Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the extraordinary intersessional Summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, in New York today:
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing enormous human suffering and economic hardship around the world. We need a much stronger response of unity and solidarity, if we are to get through this pandemic together and build a safer, more stable future.
The economic and social impact of the pandemic is already devastating economies. We have called for an economic stimulus package equivalent to a double-digit percentage — more than 10 per cent — of the global economy. This must prioritize putting cash in the hands of those most badly affected, and increasing social protection for the vulnerable.
Looming crises could contribute to the deepest global depression since the 1930s. I welcome the debt relief initiatives by the G20. But, they are not enough.
Last week, the United Nations, together with the Governments of Jamaica and Canada, convened world leaders around financing a sustainable recovery. I was encouraged by the response.
Many Governments and several international organizations will now join us in six working groups, focusing on areas for immediate action.
First, global liquidity. Many countries are seeing their fiscal space shrink, so that they lack the funds for essential measures and supplies to fight the pandemic. We need to use all tools to enhance liquidity, including considering a new issuance of Special Drawing Rights for the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Second, sovereign debt. The G20 debt moratorium only covers the least developed countries. Debt relief must be extended to all developing and middle‑income countries that request forbearance because they have no access to financial markets.
Third, any comprehensive solution on debt must include dialogue with private creditors. We need creative ways to encourage them to join debt‑relief efforts.
Fourth, external finance. Aligning incentives in global financial systems with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will boost confidence and relaunch investment in sustainable development.
Fifth, illicit financial flows. We must plug the leaks that deny developing countries hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
Sixth, we must recover better. COVID-19 is exposing the fragility of our world. It has laid bare deep injustices and inequalities based on income, gender, race and more.
Returning to the systems that created this fragility is out of the question. All our efforts must go towards building more equal, inclusive, resilient and sustainable economies and societies, based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
This is essential not only to beat COVID-19, but to tackle the other existential crises we face, including the climate emergency. Small island developing States face particular challenges. Many are heavily indebted, on the front lines of the climate crisis and rely heavily on tourism and remittances — sectors that are among the hardest hit.
African countries’ rapid and effective response to the crisis holds lessons for other countries and regions. However, much still lies in the balance. Unless we act now, economic recession could push millions of people across the continent into extreme poverty and hunger. This cannot be allowed to happen.
We are pushing hard for international action to support African countries, strengthen health systems, maintain food supplies, protect jobs and keep households and businesses afloat.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses a serious threat to our well-being and our future. Global, unifying solutions are lagging behind. One such solution would be a vaccine for COVID-19. I repeat my call for this to be made available quickly, affordably and equally. It must be seen as a global public good — as the people’s vaccine.
We must all have the means of ending the pandemic, if we are to live in safety together.