What you need to know:
- According to the report, more than 60 percent of people in high-income countries have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, but less than 2 percent have done so in low-income countries.
The latest global civil society report on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) observes that policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have greatly exacerbated national and global inequalities.
Blatant examples are the unfair distribution of care work, relying mainly on women and poorly remunerated if at all, and the global disparity in the distribution of vaccines.
The Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2021 report describes the highly uneven socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis and analyses the policy responses to it.
It explores beyond the rhetoric, highlighting deepening inequalities, self-serving and hypocritical policies and governance failures at national and international level.
Addressing the imbalance in global vaccine production and distribution, the report titled ‘Demanding justice beyond rhetoric - Time to overcome contradictions and hypocrisy in the Covid-19 crisis’ also examines a few key areas where political and structural changes are necessary to correct the limited and asymmetric recovery.
According to the report, the scourge of Covid-19 struck an already stark reality of multiple inequalities – in households, across communities, in national context, and among countries.
Its waves of devastation have exacerbated pre-existing conditions and disparities as well as creating new ones.
This reality can be seen in the health numbers, the job numbers, in education, in hunger and in so many sectors.
Attention to the debt burden unequally borne by countries has come to the fore but is being addressed with piecemeal relief measures for debt servicing not with the restructuring that a debt workout mechanism would bring, the report observes.
“Furthermore, the over-reliance on a few pharmaceutical giants, their disproportionate benefits, financial and reputational, and the prevailing just-in-time business model have been ignored.”
The report adds that while the exposure of inequalities in fiscal space has spurred measures such as the new allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), these too are inadequate to the task of a just recovery and function within flawed global financial architecture.
Ignoring the multiple warnings and manifestations over decades of the ecological and climate crises has scientists from around the world and the United Nations issuing a Code Red for humanity.
According to the report, so far more than 60 per cent of people in high-income countries have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, but less than 2 per cent have done so in low-income countries.
In view of this dramatic disparity, the “leave no one behind” commitment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remains hollow.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have reminded the global community of the essentials of reviewing and in many cases rewriting international rules and the urgency of Just Transition strategies to move in this direction,” says Ms Barbara Adams from the Global Policy Forum (GPF), one of authors of the report.
“The scourge of Covid-19 struck an already stark reality of multiple inequalities – in households, across communities, in national context, and among countries. Its waves of devastation have exacerbated pre-existing conditions and disparities as well as creating new ones,” Ms Adams adds.
The report was launched on the first day of the Global Week on September 17 in New York, US, by a global coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) and trade unions.
The key message of this year’s report is: “The dominant interests of rich countries, and corporate powers continue to dominate political decision-making. Given the urgency of the Covid-19 crisis and the other unresolved global problems, most notably the climate emergency, it is high time for transformative policies at all levels.”
The report notes that few governments and agencies have been willing to address the structural and institutional inadequacies and correct the biases baked into many governance arrangements.
Advocates and observers alike have learned that this accumulation of disappointing outcomes often reflect unfair governance systems, many rooted in the post-colonial global restructuring, as well as in inadequate policy prescriptions.
According to the report, economic justice based on human rights can be achieved, but the trend towards privatising, outsourcing and systematic dismantling of public services must be reversed.
To combat growing inequality and build a socially just, inclusive post-Covid world, everyone must have equitable access to public services, first to healthcare and education.
“The majority of governments in the world are expected to start austerity cuts with negative social impacts such as social security/welfare reforms and wage bill adjustments. There are alternatives, even in the poorest countries. Instead of cutting public expenditure and much needed public services, governments must look at new fiscal space and financing sources,” said Isabel Ortiz from the Global Social Justice Programme.
David Edwards from Education International says: “It took a global pandemic to open the world’s eyes to the absolutely vital role of education. Free quality inclusive public education for all is imperative to any recovery effort. To make it happen, governments must work with teachers, education personnel, and their representative organisations. They must be supported and empowered to lead the recovery in education.”
Matti Kohonen from the Financial Transparency Coalition, said: “A People’s Recovery should be prioritised, we found that 63 per cent of all the recovery money in the global South countries we studied went to big businesses, with only spent on 22 per cent to social protection.
Now people across the world are campaigning to extend and make permanent the grants that were increased during Covid-19, but austerity policies are proposed instead.”
To prevent the Covid-19 pandemic being followed by a global debt and austerity pandemic, the report suggests that governments must be enabled to expand their fiscal policy space and properly tax multinational corporations and wealthy individuals, many of whom pay virtually no income tax at all.
Fundamental reforms in the global financial architecture, including a debt workout mechanism beyond piecemeal relief measures for debt servicing, are long overdue.
Report proposes national policies to reduce inequalities
The report suggests that post-Covid-19 society and economy need national policies that reduce inequalities manifest in multiple ways, such as through income, gender, disability, religion and race.
Policies are needed to revalue care work, reorient global value chains towards domestic priorities and jobs, both in developing and developed countries, while limiting in equitable ways fossil fuel and material consumption to planetary boundaries.
The report adds that in all regions of the world new visions and policies for a sustainable transformation post Covid-19 are called for, but the actual decision-making continues to be heavily focused on fora like the G7, the G20 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which lack a functioning people-centred and human rights accountability framework, and where the global South is often only an invited guest and sometimes excluded entirely.
The report notes that addressing these injustices and insecurities requires political will and policy space. Political will is (or should be) domestically generated by democratic processes, supported by universal standards of human rights and the ‘right sharing of the world’s resources.’
The current structure and dynamics of global decision-making do not support this, and their outcomes often fall short failing to extend beyond reactive or short-term responses. The Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis have reminded the global community of the essentials of reviewing and in many cases rewriting international rules and the urgency of Just Transition strategies to move in this direction, the report adds.
The annual spotlight report has been published since 2016 by the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), the Centr for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), GPF, Public Services International (PSI), Social Watch, Society for International Development (SID), and Third World Network (TWN), supported by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.