Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s video message on the occasion of the event “Driving Systemic Change through Governments to Better Reach those Living in Extreme Poverty”, hosted by BRAC Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative, today:
Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to join this discussion on driving systemic change through Governments to better reach those living in extreme poverty. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty reduction had stagnated and was being reversed in some regions, while the pursuit of economic growth at any cost was causing enormous damage to people and planet.
The enormous advances that have been made towards reducing poverty over recent decades have been concentrated in a few geographical regions. “Hot spots” of multidimensional poverty remain around the globe. Over the same time period, inequality has widened in developed countries, wages have stagnated, and social safety nets have frayed, unravelling progress towards fulfilling the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and creating resilient, inclusive, sustainable communities and societies.
COVID-19 has brutally exposed the fragility of our economic systems, and the fragility of the progress that has been made. To quote the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “We have been set back 25 years in about 25 weeks.” As many as 100 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty, the first such increase since 1998. Some 270 million people face acute hunger, while 500 million jobs could be lost in the second half of 2020 alone.
This will be particularly hard on young people, who account for 20 per cent of the global population living in extreme poverty. Close to 1.6 billion children worldwide were out of school at the height of the pandemic. As a group, they could lose as much as $10 trillion in lifetime earnings. And many, especially girls, will never return to school, losing a lifetime of opportunities.
As in any crisis, the world’s poorest countries and most vulnerable people — the poor, people with disabilities, women, indigenous groups and the marginalized of all kinds — are bearing the brunt. Meanwhile, as the world’s poorest struggle with job losses and rising food prices, the world’s richest have increased their wealth by an estimated 25 per cent, growing their fortunes to a record high of $10.2 trillion. It is clear that our economic and financial frameworks are not working as they should. They are contributing to unsustainable levels of inequality that threaten stability and prosperity.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the pandemic is a wake-up call. We must all take responsibility for transformative change. Now is the time to strengthen public institutions and enhance the preparedness of the public sector in managing crises while maintaining existing investments in key delivery systems.
Governments must take direct action to reach those living in extreme poverty, including investments in social protection, implementing universal health coverage, access to basic education, water and sanitation and exploring innovative financing models like universal basic income. Governments should seize this opportunity through stimulus packages to align recovery policies with green, inclusive and gender-responsive objectives, guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This provides the framing needed for a whole-of-Government, whole-of-society and whole-of-world approach to make this happen.
The United Nations is working with all counties to support Governments drive systemic change to survive this crisis and build a strong recovery. The United Nations development system, with its 131 United Nations country teams, is fully mobilized. We have already adjusted a significant proportion of our $17.8 billion portfolio of sustainable development programmes towards the needs generated by COVID-19 and worked with Governments to prepare crisis response plans for development. We have convened world leaders on the global response needed for financing for development. Governments, prominent economists, civil society, ministers and experts have finessed a menu of policy options that are aligned with the 2030 Agenda.
We will continue to advocate for these policies with international financial institutions and on other global platforms including the G20IFI (Group of 20 international financial institutions) and national development banks to ensure that socioeconomic responses to the pandemic lay the groundwork for a future that is pro-poor, gender-equal, green and just transitions. As we enter the Decade of Action on the SDGs, strong institutions will be the bedrock for us to get back on track to build the sustainable, resilient, inclusive societies and economies we need. I thank you.