UN Forum on Financing for Development: COVID-19 crisis requires bold response to build back better

FfD Forum 2020

The 193 UN Member States of the United Nations called for coordinated and decisive global action to arrest the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild strengthened and resilient economies. The Member States joined together in a consensus outcome document at an informal meeting of the Financing for Development (FfD) Forum of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today. 

“Developing countries need massive and urgent support,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Now is the time to stand by our commitment to leave no one behind. COVID-19 has highlighted global inequalities and injustices that cannot continue, including gender inequality. Returning to our previous path is simply not an option.”

The FfD Forum is convened by ECOSOC and usually sees scores of ministers of finance, foreign affairs and development Cooperation from around the world, along with the heads of UN agencies, the World Bank and the IMF. This year, the outcome document was the first by UN member states to collectively address the financing challenges posed by COVID-19.

“COVID-19 shows it is more important than ever to focus on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, issues such as resource mobilization, illicit finance, debt and women’s empowerment must be priorities,” said ECOSOC President Mona Juul. “With hundreds of thousands abruptly unemployed, inequalities between countries and peoples are already worsening. The weakest economies will not be able to recover without immediate comprehensive, coordinated measures.”

To tackle COVID-19, the Forum called on the global community to urgently ensure the flow of vital medical supplies, agricultural products, and other goods and services across borders. In particular, they urged that emergency measures put in place to tackle COVID-19 be “targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary” that are consistent with World Trade Organization rules and not create unnecessary barriers to trade or disruption to global supply chains.

Emphasizing that multilateral bodies are essential in the COVID-19 response, the Secretary-General said the role of the World Health Organization was vital in the battle against COVID-19, and called for support to the organization. 

Immediate steps needed to prevent economic collapse as a result of COVID-19, the Member States said, should focus on countries in special situations, such as those with weak health systems and limited resources to invest in such systems or in social protection. They said these countries must have targeted relief, as they will have the greatest challenge both in dealing with the pandemic and in recovering afterwards. They emphasized that global recovery strategies must protect the most vulnerable people, taking into account human rights.

“To recover from this crisis, we need to advance bold financial measures at the national, and especially regional and global levels,” said Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs in a separate statement today. Mr. Liu, who is Chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development, added: “Our actions must be well aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to ensure that we recover better, in a sustainable and resilient way.”

According to the Member States, it will be crucial to minimize the economic and social damage from the pandemic, restore global growth, maintain market stability, and strengthen resilience. Recommended actions include:

  • Address debt vulnerabilities, as COVID-19 could significantly increase the number of countries in debt distress. 
  • Scale up concessional financing, especially for least developed countries. 
  • Harness technology and scale up collaboration on vaccines and health systems innovations.
  • Re-commit to combating illicit financial flows.
  • Ensure access to financing for small businesses, as well as for women, young entrepreneurs and persons with disabilities, who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
  • Strengthen the global response to climate emergencies, support climate change mitigation and enhance resilience.