent human rights dimensions of COVID-19, and how to fight the spread of lies and misinformation.

Tomorrow, we will issue a report on the particular vulnerability of older persons, to be followed by our analysis of the consequences of COVID-19 for persons with disabilities and the impacts on mental health.

The United Nations is also fully engaged on the ground.  Our country teams are working in coordination with Governments to mobilize funding, to assist health ministries on preparedness and response to stay ahead of the curve, and to support economic and social measures, from food security and home schooling to cash transfers and many others.

Our peace operations continue to carry out their important protection mandates, and to support peace and political processes. Our humanitarian agencies, despite access challenges, are making sure that humanitarian assistance does not stop. They are reaching more than 110 million people in 57 countries.

I also welcome the two resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, reflecting the determination of Member States to cooperate in addressing the pandemic and enhancing access to medicines and vaccines.

Today I would like to highlight three key dimensions of our efforts. First, achieving a global cease-fire.

The cease-fire call has resonated widely, with endorsements from 114 Governments, diverse regional organizations, religious leaders and more than 200 civil society groups spanning all regions. Among all those, there were 16 armed groups.

But we know that mistrust remains high, and that it is difficult to move to implementation. My special representatives and envoys are working tirelessly, with my own direct involvement when necessary, to turn expressed intentions into effective cease-fires.

In Syria, the Idlib cease-fire is holding but we are still hopeful for a country-wide end to hostilities. In Libya, regrettably, we have seen an escalation despite all our efforts and those of many others in the international community. Yesterday’s declarations give us a glimpse of hope that a cessation of hostilities remains possible. In Afghanistan, we are pushing hard for a humanitarian cease-fire between the Government and the Taliban.

I believe that there is an opportunity for peace in Yemen. All parties have expressed support for my appeal, Saudi Arabia has declared a temporary unilateral cease-fire, and we are actively engaging with all the parties and key regional and global actors, aiming at a permanent cease-fire, a set of confidence building measures and the possibility of opening a political process. With the first two COVID-19 deaths registered in the country just yesterday, it is time for all to recognize that the Yemeni people have suffered too much.

All our efforts depend on strong political backing.  It is my hope the Security Council will be able to find unity and adopt decisions that can help to make cease-fires meaningful and real.  Second, we are addressing the immediate needs of people facing the most dire economic plight.

The International Labour Organization reported this week that the global workforce will be hit with the equivalent of the loss of more than 300 million jobs.  Millions of children are in danger of missing life-saving vaccines.  Remittances are in sharp decline, as are flows of foreign direct investment.

Poverty could rise by 500 million people – the first increase in three decades. I continue to advocate a global relief package amounting to a double-digit percentage of the global economy – which means at least 10 per cent. Most developed countries can do this with their own resources, and some are doing it. But developing countries need massive and urgent support.

The International Monetary Fund has already approved $12.3 billion in emergency financing to a first group of 36 developing countries of the more than 100 that requested it.

The World Bank has indicated that with new and existing resources, it can provide $160 billion of financing over the next 15 months. The G20 has endorsed the suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries.

I fully appreciate these steps, which can protect people, jobs and development gains.  But even this is not enough.  I have been consistently urging the issuance of new Special Drawing Rights to increase the financial firepower of the Fund.  The debt moratorium must be extended to all developing countries that are unable to service their debt, including several middle-income countries.

That initial debt moratorium must be followed by targeted debt relief, and by a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture, to prevent defaults leading to prolonged financial and economic crises. Third, planning for a better recovery must start now — for we will recover.  Recovery from COVID-19 can help to steer the world onto a safer, healthier, more sustainable and inclusive path,” UN Secretary General said.

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