Even though rural poverty has declined rapidly in recent decades, poverty remains primarily a rural phenomenon and the poorest in rural areas are at risk of being left behind. The World Social Report 2021 (United Nations, 2021) finds that successes in poverty reduction have not always led to lower rural inequalities or to a closing of the rural-urban divide. Indeed, disparities in access to basic services and opportunities continue to exist within rural areas and between rural and urban areas, and can be persistently high for specific population groups, such as indigenous peoples and women.
Indigenous peoples contribute to mitigation and adaptation strategies including successful struggles against deforestation, mineral, oil and gas extraction in their ancestral lands; their fight against further expansion of monocrop plantations; their promotion of sustainable production and consumption systems through traditional knowledge and values of reciprocity with nature.
A full recovery from the pandemic crisis is not possible without addressing economic security and reducing inequality. Otherwise, people and families who already faced more insecurity are likely to be excluded from the benefits of recovery. This policy brief highlights inequality in the experience of economic security focusing on the risks to livelihoods and the protections against those risks as laid out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In recognizing the right to “security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond one’s control”, the Universal Declaration highlights the crucial importance of economic security to everyone’s rights and well-being.
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the world of work, hitting labour markets that were already weak and fragile. This brief describes recent changes in the world of work and discusses their implications for the social contract. It contends that the deep, long-standing employment crisis is damaging the social and economic fabric and, without decisive action, it may weaken support for a renewed social contract. Giving all workers a voice and ensuring decent working conditions is the only way to break the cycle of growing economic insecurity and low trust in public institutions.
This policy brief reviews the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in Africa and presents the continent’s social protection responses. The crisis has hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest and laid bare structural shortcomings such as inadequate health, educational and technological infrastructure, limited social protection, gender inequality, large informal economies, lack of access to basic services, constrained fiscal policy space and a high risk of debt distress in many countries, making them particularly vulnerable to the lasting effects of the pandemic.
COVID-19 is accelerating the pace of digital transformation. In so doing, it is opening the opportunities for advancing social progress and fostering social inclusion, while simultaneously exacerbating the risk of increased inequalities and exclusion of those who are not digitally connected.
The COVID-19 crisis has served as a reminder of the extent of economic insecurity, even in countries and among groups that previously considered themselves secure. This is likely to have profound consequences, threatening countries’ ability to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs.
Fears related to economic insecurity are on the rise. Changes in the world of work, together with globalization and technological breakthroughs, have benefited many people but are also putting many others at disadvantage or at risk. These long-standing trends, which have raised aspirations but also fears, are compounded by evolving threats, including those brought about by climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amidst deliberations on priority areas for rebuilding, much attention has been paid to the need to strengthen domestic health care, and such proposals will certainly be high on the agenda for many Governments. The crisis, however, has also shone a spotlight on the shortcomings of the global health system.
Risks of implementing more shock responsive social protection include overwhelming demand, lack of coordination, poor targeting and negative public perception. These can be partially offset by ensuring universal access to programmes. A country’s available fiscal space and level of debt distress are key contextual factors that determine the feasibility of more shock-responsive social protection.
The impact of COVID-19 on sport, physical activity and well-being and its effects on social development
This policy brief highlights the challenges COVID-19 has posed to both the sporting world and to physical activity and well-being, including for marginalized or vulnerable groups. It further provides recommendations for Governments and other stakeholders, as well as for the UN system, to support the safe reopening of sporting events, as well as to support physical activity during the pandemic and beyond.
COVID-19 presents a new threat to the health and survival of indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples often experience widespread stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings such as stereotyping and a lack of quality in the care provided, thus compromising standards of care and discouraging them from accessing health care.
This policy brief highlights the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls with disabilities and provides policy guidance for governments and other stakeholders to adopt inclusive and accessible measures to not only mitigate the adverse impacts of the crisis but build resilient societies.
Multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination experienced by older persons are exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic and aggravate their vulnerabilities.
Young people will form a key element in an inclusive recovery and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during this Decade of Action. However, the response and recovery must be done in a way that protects the human rights of all youth.
Responses to the COVID-19 catastrophe could turn the tide on inequality COVID-19: Addressing the social crisis through fiscal stimulus plans
This brief identifies inequalities around the COVID-19 pandemic in exposure, vulnerabilities and coping capacity. It suggests that crisis responses in four areas could turn the tide on inequality. These include expanding systems for the universal provision of quality social services; identifying and empowering vulnerable groups; investing in jobs and livelihoods; and acting through the multilateral system to respond to disparities across countries.
Countries are quickly acting to counter its negative impact on employment and poverty, including through fiscal stimulus plans. Whether these plans will protect the most disadvantaged people and households over the long-term depends on their size, duration and on how measures are implemented.