Declines in fundamental areas of human development are being felt across most countries
by United Nations Development Programme
Global human development – which can be measured as a combination of the world’s education, health and living standards – may well decline this year for the first time since the concept was introduced in 1990, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned.
“The world has seen many crises over the past 30 years, including the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09. Each has hit human development hard but, overall, development gains accrued globally year-on-year,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. “COVID-19 – with its triple hit to health, education, and income – may change this trend.”
Declines in fundamental areas of human development are being felt across most countries - rich and poor - in every region.
COVID-19’s global death toll has exceeded 300,000 people, while the global per capita income this year is expected to fall by four per cent.
With school closures, UNDP estimates of the “effective out-of-school rate”—the percentage of primary school-age children, adjusted to reflect those without internet access—indicate that 60 per cent of children are not getting an education, leading to global levels not seen since the 1980s.
The combined impact of these shocks could signify the largest reversal in human development on record.
This is not counting other significant effects, for instance, in the progress towards gender equality. The negative impacts on women and girls span economic - earning and saving less and greater job insecurity, reproductive health, unpaid care work and gender-based violence.
The drop in human development is expected to be much higher in developing countries that are less able to cope with the pandemic’s social and economic fallout than richer nations.
In education, with schools closed and stark divides in access to online learning, UNDP estimates show that 86 percent of children in primary education are now effectively out-of-school in countries with low human development—compared with just 20 percent in countries with very high human development.
But with more equitable internet access, - where countries close the gap with leaders in their development group, something feasible – the current gaps in education could narrow considerably.
Determined, equity-focused interventions can help economies and societies rally, mitigating the far-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This crisis shows that if we fail to bring equity into the policy toolkit, many will fall further behind. This is particularly important for the ‘new necessities’ of the 21st century, such as access to the internet, which is helping us to benefit from tele-education, tele-medicine, and to work from home,” says Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP.
Implementing equity-focused approaches would be affordable. For instance, closing the gap in access to the internet for low and middle-income countries is estimated to cost just one per cent of the extraordinary fiscal support packages the world has so far committed to respond to COVID-19.
The importance of equity is emphasized in the United Nations’ framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 crisis, which sets out a green, gender-equal, good governance baseline from which to build a ‘new normal”.
It recommends five priority steps to tackle the complexity of this crisis: protecting health systems and services; ramping up social protection; protecting jobs, small and medium-sized businesses and informal sector workers; making macroeconomic policies work for everyone; and promoting peace, good governance and trust to build social cohesion. UNDP calls on the international community to rapidly invest in the ability of developing countries to follow these steps.
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The People''s Vaccine. Available to All. In all Countries. Free of Charge
by UNAIDS, Oxfam, agencies
14 May 2020
Uniting behind a people’s vaccine against COVID-19 - More than 140 world leaders, experts and elders have made an unprecedented call for guarantees that COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, tests and treatments will be provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere.
''Humanity today, in all its fragility, is searching for an effective and safe vaccine against COVID-19. It is our best hope of putting a stop to this painful global pandemic.
We are calling on Health Ministers at the World Health Assembly to rally behind a people’s vaccine against this disease urgently. Governments and international partners must unite around a global guarantee which ensures that, when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it is produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people, in all countries, free of charge. The same applies for all treatments, diagnostics, and other technologies for COVID-19.
We recognize that many countries and international organizations are making progress towards this goal, cooperating multilaterally on research and development, funding and access, including the welcome $8 billion pledged on 4th May.
Thanks to tireless public and private sector efforts and billions of dollars of publicly-financed research, many vaccine candidates are proceeding with unprecedented speed and several have begun clinical trials.
Our world will only be safer once everyone can benefit from the science and access a vaccine - and that is a political challenge. The World Health Assembly must forge a global agreement that ensures rapid universal access to quality-assured vaccines and treatments with need prioritized above the ability to pay.
It is time for Health Ministers to renew the commitments made at the founding of the World Health Organization, where all states agreed to deliver the “the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being”.
Now is not the time to allow the interests of the wealthiest corporations and governments to be placed before the universal need to save lives, or to leave this massive and moral task to market forces.
Access to vaccines and treatments as global public goods are in the interests of all humanity. We cannot afford for monopolies, crude competition and near-sighted nationalism to stand in the way.
We must heed the warning that “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” We must learn the painful lessons from a history of unequal access in dealing with disease such as HIV and Ebola. But we must also remember the ground-breaking victories of health movements, including AIDS activists and advocates who fought for access to affordable medicines for all.
Applying both sets of lessons, we call for a global agreement on COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments – implemented under the leadership of the World Health Organization – that:
Ensures mandatory worldwide sharing of all COVID-19 related knowledge, data and technologies with a pool of COVID-19 licenses freely available to all countries. Countries should be empowered and enabled to make full use of agreed safeguards and flexibilities in the WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health to protect access to medicines for all.
Establishes a global and equitable rapid manufacturing and distribution plan – that is fully-funded by rich nations – for the vaccine and all COVID-19 products and technologies that guarantees transparent ‘at true cost-prices’ and supplies according to need. Action must start urgently to massively build capacity worldwide to manufacture billions of vaccine doses and to recruit and train the millions of paid and protected health workers needed to deliver them.
Guarantees COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, tests and treatments are provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere. Access needs to be prioritized first for front-line workers, the most vulnerable people, and for poor countries with the least capacity to save lives.
In doing so, no one can be left behind. Transparent democratic governance must be set in place by the WHO, inclusive of independent expertise and civil society partners, which is essential to lock-in accountability for this agreement.
In doing so, we also recognize the urgent need to reform and strengthen public health systems worldwide, removing all barriers so that rich and poor alike can access the health care, technologies and medicines they need, free at the point of need.
Only a people’s vaccine – with equality and solidarity at its core – can protect all of humanity and get our societies safely running again. A bold international agreement cannot wait''.
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