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SG/SM/20963
11 October 2021

International Monetary Fund’s Strategy for Fragile, Conflict Affected States Recovering from Pandemic ‘A Critical Step’, Secretary-General Tells Meeting

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the event hosted by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on “COVID‑19 and Fragile States — Promoting Resilient Recovery for the Most Vulnerable Communities”, today:

My thanks to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for convening today’s meeting.  Our world continues to face very serious challenges, from the COVID‑19 pandemic to the climate crisis and growing inequality and divisions.  The pandemic has forced more than 100 million people into poverty.  More than 4 billion people have little or no social support; no health care; no income protection when they so urgently need it.

The Sustainable Development Goals are at a real risk of failure.  Solidarity is missing in action and a sense of injustice is spreading, creating a breeding ground for violence and conflict.  People living in fragile and conflict affected States are suffering most of all.

We must fulfil the commitments we have made to change course.  I welcome the International Monetary Fund’s Strategy for Fragile and Conflict Affected States.  This is a critical step to applying a crisis prevention lens to the complex and multidimensional risks arising from the COVID‑19 pandemic and the recovery, particularly for countries emerging from crisis and conflict.

Fragility and conflict can only be addressed by macroeconomic policies that promote inclusive growth and resilience, centred on a transition to stability and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  We need financing instruments that are tailored to the unique policy space of fragile States.  The right macroeconomic policies can ensure that countries generate enough fiscal space to maintain and eventually expand social spending, and to invest in prevention and peacebuilding.

Vaccine inequality is a moral outrage that is condemning the world to millions more deaths and prolonging an economic slowdown that could cost trillions of dollars, hitting the poorest countries hardest of all.  We need a bold, collective push to end the pandemic and deliver a sustainable and inclusive global recovery.

I have long been pushing for a global vaccination plan to reach everyone, everywhere.  I was pleased to join the World Health Organization last week to launch their Global COVID‑19 Vaccination Strategy.  This costed, coordinated and credible plan is designed to get vaccines into the arms of 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of this year and 70 per cent by the middle of 2022.  I urge all countries to marshal behind it.

In countries affected by crisis and conflict, vaccination will require targeted investment in local delivery mechanisms and capacities.  This will not only guarantee that vaccines are delivered quickly and fairly; it will strengthen local and national health systems and help prevent future pandemics.

Forecasts indicate that we are in the middle of a substantial global economic recovery — with gross domestic product (GDP) growth ranging between 5 and nearly 6 per cent.  But the figures mask enormous divergence.  Many developing countries and regions are lagging far behind.  Advanced economies are investing nearly 28 per cent of their GDPs in economic recovery.  That figure drops to only 1.8 per cent for the least developed countries.  Less than 2 per cent of a very small GDP.

Countries affected by conflict and crisis countries have the least fiscal space to invest in the policies they need for a sustainable, inclusive recovery – policies like renewable energy, social protection and health care for all.  Many of these States are also on the front lines of climate change and the brutal assault on nature, which exacerbates risks that go well beyond their immediate impacts.  Unless these threats are addressed, they could fuel growing mistrust in institutions, deepening fractures, and turning back the clock on years of progress on prevention and peacebuilding.

I see three areas for immediate action to launch a recovery that benefits all, including the most fragile States.  First, investments must be scaled up and directed into both short‑term crisis relief and long‑term recovery.  But many countries are being crushed by debt service costs.  Global public debt has soared to 100 percent of GDP.

I reiterate my call for an expansion of liquidity for the countries in greatest need, in the first instance, through a substantial reallocation of unused special drawing rights to vulnerable countries that need them.  The Group of 20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative must be extended into next year and expanded to include middle‑income countries.  The Common Framework for Debt Treatment must be fully operationalized.

But simply suspending debt payments will not be enough in many countries.  They will need effective debt relief, involving both public and private creditors.  We need a comprehensive strategy around reforming the international debt architecture — including debt restructuring or reduction.

Private finance must be brought in to help fill the gap.  It is deeply unfair that rich countries can borrow cheaply and spend their way to recovery, while low‑income countries must struggle to keep their economies afloat.  No country should be forced to choose between servicing its debt and serving its people.

Second, we must support Governments, particularly in countries affected by crisis and fragility, to implement social and economic policies that build trust with their citizens and bolster resilience against future shocks — including the climate crisis.

This requires significant investments to achieve universal social protection by 2030, and to prepare people for the changing world of work through lifelong learning, reskilling and upskilling programmes.

The United Nations Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection aims to create 400 million new jobs in the green and care economy by 2030, and to extend social protection to the 4 billion people still left unprotected.  I urge you to support this important initiative.

Third, to achieve the breakthrough we so urgently need, the international community must lead from the front.  We must demonstrate mutual solidarity and trust by working closely together across the humanitarian‑development‑peace nexus to achieve common goals.

To that end, we are ready to engage with the International Monetary Fund at the institutional level, with a view to agreeing on a strategic partnership to support countries in crisis to recover from the pandemic and implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

There is room to strengthen our joint work in prevention and peacebuilding, for example, by facilitating exchanges, sharing analytics and seeking entry points to support inclusive national priorities.  We can use our collaborative advantages to promote greater understanding of multidimensional risk, and more strategic collaboration at the country level, and to respond to compound risks and multidimensional challenges.

Now is the time for action.  With greater engagement and collaboration, we can support the most fragile states affected by conflict and crisis towards a better, more peaceful and prosperous future.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.