Warning Pandemic Has Pushed 120 Million People Back into Extreme Poverty, Secretary-General Says Solidarity Will Save Lives, Prevent Catastrophic Debt
The Economic and Social Council opened its annual financing for development forum today amid warnings that, with more than 3 million lives lost to COVID-19 and infections still on the rise, Governments must urgently heed the lessons learned thus far if they are to avoid a lengthy global recession.
“Solidarity will save lives and prevent communities and economies from falling into catastrophic debt and dysfunction,” Secretary-General António Guterres said as he opened the four-day forum in the General Assembly Hall and made the case for choosing an equitable path towards recovery.
Stressing that no element of the multilateral response has gone as it should, he said some 120 million people have fallen back into extreme poverty and the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs have been lost. Just 10 countries account for 75 per cent of global vaccinations, while many others have yet to inoculate their health‑care workers and most vulnerable citizens. Many developing countries face insurmountable debt that will put the Sustainable Development Goals out of reach. Some estimates place the global cost of unequal access and vaccine hoarding at more than $9 trillion.
He called for urgent action — first and foremost to make vaccines available to all countries. It is also important to reverse the fall in concessional financing, including in middle-income countries, and he urged Governments to consider a “solidarity or wealth tax” on those who have profited during the pandemic. More broadly, he called for debt suspension, relief and liquidity for countries that need it, as well as extension of the Group of 20 (G20) Debt Service Suspension Initiative until 2022, and expansion of both that programme and the bloc’s Common Framework to include all countries in need.
Beyond debt relief, he recommended bolstering the international debt architecture, starting with a time-bound, open dialogue among all stakeholders to build trust. Finally, a new social contract based on investments in education, decent and green jobs, social protection and health systems is needed. With just 2.5 per cent of recovery spending having green characteristics, he said the world is missing a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for bold, creative solutions.
“We need an enormous push at the highest political level,” he said, urging the Forum to provide ambition and momentum for financing an inclusive and equitable future for all.
Along similar lines, Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, acknowledged that the pandemic has precipitated the single largest economic contraction in 90 years. The international community must seize the opportunity to mobilize resources in a way that promotes equitable and sustainable recovery.
“We must move beyond rhetoric and mobilize financing for development,” he said, urging all Member States to recommit themselves to leaving no one behind. Noting that the most vulnerable countries have received woefully inadequate resources to promote their recovery, he said “it will take at least five years for least developed countries to reach their pre-pandemic development levels.” He called for a shift towards debt forgiveness and cancellation, and a push for donor countries to fulfil their official development assistance (ODA) commitments.
The meeting — chaired by Munir Akram (Pakistan) — also featured a video message by Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, who called on the international community to ensure that vaccines are available to everyone, everywhere, as soon as possible. To this end, patent and technology-transfer restrictions should be waived and production ramped up. He condemned vaccine nationalism and any use of the vaccine to advance national foreign policy objectives.
More broadly, he welcomed the G20’s extension of debt suspension, but stressed that its scope should be enlarged to encompass all vulnerable countries, especially small island developing States. Further, the forthcoming International Development Association replenishment should be enlarged to $60 billion, he said, and developing countries should be able to borrow from the markets at the prevailing low interest rates available to developed countries.
He concluded by endorsing the United States’ recent proposal for a global minimum corporate tax, expressing support for the declaration of a moratorium on exorbitant claims adjudicated against developing countries in investment disputes, and emphasizing that unequal, exploitative investment agreements should be cancelled and revised.
In the ensuing general debate on financing the recovery from COVID-19, Heads of State and Government from across the globe addressed the Forum in person — and through pre‑recorded video statements — reaffirming their commitment to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, adopted at the third International Conference on Financing for Development in 2015. Almost all of them called for greater partnership to counteract the deleterious and expanding impact of the pandemic, with many specifying the need for debt suspension and a more precise economic vulnerability index to capture the needs of middle-income nations.
The forum will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 April, to continue its work.
Special Segment on Financing the Recovery from COVID-19
LAZARUS MCCARTHY CHAKWERA, President of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries and associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, made an urgent call for increased vaccine access and adequate and predictable funding for the COVAX Facility, to ensure that COVID‑19 vaccines can reach the widest possible population. To that end, he pledged support for India and South Africa’s call for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily suspend the application of trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights in order to increase vaccine access.
Commending the World Bank for its Debt Service Suspension Initiative, he called its expansion and extension. In order for least developed countries to overcome the economic shocks of the pandemic there must be a full cancellation of their bilateral, multilateral and commercial debts, he said, declaring: “Least developed countries require an enhanced international development cooperation framework to strengthen national capacities and put in place mechanisms for risk reduction and prevention.” Key to any recovery effort is the alignment of the strategies of international development partners with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the fulfilment by donor countries of their official development assistance (ODA) commitments as stipulated in the Istanbul Programme of Action. In closing, he called for innovative financing tools to be tailored to the needs of least developed countries.
CARLOS ALVARADO QUESADA, President of Costa Rica, said developing countries lack the internal resources and fiscal space to mount robust responses to the economic consequences of the pandemic. The international community has failed in its response to the pandemic, he said, warning the gathering that the world may find itself at the beginning of a lost decade in which sustainable development is placed on the backburner and scores of people see their fundamental rights violated. He called for innovative methods to provide developing countries with the fiscal space to respond to the crisis and support the Sustainable Development Goals. “No country must be excluded from just financing from development,” he stated.
MOKGWEETSI ERIC KEABETSWE MASISI, President of Botswana, said the pace of vaccine delivery to Africa has been slow and he called for “sanity and steadfastness” to prevail in addressing of procurement and distribution issues. More broadly, action should be taken to make policy options more effective and inclusive, he said, commending large economies, the Group of 20 (G20) and the Bretton Woods institutions for recognizing the importance of targeted policy actions. He called on creditors to provide grants to low‑ and middle-income countries, suspend loan repayments — and where possible — write them off. Stressing that Governments and their central banks must devise cutting-edge monetary policies and development financing instruments to support medium- and long-term recovery, he said the capacity-building of small and vulnerable States should be considered in addressing tax evasion and illicit financial flows. In Botswana, public finances were redirected towards health spending, as well as economic and social support for firms and households during the pandemic. However, the fiscal deficit has ballooned and negotiations for budget support are under way with the World Bank and the African Development Bank, with part of the funding to cover the cost of vaccines.
IVÁN DUQUE MÁRQUEZ, President of Colombia, said the COVID-19 response cannot be separated from the 2030 Agenda, which is the most effective tool for improving health outcomes and addressing the climate crisis, poverty and social inequality. Robust economies must support emerging ones, while international financial institutions must be flexible in their efforts. For its part, Colombia has protected its social fabric and developed tools to reactivate productive capacity, which have led to progress in reducing poverty and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It has invested heavily in projects to support older people, vulnerable families, young people, housing health and education. The country also has launched an ambitious economic recovery plan called “Commitment for Colombia”, investing 144 billion pesos into 551 projects aimed at creating more than 2.6 million jobs. Guided by the priorities set forth in the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2020-2023, the plan will benefit the entire population.
GASTON ALPHONSO BROWNE, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said that small island developing States face the greatest pressure from COVID-19 as the pandemic — coupled with existing global challenges like climate change and growing inequality — represents “the biggest stress test that we have ever faced”. These States face unprecedented challenges in access to essential medicine and ensuring the widespread global availability of COVID-19 vaccines is critical not only for controlling the pandemic, but also for the recovery of these vulnerable States. He noted, however, that significant disparities remain in vaccine access despite efforts to address this issue.
He also pointed out that small island States have always been inherently susceptible to external economic and financial shocks, as their small, open and remote economies lack diversification and are heavily reliant on imports. The debt-to-gross-domestic-product (GDP) ratio of these States has “skyrocketed to unsustainable levels”, and borrowings originally intended for development have been redirected for budgetary support and pandemic‑relief measures. New special drawing rights should be complemented by an increase in multilateral and regional development bank financing. Further, he said that commercial, private and Government creditors should consider providing tailored debt relief to these States, waiving debt repayment for this year as a short-term measure and implementing debt forgiveness as part of a long-term solution.
MANUEL MARRERO CRUZ, Prime Minister of Cuba, pointed out that developing countries must address such challenges as increasing health gaps, food insecurity, foreign debt and poverty while also addressing the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, which stands in contrast to some Powers that spend billions of dollars on their military and impose unilateral coercive measures that violate both the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Cuba still suffers as a result of the longest economic blockade in history, imposed by the aggressive Government of the United States even during the pandemic; more than 240 measures adopted by the outgoing United States Administration are still in force. He called on the international community to support the efforts of developing countries through specific actions to facilitate North-South cooperation and to address growing foreign debt.
MOEKETSI MAJORO, Prime Minister of Lesotho, called on global leaders to re‑invest in sustainable and inclusive recovery strategies to accelerate progress towards the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Global inequities are highlighted by the vaccine rollout, he said, noting that wealthy countries should have pursued inclusive distribution strategies rather than rush to secure doses for themselves. “The COVAX initiative, which aims to secure a wider and fairer distribution of vaccines across the globe, requires our full support,” he stressed, adding that debt‑relief processes and increased foreign direct investment remain essential to the recovery process. “As economies reopen and demand picks up in the productive sectors, investments in a diverse array of ventures are desperately needed,” he concluded.
JUTTA URPILAINEN, observer for the European Union, said: “COVID-19 has turned our world upside down. It has magnified the challenges to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.” In order to work towards a green, digital, fair and resilient recovery, the bloc is prioritizing linking debt relief and investment to the Sustainable Development Goals. To that end, the European Union has mobilized over €40 billion to support response efforts of its partner countries, driven global debt relief efforts and worked towards vaccine solidarity through the COVAX Facility.
As recovery efforts advance, priority must be placed on allowing debt to return to sustainable levels and to incentivize green and digital transitions. While the European Union is the leading global donor of ODA, she acknowledged that such assistance alone cannot fill the Sustainable Development Goal financing gap. Long-term sustainable recovery requires public and private resources that must be channelled to the right investment opportunities. “We need to raise more revenue, and just as importantly, we need to fight tax evasion, illicit financial flows and corruption,” she said.
UŠRINĖ ARMONAITĖ, Minister for Economics and Innovation of Lithuania, said the pandemic should not only be considered a challenge but an opportunity to create new productive capacities that ensure an inclusive resilient recovery. She called for fair, timely access to vaccines through the COVAX Facility, noting that security access requires partnership. In the European Union, if all contracted pharmacies succeed, the bloc can share its supply with partner countries. “This issue remains especially relevant,” she said, while also encouraging the mobilization of domestic resources as one of the most reliable pillars of sustainable development. Lithuania’s economy has withstood the challenges of the pandemic as one of only two European Union economies that did not contract in 2020. Lithuania is committed to multilateralism and follows the spirit of inclusiveness and dialogue at all levels, she assured.
ALA EL-SAID, Minister for Planning and Economic Development of Egypt, said progress to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals was interrupted by COVID-19, calling for bold, rapid policy interventions and sufficient mobilization of finance. She called for scaling up quality investments, creating decent jobs, and enacting timely and effective public investments. For its part, Egypt implemented several response measures, rearranging its development priorities, prioritizing within sectors — such as information and communications technology (ICT) and agriculture — and accelerating the momentum towards a green economy, by issuing green bonds. A sovereign fund was created to invest in domestic and foreign markets, unlocking the value of Egypt’s resources. She called for reinforced regional and international cooperation aimed at developing a comprehensive framework based on the principles of equity, and common but differentiated responsibilities.
KARINA GOULD, Minister for International Development of Canada, noting the concerns of countries vulnerable to economic shocks and climate risks — such as small island developing States — regarding barriers to debt treatment and the impact of the current crisis on future credit ratings, said that Canada is pleased to be a part of the debt-suspension initiative implemented by the G20 and the Paris Club. This initiative provided over $5 billion in debt relief in 2020. She also detailed Canada’s provision of $3 billion for a trust fund to reduce poverty and mobilization of $1.6 billion for the global pandemic response. She stressed the need for the international community to pursue the sustainable development goals so that the pandemic does not cause a lost decade of development.
CARLOS DOMINGUEZ, Secretary of Finance of the Philippines, said that, while the availability of COVID-19 vaccines brings much optimism and hope for the world, these vaccines have become another source of inequality between high- and low‑income countries. While the COVAX Facility has proven to be a just, effective mechanism for bringing vaccine doses to developing countries, a much broader framework for cooperation is needed and rich countries, multilateral financial institutions and global organizations must ensure accessible, affordable vaccines for low-income countries. Noting the work of his country’s multilateral partners — the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank — in providing financing support for the Philippines’ pandemic response measures, he said this serves as an excellent example of close coordination among development partners.
MAMBURY NJIE, Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs of the Gambia, associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the pandemic has stretched the resilience of all Gambians and reinforced widened economic inequalities that disproportionately affect developing countries. The Government reallocated budgetary resources equivalent to approximately 0.5 per cent of GDP to the health sector to help implement the national health‑response strategy, which has since been supplemented by support from development partners. To address food and nutritional insecurity, food support was provided to 84 per cent of households in the Gambia, complemented by cash transfers to vulnerable households and individuals. Radio, television and online classes were introduced to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on education. The Government has strengthened social services to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and is implementing its vaccination plan that is currently prioritizing front-line responders. The economic response to the pandemic must recognize the context of low-income countries, he stressed.
AUGUSTO SANTOS SILVA, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Portugal, said the world is in serious crisis, and the international community cannot lose sight of long-term goals while also seeking to address immediate needs. He assured Member States that the 2030 Agenda provides the road map to build back better from the pandemic. Portugal has been making efforts to rise to the challenge, providing 60 per cent of its ODA to least developed countries and 20 per cent to low- and middle-income countries, and directing a significant share of cooperation assistance to education, health and agriculture. Portugal responded to the Secretary-General’s call and is actively supporting recovery efforts, including by channelling 70 per cent of its ODA through multilateral organizations, including United Nations funds and programmes. He said his Government is committed to a strong European response to the crisis. Further, Portugal will donate at least 5 per cent of its vaccine doses to developing countries, focusing on Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa and Asia.
RENGANADEN PADAYACHY, Minister for Finance, Economic Planning and Development of Mauritius, said that, in the aftermath of the pandemic, forging ahead requires the creation of a more resilient economic model. While the vaccine rollout brings hope, he underscored the need for equitable and affordable access. Mauritius is striving to vaccinate 60 per cent of its population by the end of July, in order to achieve herd immunity and reopen its borders. Investment in national health systems must be encouraged to address future disease outbreak. The development of guidelines and best practices by the United Nations is most relevant in such efforts. He pressed the international community to give special attention to small island developing States, like Mauritius, where GDP contracted by 14.9 per cent in 2020 and public sector debt soared, due to the unforeseen spending needed to protect the health of its citizens. Its debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 84.5 per cent at the end of 2020. He urged development partners to support debt relief and adopt flexible and concessional support measures.
CARLOS ALBERTO MADERO ERAZO, Minster for General Government Coordination of Honduras, said his country’s GDP fell 9.6 per cent due to the pandemic and damage caused by two hurricanes. In response, the Government adopted several measures, devoting 8 billion lempiras to bolstering the health system and protecting the most vulnerable. He drew attention to the serious situation in the wake of hurricanes Ito and Iota, noting that the United Nations assessment formed the cornerstone of the national development plan, which aims to address economic and environmental disaster, enable productive transformation and ensure mitigation and adaptation to climate change. He called for a new financing scheme to ensure sustainable development, stressing that, “if financing is not timely, it is not sustainable”.
PER OLSSON FRIDH, Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the global interconnectivity of policy and people, said that the development of safe, effective vaccines is a shining example of how cooperative efforts will be able to end the pandemic and begin the road to recovery. These vaccines must reach everyone, he said, stressing that the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT‑Accelerator) and COVAX Facility play a key role in this regard. New forms of partnerships and innovative financing are needed to achieve the sustainable development goals and to ensure a resilient recovery from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He underscored the importance of engaging all creditors to “let the debt system be an instrument for green recovery” and of shifting financial flows by adopting green financial instruments and ceasing investments in fossil fuels.
FLEMMING MØLLER MORTENSEN, Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated both the value of solidarity and the cost of inaction. The world cannot afford to let inequality grow — as the number of people living in extreme poverty is increasing on a global level for the first time in 25 years — nor can it afford to ignore climate change, which will push an estimated additional 130 million into extreme poverty by 2030. Noting that Denmark has provided at least 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to development aid for the last 44 years, he encouraged more countries to do the same. He also called on the international community to fight tax evasion and fraud globally and locally to make sure that everyone pays their fair share and to partner with the private sector, as development and climate goals cannot be achieved without private financing.
FAIZIDDIN KAHHORZODA, Minister for Finance of Tajikistan, called on Member States to use the Forum as a tool to speed up recovery efforts. For its part, Tajikistan is implementing measures to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic by focusing on the medical sector through the purchase of new equipment and increasing the salaries of medical professionals. Within the private sector, the Government is granting loans at favourable rates to entrepreneurs, particularly women. Still, economic growth has slowed as inflation has increased. In response to these issues, he said Tajikistan is working with development banks and donor countries to mount a more formidable response to the crisis.
UKUR KANACHO YATANI, Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury and Planning of Kenya, said the economic shock of the pandemic resulted in a global economic contraction of 3.5 per cent, with Kenya’s economy growing by only 0.6 per cent in 2020. The pandemic adversely affected essential economic sectors and brought health‑care systems to the brink of collapse. In response, Kenya has rolled out an economic stimulus programme and a range of fiscal measures to aid individuals and businesses. He encouraged creditor nations to take the necessary measures to ensure developing countries have the fiscal space to fund recovery efforts and closed by calling for the waiver of patent rights to enable the manufacture of vaccines to guarantee their affordable access for all.
LYONPO NAMGAY TSHERING, Minister for Finance of Bhutan, said international solidarity and cooperation are even more critical as countries grapple with the far-reaching impact of COVID-19. The economic fallout in Bhutan has been severe. Lockdowns brought large parts of the economy to a halt; domestic revenue has fallen by 50 per cent and GDP is projected to plunge to negative-6.8 per cent. The national response plan includes fiscal and monetary measures, notably concessional access to finance, while other policy interventions include job creation, tax reforms to bolster the revenue base and concessional borrowing to improve the capital base. However, these recovery measures will be impossible without stronger international solidarity. He called for the creation of a liquidation facility and fund to defer loans, a new $500 billion allocation of special drawing rights for low- and middle-income countries and fulfilment of pledges to allocate 0.7 per cent of gross national income to ODA.
ALEXANDRA HILL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, recalled that her country had adopted a united approach to the 2030 Agenda, which now serves as a guide to recover from COVID-19. The Government supports research in health and vaccine development — a commitment now seen in several multilateral initiatives to ensure safe and equitable access to the vaccine. “We should now think about a much more inclusive approach” which considers the specificities of each region, she said, citing unequal treatment for middle-income countries. She also called for timely post-pandemic assistance for all countries, without distinction, and for a new method for rating countries, which sets aside criteria that have repeatedly proven to be limited. She also advocated for the provision of new, predictable and stable financial flows, given the substantial debt that many countries now face. “We must shoulder the commitments for which we are responsible to finance development,” she said.
OTHMAN JERANDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened global economic inequalities, and that some 50 million people are currently living in extreme poverty. The pandemic has left human suffering and loss in its wake, sparing no one, and the international community must work together to ensure economic recovery and increase future resilience. For its part, Tunisia has based its efforts on ensuring fair development and fair access to vaccines for all States, and to this end, he also underscored the importance of sufficient, timely financing for the COVAX mechanism. Further, he called on international institutions and donor States to heed the Secretary-General’s appeal to increase financial support for developing and least developed countries, which should be exonerated from all debt.
MERYAME KITIR, Minister for Development Cooperation and Major Cities of Belgium, said that equitable, affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines is a global public good and called on the international community to fully use flexibilities in the current intellectual property system to this end. She also stressed the need for a fair, inclusive global financial system, welcomed recent measures by the G20, Paris Club and others to address liquidity needs and debt vulnerabilities, and said that innovative legislation, such as Belgian laws regarding vulture funds can help bring private creditors to the table. Noting the changing climate and the unprecedented pace of biodiversity loss, she underscored that global health, development and the environment are closely linked and said that this connectivity should be reflected in national, regional and global recovery plans.
FRANZ FAYOT, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs of Luxembourg, said his Government continues to commit 1 per cent of its gross national income to ODA. Nevertheless, traditional grant-based aid will not suffice to fill financing gaps as the world works to recover from the pandemic and implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Over two decades, Luxembourg has built a financial ecosystem composed of investors, academia, technical assistance providers, networks, standard setters and a labelling agency, all working on promoting responsible, sustainable and inclusive financial services. In order to fill existing financing gaps, he said Luxembourg, in partnership with its African, European and United Nations partners, has provided concessional financing to several public-private funds to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. He concluded by asserting that, to meet the goal of building back better, the international community must come together to create innovative financing instruments.
KAMINA JOHNSON SMITH, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, said: “The extraordinary actions which are required for recovery now, will shape the economic and social prospects for development in the coming decade.” At their core, recovery efforts must be based on equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, at affordable prices, for all countries. Concurrently, the international community must focus on financing for development to ensure equitable access to international liquidity and the adequate financing of the Sustainable Development Goals. “We must achieve overdue reforms of the international financial architecture that can result in making the global economy more crisis-resilient and appropriately responsive to the multidimensional vulnerabilities of economies of developing countries,” she said. Pointing to the wide-ranging support afforded to the World Bank’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative, she said a number of feasible solutions have been presented to accelerate the global recovery. However, efforts must still focus on the establishment of a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism.
MUSTAPA MOHAMED, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in Charge of Economic Affairs of Malaysia, said his country’s economic growth, income streams and employment were all negatively impacted by COVID-19. In response, Malaysia has put in place economic stimulus packages amounting to 20 per cent of its GDP, increased health‑care spending and enacted loan moratoria to micro‑ and small businesses. It aims to vaccinate 80 per cent of its population by early 2022. Noting that automation and work-from-home are unlikely to revert to pre-pandemic norms, he pointed to signs of economic recovery, with the country’s central bank forecasting 6 to 7 per cent growth by the end of 2021. Underscoring Malaysia’s commitment to long-term fiscal consolidation, he said aims to increase productivity and “get ahead” in a post-pandemic world. Innovation-led growth and both public and private investment will be required. Domestically, Malaysia is focused on social protection, poverty alleviation, the retooling and retraining of workers and environmental sustainability. At the international level, he pressed countries to increase their cooperation, stressing that “we need to engage more with each other”.
MUSTAFA KAMAL, Minister for Finance of Bangladesh, said his country is rolling out a $14.6 billion stimulus package to address the severe economic impact of the pandemic. “The plan constitutes a far-sighted balance between lives and livelihood that has not only saved lives, but also returned jobs to millions and protected the most vulnerable sections of society,” he declared. Government action has also focused on accelerating vaccine access — an area in which Bangladesh is ahead of many developed and developing nations, with 5.14 million doses administered as of 25 March. Citing recent United Nations reports, he said that the coronavirus spread less rapidly and less severely in least developed countries. However, those countries face the most devastating economic fallout, due in large part to limited fiscal space, with the size of per‑capita fiscal stimulus in least developed countries remaining 580 times lower that in developed countries. “Developing countries need extensive long-term, low-cost financial support to overcome the adverse economic and social impact of the pandemic,” he said, calling for the recapitalization of multilateral and regional development banks and for the development of insurance mechanisms that that can minimize the risk of future crises.
SAMUEL D. TWEAH, Minister for Finance and Development Planning of Liberia, said epidemics do not distinguish between developed and developing countries. Calling for greater inclusion and financial equity in the search for solutions, he said that, while Liberia has received enormous support, it has been provided under a global framework of post-crisis response. He advocated for a new framework that anticipates crises, moving away from a “crisis response proclivity”. Further, there should be increased ODA to Africa, he said, noting that, while more than $33 trillion in global ODA has been spent to date, Africa’s share is a mere 3.9 per cent of that amount. He wondered which countries had received the lion’s share of assistance. Among other measures, he called for developing a comprehensive framework to bolster private sector deficiencies in developing countries, as the world has still not grappled with the slow pace of financial flows to Africa, stressing that the continent is where Latin America was 40 years ago on a per‑capita basis, a status quo which cannot continue.
MUHAMMETGELDI SERDAROV, Minister for Finance and Economy of Turkmenistan, called for a global approach to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals so as to leave no one behind. For its part, Turkmenistan has made significant progress towards the Goals through Government measures to strengthen the economy, foster new sectors outside of raw materials, develop new sources for industrial production and digitize the economy. He stressed the importance of implementing budgetary and monetary measures to assist businesses, avoid over-indebtedness and reduce the volatility of financial and trade markets. He also noted that WTO’s recent granting of observer status to Turkmenistan should serve to attract more foreign capital to the country.
ERIKA MOUYNES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Panama, pointing out that decisions taken today will have long-term consequences, said that “doing more of the same is unsustainable”, and would mean ignoring the scale of human suffering unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She called for continued support for the World Health Organization (WHO) — so that it can foster universal vaccine access — and for the COVAX mechanism, so that all countries can achieve herd immunity. Further, the financing gap must be closed, and vaccine nationalism rejected. “The pandemic affects all,” she continued, “but not equally” — for example Panama, as a developing country, is aware of the importance of avoiding over-indebtedness. Noting history’s teachings that decisions made during crises define the world, she called for the building of a more equitable, just and sustainable society.
MTHULI NCUBE, Minister for Finance of Zimbabwe, highlighted debt sustainability as a priority issues as the international community continues to strive for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. To that end, he called on relevant partners to address liquidity and debt challenges to guarantee social protection and the sustainable recovery of vulnerable populations. He voiced his support for the extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and for calls for its expansion to include vulnerable middle-income countries. Zimbabwe expects that the financing for development process in 2021 will prioritize initiatives to ensure developed countries deliver on their assistance commitments and that access to vaccines is equitable. “We reiterate that the success of the 2030 Agenda depends on our collective ability to mobilize the resources required to fund the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he concluded.
DJACOBA A.S. OLIVA TEHINDRAZANARIVELO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Madagascar, said the pandemic has slowed efforts to relaunch Madagascar’s economy that was already heavily burdened by debt prior to the onset of the pandemic. Madagascar is benefiting from the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and welcomed other debt‑relief measures that are allowing developing countries to speed their COVID-19 recovery processes. Still, he called for debt cancellation to provide developing countries the space to more effectively implement development agendas and regain the ground lost towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Madagascar, for its part, has integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into its national recovery efforts as a means to speed up their implementation.
SUHARSO MONOARFA, Minister for National Development Planning of Indonesia, called for filling the $2.5 trillion gap needed annually to finance the Sustainable Development Goals, notably through revitalization of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. “We need to connect the dots between those priorities and real needs on the ground,” he said, with adequate, long-term and predictable means of financing for the most vulnerable. Noting that Indonesia is exploring innovative financing mechanisms, including blended finance, to address this gap and citing the Green Sukuk initiative in particular, he said the country is also examining the use of Sustainable Development Goal bonds. It is ready to share its best practices and to learn from this forum, he said, highlighting the importance of leadership, innovation, openness and transparency.
ASHNI SINGH, Minister within the Office of the President with Responsibility for Finance of Guyana, said COVID-19 has wreaked more havoc than any other health issue in living memory. Low-lying coastal States like Guyana are working to address the challenges. Noting that revenues dropped by 5.5 per cent while spending increased more than 15 per cent, he said “COVID-19 is costing our economy”. As the toll is expected to increase further, more resources are required to ensure equitable access to health care. He expressed concern over the hurdles faced by developing countries in accessing vaccines at fair prices on fair terms. He emphasized the need for affordable access to vaccines for vulnerable States, full implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and fulfilling ODA requirements. A vulnerability index is also needed for determining access to concessional financing for countries like his own, which are classified as middle income, but face difficulties in accessing urgently needed financing. He likewise expressed disappointment that the developed country commitment to allocate $100 billion to climate finance has not been met.
JORGE ARREAZA MONTSERRAT, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Venezuela, said that the Latin America and Caribbean region has seen a reversal in efforts to overcome poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, representing a loss of at least 10 years in such efforts. He condemned the use of financial systems to impose colonial relations and control resources and rejected any measures aimed at restricting States’ financial capacities. Unilateral coercive measures imposed on Venezuela have caused losses in excess of $24 million for the country, and further, over $5.47 billion slated for the purchase of medicine and food for the Venezuelan people has been illegally blocked by international banks. Additionally, financial measures implemented by the European Union and the United States prevent access to the vaccine, and the threat of secondary sanctions represents the main obstacle to foreign investment and economic growth in Venezuela. Despite these cruel, imperial attacks — worse than the pandemic itself in their effects — he reiterated his country’s commitment to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and stated that the only way to overcome this multidimensional crisis is through a dialogue between equals.
TAO ZHANG, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said that the global economic outlook is improving, with global growth expected to be 6 per cent in 2021. However, many countries are expected to perform far worse growth than that rate. To improve the prospects of developing countries, vaccine access must be equitable, and assistance must be consistent with their needs. “Access to vaccines is the most effective weapon in the fight against the pandemic,” he noted, calling on all countries to prioritize health spending. For its part, IMF has delivered $110 billion in emergency loans to over 80 countries and has provided relief on IMF debt services. “We need to strengthen international cooperation to ensure the transformation of our economies,” he stressed, calling for increased focus on green economies and for increased commitments to provide developing countries with adequate financing to meet their development needs.
MARI ELKA PANGESTU, Managing Director, Development Policy and Partnerships, World Bank Group, said the Bank recently concluded its spring meetings with IMF amid unprecedented tragedy: 127 million COVID-19 infections and more than 2.8 million deaths. The virus is accentuating structural weaknesses, marked by collapsed businesses, lost jobs, depletion of savings and assets, and debt overhangs. Targeted investments will be key to the recovery. Characterizing the global outlook as “exceptionally uncertain”, she said the Bank’s commitments rose 65 per cent in 2020, the largest on record, amid expectations of an elevated level of delivery in 2021. Stressing that a healthy private sector is the cornerstone of the Bank’s strategy, she said that, in 2020, World Bank Group commitments topped $100 billion for the first time in history, including for emergency health-related programmes. The Bank expects vaccinations to reach $4 billion in commitments by mid-year, she said, adding that 144 countries, including 44 in sub-Saharan Africa, have concluded vaccine readiness assessments. She called for ensuring the vaccine supply is adequate and distributed fairly and that any excess supply can be redeployed without trade restrictions. If done quickly, the international community can control the pandemic and aim towards recovery, with growth potentially accelerating to 5 per cent. In the long-term, countries must move towards opportunities and solutions, without harming the environment or leaving millions in poverty.
JEFFREY SCHLAGENHAUF, Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), pointed out that, while the latest economic outlook projects that global GDP will bounce back by 5.6 per cent in 2021 and 4 per cent in 2022, the near-term outlook remains uncertain, dependent on the speed of vaccine rollout and the world’s ability to deliver economic recovery plans. For this, ODA is essential. Looking ahead, he stressed the importance of improving debt transparency, and to this end, OECD has launched an initiative to collect, analyse and report on the debt levels of low-income countries. “No blueprint for recovery is complete,” he cautioned, without reform of the international tax system and the international community has a unique opportunity to end the “race to the bottom” by implementing a minimum global tax. He stated that such reform would allocate $100 billion to countries in need while increasing tax revenue by at least the same amount.
AMERY BROWNE, Minister for Foreign and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, said the pandemic continues to threaten the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. However, the international community now has the opportunity to reassess mechanisms that can allow developing countries to assist their populations. Calling for an end to antiquated criteria in securing crucial recovery assistance, he said a multidimensional vulnerability index is needed to better reflect the realities of small island developing States. Turning to vaccine access, he said comprehensive vaccination will boost consumer confidence and accelerate economic recovery and drive growth. He reiterated calls to reassess issues of vaccine access faced by developing countries and called for initiatives that will ensure a more equitable future for all.
SIGRID KAAG, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of the Netherlands, said delivering on finance for development is a daunting task as the funding gap continues to widen as the effects of the pandemic grow deeper. She stressed that pre-pandemic assistance levels would not suffice and called for the massive mobilization of private finance to meet development needs. As such, she called on the international community to prioritize the allocation of new special drawing rights to increase liquidity. “We must use the full capacity of development banks,” she noted, while pledging €20 million to IMF poverty‑reduction programmes as part of broader efforts to accelerate global recovery efforts.
DAG-INGE ULSTEIN, Minister for International Development of Norway, said efforts to end the pandemic must cross borders between nations, budgets and public and private investments, as well as surmount barriers to “thinking new”. Stressing that COVID-19 is hitting the poorest the hardest, he said failing to halt this trend will cripple the world’s economies. Countries must be creative in seeking solutions, he said, citing the COVAX Facility as one such effort. “Global cooperation is our only choice,” he emphasized. “Vaccine nationalism will simply be self-defeating.” With that, he called for financing the response through a macroeconomic perspective, rather than relying on single sector efforts. He ended with a call for solidarity in ensuring equitable access and bolstering health systems.
USTAVO BELIZ, Secretary for Strategic Affairs in the Presidency of Argentina, said Latin America accounts for 4 per cent of the global population but 30 per cent of COVID-19 deaths. The region has earmarked 50 per cent of its exports for servicing its external debt — the highest ratio of all emerging regions. He denounced the divisive discourse between rich, poor and middle-income nations, noting that six of the seven countries in Latin America with the highest death toll are middle-income nations. Sustainable recovery will remain elusive without more participation in recovery policies. “We are facing a liquidity and financial crisis that is unprecedented,” he reiterated, noting that debt overhangs are amplifying the hardship. He advocated for debt relief, extending the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to middle-income countries, redistributing special drawing rights to those nations and ensuring that the vaccine is treated as a global public good.
ROGELIO MAITA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, pointing out that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated unemployment, poverty and inequality around the world, called for global debt-relief initiatives for developing countries and the refinancing of external debt at the global level. While economic recovery must be based on sustainable development, these initiatives will not be enough if the pandemic itself is not first resolved; to wit, a global solution is needed for a global problem as at least 70 per cent of the world’s population must be immunized in order to end the pandemic. Citing WHO data that 1 in 4 people in high-income countries are vaccinated compared to 1 in 500 in low-income countries, he said that this inequality means that those who usually lose — the poor — are losing again. Cautioning that the COVAX mechanism is insufficient and that nothing will change unless the international community ceases to be resigned to the fact that millions will die from lack of vaccine access, he called for overcoming commercial rules preventing vaccine distribution.
KEILA GRAMAJO, Secretary for Planning and Programming of Guatemala, said the Government took immediate actions following the detection of the first cases of COVID-19 in the country. Despite a quick response, Guatemala had to divert a large amount of its national resources to implement far-reaching social‑protection policies. Strains on the country’s economy were further exacerbated following the devastating effects of hurricanes Eta and Iota, which struck the region in the second half of 2020. Countries in the region face internal and external liquidity issues that hamper their recovery initiatives, she said, noting that Guatemala is working to kick‑start its key sectors to drive recovery and reduce risks of future crises. In calling for a “new multilateralism” based on a restructuring of international financial institutions, she said resources must be mobilized to benefit vulnerable populations. To that end, she concluded by inviting partner development organizations to provide development assistance to developing countries that are home to highly vulnerable populations.
ZOU JIAYI, Vice-Minister for Finance of China, said COVID-19 is under control within her country’s borders and that Beijing has led an extensive assistance initiative worldwide to accelerate pandemic recovery efforts and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Still, developing countries face particular difficulties that require strengthened economic recovery which improve fiscal policies. In addition, international institutions must renew efforts to increase liquidity that will allow for the implementation of sustainable development programmes in developing countries. She called for the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, including through the coordination of WHO, which can facilitate the rollout of vaccination programmes in developing countries.
PETER LAUNSKY-TIEFFENTHAL, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria, pointing out the importance of universal fair, affordable access to vaccines, said that “Team Europe” plays an important role in the international community’s efforts to ensure such access. Austria is committed to strengthening the European Union’s vaccine-sharing mechanism, and Europe’s COVID-19 external response has so far amounted to more than €40 billion. Further, Austria has supported the COVAX mechanism with €2.4 million, has contributed €2.7 million to the United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund and has supported international vaccine research in the amount of €31 million. While welcoming the fact that the COVAX mechanism has delivered more than 30 million vaccine doses to 54 countries, he said that this process must be expedited, calling for increased support to national vaccination programmes and health-system capacities in order to end the pandemic.
RYAN STRAUGHN, Minister for Finance of Barbados, cited the recent volcanic eruption in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which will impact that country’s development trajectory for years as a reality of all nations located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Hurricane Maria in 2017 is another example, meaning that no one can claim ignorance about the vulnerabilities facing small island developing States. Access to concessional financing is needed to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. He also supported the use of a vulnerability index and called for the provision of whatever budgetary support is needed to end the pandemic, made available to all developing States. The international community must also forge a clear framework for converting all related debt to 50‑year instruments in order to avoid steep debt overhangs and allow for addressing climate change, resilience and poverty.
ALEXANDER PANKIN, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the pandemic coincides with the Decade of Action to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda, challenging the world to return to the path of sustainable growth. He also advocated for universal access to vaccines, which the Russian Federation considers a global public good. To facilitate the recovery of global value chains and export revenues, trade barriers and unilateral coercive measures must end, he said, calling more broadly for collective efforts on debt relief, extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, and transparent coordination of economic policies among the world’s major economies. Recalling that many people suffer for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, he said “international solidarity must become an imperative of the Decade of Action.”
SANG WOOK HAM, Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, said the international community’s priority must be ensuring equitable access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, while investing in health systems, including through the continued financial support of the ACT-Accelerator and COVAX Facility. For its part, Seoul is providing development assistance to 120 countries and actively working towards ensuring equitable vaccine access. Further, the Government is supporting initiatives that address debt vulnerability and liquidity to ensure developing countries can mount robust recovery plans. At the same time, development partners must align public and private finance with the Sustainable Development Goals and prioritize investment towards a green recovery to deliver on the promises of the 2030 Agenda.
UTO TAKASHI, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said that overcoming the challenges posed by the economic shocks of the pandemic calls for a human security approach that emphasizes the protection and empowerment of all people and all communities. For its part, Japan continues providing assistance to countries with vulnerable health and medical systems and has provided $2.84 billion to developing countries through its COVID-19 crisis response loan programme. Turning to debt issues, he said all official and private creditors must implement debt treatments in a full and transparent manner in accordance with internationally agreed terms. He emphasized the necessity to trace financial flows to developing countries as a means to increase the effectiveness of assistance and improve transparency, concluding that Japan will continue to play a leading role in addressing the development financing issues faced by developing countries.
AJITH NIVARD CABRAAL, State Minister for Money and Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms of Sri Lanka, outlined his country’s work in steering itself through the pandemic with clarity and confidence, while making sure that businesses are protected. The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths were both kept to a minimum. “We would have liked to have seen the international community responding in a way that would have taken into consideration that this was a global pandemic, and not a creation by any particular country,” he said, adding that he would also have preferred a global debt moratorium of at least one year by multilateral institutions, for all emerging nations. Regrettably, that was not the case, and many emerging countries now face tremendous challenges. Meanwhile, rating agencies were quick to downgrade many countries, which meant that those countries had to borrow at increased rates as a consequence of their lowered credit rating. Indeed, many countries were denied credit just when they needed it most, and a large portion of their available funds had to be used in the service of debt and interest, he said.
MARTHA DELGADO, Vice‑Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, said that green, inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic must recognize the deficiencies of past approaches, address non-economic indicators such as climate change and be underpinned by gender policies and actions. She called on the international community to declare COVID-19 vaccines a public good to ensure universal, equitable access to those who are currently being left behind. She also stressed the importance of recognizing the complex debt needs and circumstances of middle-income countries. Mexico still considers the 2030 Agenda its road map for the future, and based on its feminist foreign policy, will continue to promote these goals. She further urged strengthening development financing in order to achieve an inclusive, sustainable future.
ANGELES MORENO BAU, State Secretary for International Cooperation of Spain, said that Spain has supported the ACT‑Accelerator initiative since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic as a key part of the international response to this crisis. While great progress has been made as a result, additional efforts are needed; to this end, the G20 health summit on 21 May will provide an important opportunity to relaunch financing for the initiative. Turning to vaccine distribution, she said that such distribution must account for the epidemiological situation of the countries receiving vaccines. Further, as many developing countries do not have the necessary fiscal space to counter the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, a new fiduciary fund should be created at IMF to help such countries with high rates of inequality and poverty alleviate their liquidity problems. She also called for the extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, the implementation of a common framework for debt treatments and a minimum tax for multinational corporations.
PAULINE ZOURE KABORE, Minister Delegate to the Minister for the Economy, in charge of regional planning and foresight, of Burkina Faso, said that, while her country has a relatively low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, the economic impact of the pandemic has been immense. In addition to the ongoing health crisis, Burkina Faso is facing additional economic strains. To meet the needs of the country, the Government is pursuing efforts to bolster industrialization and promote food independence and is mobilizing internal resources to facilitate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its national development plans. However, internal financing will fall short of the country’s needs and increased assistance is needed to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable populations and foster an environment conducive to lasting peace.
MARINA SERENI, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, said her country has put enhanced multilateral cooperation and strong policy actions for a green and sustainable COVID-19 recovery at the centre of its Presidency of the G20. Describing vaccines as a global public good and noting Italy’s support for the COVAX Facility, she said the recommendations of the G20 High‑Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response will help define innovative means of financing for a stronger and more resilient global health architecture. The G20 is also seeking consensus on how to further step up support to vulnerable countries as they address the challenges associated with the pandemic, and on 7 April it called on IMF to make a comprehensive proposal for a new special drawing rights general allocation of $650 billion and to explore options for members to channel those funds, on a voluntary basis, to the benefit of vulnerable countries. Meanwhile, the Group’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative was extended until the end of 2021, she said, calling on all official bilateral creditors to implement that initiative and on the private sector to serve as a “proactive engine” in achieving a transition to a green economy.
MARIA FLACHSBARTH, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, said the myriad crises facing the international community are laying bare pre-existing vulnerabilities. “The most immediate challenge is to tackle the pandemic by rolling out vaccination and strengthening health systems,” she said, welcoming the progress made by the COVAX Facility in delivering vaccines to Member States. She assured the Forum that COVID-19 recovery efforts can kick‑start comprehensive sustainable development that can create carbon‑neutral and socially inclusive societies governed by transparent and accountable institutions. Germany is actively contributing to financing the 2030 Agenda by supporting fair and effective domestic revenue mobilization as a means to unlock the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, adding that efforts remain in place to combat illicit financial flows. On private finance, Germany will continue to set incentives to mobilize private capital for the implementation of the Goals.
LOLWAH RASHID AL-KHATER, Assistant Foreign Minister and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said the Government provided high-quality health care during the pandemic, including access to the national vaccination programme, regardless of residency status. It also provided medical assistance to 78 countries, with Government and non-governmental aid estimated at $88 million. Qatar also made a $28 million contribution to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, while Qatar Airways sent 3 million people home safely at a time when most international airports had shut down, she said. “We believe in partnerships, cooperation and fast, equitable access to vaccines to everyone, everywhere,” she emphasized. Qatar will host the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in January 2022, she said, adding that the event will represent a turning point in promoting the capacity of those nations to overcome current challenges.
JOSÉ ADRIÁN CHAVARRÍA, Vice-Minister for Finance and Public Credit of Nicaragua, said that cooperation in addressing COVID-19 should not replace the means of implementation outlined in the 2030 Agenda, notably for ending poverty. He underscored the need for a new social contract to addresses the current and future pandemics. Urging countries to commit to building net-zero emissions societies by 2050, he said that would allow them to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Developing countries require urgent and disbursable funding, he stressed, calling for debt cancellation between 2020 and 2024 so as to avoid a long chain of sovereign debt defaults. Nicaragua’s policy response in 2021 will mark an historic achievement in health and economic terms, he said, adding that his country supports joint action based on the principles of solidarity and multilateralism.
GLORIA STEELE, Acting Administrator, United States Agency for International Development, cautioned that, whereas the prospect of a fully vaccinated world offers a glimpse of life beyond COVID-19, “we must remember that we are not safe until we are all safe”. Noting that her country is the world’s largest donor to the COVAX Facility, with a total contribution to date of $4 billion planned through 2022. Calling for greater international support for developing countries, she said the United States also supports the G20/Paris Club Debt Service Suspension Initiative, which allows low-income countries to defer bilateral debt payments and redirect funds to the COVID-19 response. Calling for greater efforts to address the climate crisis, she said they would revitalize economies and create millions of good jobs. Climate-resilient infrastructure and financing “to drive the pathway to net-zero emissions” is needed to help vulnerable countries strengthen their resilience to climate change, she said, adding that the United States will announce an ambitious new climate target when it hosts the Leaders’ Summit on Climate later this month.
RAYMOND SERGE BALÉ (Congo), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the menu of options provided in the context of Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond provides an important range of actionable solutions. “We need to make the best use of these options and see what is best adapted to national contexts, thus enabling them to tailor actions in support of the recovery at the national, regional and international levels,” he added. More than a year into the pandemic, the world is still undertaking extreme efforts to contain and overcome the repercussions of the global health crisis, which no country has been able to tackle alone, he noted. Emphasizing that eradicating poverty in all its forms must remain the world’s top development priority, he said it cannot be derailed.
Africa is currently facing its worst recession in 25 years, he pointed out, stressing the need for cooperation and the unleashed power of multilateralism for a global recovery. Financing a sustainable and resilient recovery from the pandemic requires a stronger commitment to the seven action areas of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, he said, adding that it is now more crucial than ever to mobilize adequate financial resources for implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Efforts in Africa to confront the devastating socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 have been complemented by the financial assistance and support of public development banks, the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative and the G20 Common Framework for Debt Treatments, he noted.
With no end to the pandemic in sight, it is vital to extend the duration of suspensions until the end of 2021 at least, and possibly the end of 2022, he continued, adding that it is also critical to expand the scope of those initiatives to address the liquidity needs of low- and middle-income countries. He went on to express concern that the flight of trillions of dollars out of developing countries as a result of illicit finance flows must be addressed as an integral part of the global recovery. Africa also remains disproportionately affected by the devastating impacts of climate change and needs more investments in sustainable and technology-enhanced agriculture, energy and transport, digitalization, human capital development, inclusive skills training and equitable vaccine distribution, he emphasized.
LUIS LAM PADILLA (Guatemala), speaking for the Like-Minded Group of Countries Supporters of Middle-Income Countries, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected women and girls disproportionately across every sphere, including health, economy, security and social protection. As such, pandemic recovery efforts must place women and girls at their centre. He called for the use of multidimensional criteria that go beyond per‑capita income to enable access to financial and non-financial resources as middle-income countries — home to approximately 73 per cent of the world’s poor and more than one third of global GDP — continue to face substantial structural gaps and challenges.
Turning to the issue of vaccines, he stressed the importance of ensuring universal, equitable access to safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccines, which should be treated as global public goods. Noting the current funding gap of over $20 billion for the ACT‑Accelerator, he called on multilateral financial organizations to help middle-income countries meet national vaccine requirements, improve national health systems and health infrastructure and overcome logistical challenges relating to vaccine storage, distribution and management. While stating the importance of South-South and triangular cooperation in technology transfer and capacity-building, he stressed that such cooperation is a complement to — not a substitute for — North-South cooperation.
SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji) detailed the difficult path that his country and other small island developing States are walking as they try to maintain safety nets for the vulnerable through unprecedented levels of borrowing. He also pointed out the exacerbating effects of climate change, resulting in reduced protection for coastal communities. He called on the international community to deliver on its promise of $100 billion in climate finance and to increase this financing progressively throughout the decade. He welcomed small island developing States’ access to International Development Association financing, and called for a significant increase in such financing along with low interest rates for these States. Such States began the pandemic at the “back end of the queue” for vital equipment, and now are similarly situated in access to vaccines, development financing, and recovery. While these States’ voices are inconsequential on the boards of development banks, they have a voice in the United Nations. He called for these issues to be fully discussed in this forum to allow small island developing States to shape the decisions on which their recovery and futures rest. “This is not too much of an ask,” he added, “or is it?”
SOVANN KE (Cambodia) declared that the pandemic — which has no nationality and does not respect boundaries — is “a driving force in reshaping the world economic order and triggering the worst-ever economic recession and social crisis in a long time”. He warned that attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals is now at risk, in no small part due to the increase in the global unemployment rate from 1 per cent to 6.5 per cent in 2020. The economic shocks felt by Cambodia have derailed its efforts to attain upper-middle-income and high-income status by 2030 and 2050, respectively, he noted, adding that the only way to stop the health crisis is by ensuring equitable access to vaccines. Turning to the mounting debt crisis, he called for incentives to promote private investment and capital flow to developing countries, particularly the promotion of foreign direct investment and public-private partnership mechanisms.
MIRGUL MOLDOISAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) stressed that, as the world combats the pandemic, efforts are under way to improve vaccine rollout and to fulfil the Secretary-General’s call to build back better and greener. However, it is clear that medical shortages brought about by the pandemic brought health services to the brink of collapse and exacerbated pre-existing financial inequalities. “It is crucial that international financial institutions expand funding access to developing countries,” she said, welcoming moratoriums on debt payments and United Nations efforts to bolster the health-care systems of indebted countries. The international community must seize the moment to transform the global recovery into a concerted effort to advance efforts aimed at building a better future, she concluded.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, the Least Developed Countries Group and the Landlocked Developing Countries Group, said inequality of opportunities has worsened amid the pandemic, and financial uncertainties, trade tensions, debt distress and exchange‑rate volatility are all increasing. Meanwhile, net private capital flows to developing countries have dropped, and countries in special situations have been the worst affected. “Containing the contagion, inoculating the people and protecting the economy have become Herculean tasks, especially in [least developed countries], landlocked developing nations and small island developing States,” he stressed. A resilient recovery and the accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda hinges on the availability of resources — private and public, domestic and external. In Nepal’s case alone, an estimated $19 billion was needed annually to implement the Sustainable Development Goals even before the pandemic’s fallout. Today, slumping remittances and decreased tourism and trade have further strained resources, and the gap can only be addressed by scaling up trade, foreign investment and private capital inflows, as well as realizing crucial ODA commitments made by donor countries, he said.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), associating himself with the African Group and the Like-Minded Group of Middle-Income Countries, outlined his country’s short- and medium-term measures to address the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic. Morocco’s redesigned long-term approach applies an environmental and climate focus, he said, adding that the country is engaged in significant efforts to mobilize South-South and triangular cooperation with a view to mitigating COVID‑19’s impact in Africa. Among other support, Morocco has sent medical aid to the African Union Commission and to more than 20 African States, most of them least developed countries. Recalling that financing for the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda was already facing challenges before the pandemic, he emphasized the importance of multilateralism and political will for building back better. The private sector is a key partner in recovery efforts, he said. Welcoming G20 and other international efforts to address debt, he called for additional action, warning: “Climate change impacts are a disease that has no vaccine.” Morocco’s calls for catalysed partnerships and capacity-building for developing countries in support of renewable energy, sustainable and tech-enhanced agriculture, green transportation and industry transition, he said.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa), associating herself with the African Group, warned against allowing COVID-19 to undermine the world’s joint resolve to achieve the 2030 Agenda, which is a moral obligation for the international community. While all nations have sought to mobilize domestic resources, it is clear that much more needs must be done at the global level, she said. Spotlighting the challenge of indebtedness, she said it must be addressed with urgency and determination, adding that it is also crucial to ensure that access to vaccines does not mirror the other inequalities that characterize the world. “There can be no place for vaccine nationalism,” she emphasized. For that reason, she said, South Africa and India have proposed a COVID-19 waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement at WTO, with a view to allowing expansion of the global manufacture of vaccines in more locations, thereby extending access. She went on to express support for the Secretary-General’s call for a pandemic recovery that sets humanity on a path that is not in conflict with nature.
JOÃO IAMBENO GIMOLIECA (Angola) emphasized the paramount need for a collaborative approach in implementing the Addis Ababa Action Agenda’s seven pillars, going on to stress that the equitable distribution of vaccines is the most efficient means for ending the pandemic. Expressing concern that illicit financial flows are hindering the improvement of conditions in Africa due to their scale and negative impact on both development and governance agendas, he declared: “We must recommit to tackling illicit financial flows.” Angola proposes the creation of a unified policy instrument that would place the matter squarely on the international agenda, he said, pointing out that a more resilient Africa would be better able to tackle future pandemics. Recovery must be driven by a spirit of global solidarity, he added.
TAYE ATSKESELASSIE AMDE (Ethiopia) endorsed the statements by the African Group and the Group of 77, emphasizing that developing countries have been severely impacted by the myriad effects of COVID-19, with fiscal space too limited to withstand any long-standing effects of such a crisis. History has taught that humanity prevails in the face of diversity “when we stand united”, he said, as he called for solidarity. While efforts by IMF and the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative have offered much‑needed “breathing space”, they are not enough, he noted, stressing that support offered to developing countries must meet their needs. Calling the Common Framework “a step in the right direction”, he said that, in addition to debt relief, countries need affordable equitable access to vaccines. He urged partners to facilitate access to developing countries such as Ethiopia.
GEORGE EHIDIAMEN EDOKPA (Nigeria), recalling the United Nations programmes initiated in 2020 to ameliorate the suffering caused by the coronavirus, called for increased support to complement to national recovery programmes. Since the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in and among nations, viable recovery requires genuine international cooperation on building capacity, he emphasized. Recovery programmes must be aligned with global goals — including the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Plan — and matched with the political will to tackle challenges, such as illicit financial flows and corruption. Stressing the urgent need to expand debt-service suspension for all developing countries, he stressed that equitable, affordable access to vaccines is a fundamental human right.