"SHARED RESPONSIBILITY, GLOBAL SOLIDARITY: RESPONDING TO THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACTS OF COVID-19", this is the title of the UN report on long-term impacts generated by the COVID-19 emergency. The study, presented by Secretary-General António Guterres at the end of March, highlights the severe socio-economic implications of the current epidemic and calls on the United Nations to implement cooperation policies to mitigate its effects.
The report describes the speed with which the epidemic spread, which was later declared a pandemic by the WHO. It highlights on a map the level of preparedness of the different countries to deal with such a major health emergency. The UN, therefore, sets the first objective: to suppress transmission to stop the pandemic and save lives, pledging to support governments around the World to act decisively and cohesively.
It is essential and urgent - the report says - to increase the resilience of health systems, to provide support to developing countries whose health systems are weaker, to remove obstacles and facilitate access to research results so that vaccines and medicines are accessible to all, to involve businesses and charities around the World so that they take up the challenge and win this battle together.
The report focuses on the analysis of the multidimensional impacts of the epidemic, providing worrying data on the socio-economic phenomena triggered by the spread of the virus such as unemployment, the psychological consequences of forced isolation, the inability of some educational systems to respond adequately to school closures, the stoppage of manufacturing industry and the instability of financial markets.
The impacts, which are already significant for all, risk being devastating for developing countries whose microeconomies were already fragile before the health crisis. The pandemic risks reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty, exacerbating the inequalities already marked within and between countries.
What about Agenda 2030 on sustainable development objectives and the Paris Agreement on climate change?
The COVID-19 crisis is likely to have a profound and negative effect on the efforts made so far to fulfil the promise of the SDGs (i.e. Sustainable Development Goals) by 2030. The protracted global economic slowdown has inevitable consequences that, directly or indirectly, affect all seventeen sustainable development goals. Equity is severely undermined as the most vulnerable, including women, children, the elderly and non-regular workers, are the most affected.
The impact on the environment, on the other hand, is probably positive in the short term, since the drastic reduction in economic activity caused by the crisis has reduced CO2 emissions and pollution in many areas. But these improvements are bound to be short-lived if countries do not maintain their commitment to sustainable development once the crisis is over and the global economy recovers. The pandemic is forcing countries to use a large part of their financial resources to respond to the emergency, so the risk that investments in sustainable development strategies aimed at achieving the 17 SDGs disappear is concrete. For this reason, the UN calls on states to take sustainable development goals and climate commitments into account when developing their responses to the crisis.
It is time to choose whether to return to the World we knew before or to seize this moment of global crisis as an opportunity to take a decisive step towards solving the problems that make us all more vulnerable. The course indicated by the UN is unequivocal: we must resist the temptation to take protectionist measures and act in a timely and cohesive manner.
"A humanitarian crisis requires coordinated action", said Guterres, "we need maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people. The goal must be to live on a healthier planet, to keep the promise of Agenda 2030 and the 17 SDGs".