UN Monitor: COVID-19 Round-Up 30/04/2020

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The International Labour Organization (ILO) issued a COVID-19 monitor on the world of work in light of the global coronavirus on 29 April. This was accompanied by a press release specifically focusing on informal work. It reports that: “1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – that is nearly half of the global workforce – stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed” due to COVID-19.

The Monitor notes that “the first month of the crisis is estimated to have resulted in a drop of 60 per cent in the income of informal workers globally. This translates into a drop of 81 per cent in Africa and the Americas, 21.6 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, and 70 per cent in Europe and Central Asia. Without alternative income sources, these workers and their families will have no means to survive.”

Accordingly, the ILO emphasizes: “Measures for economic reactivation should follow a job-rich approach, backed by stronger employment policies and institutions, better-resourced and comprehensive social protection systems. International co-ordination on stimulus packages and debt relief measures will also be critical to making recovery effective and sustainable. International labour standards, which already enjoy tripartite consensus, can provide a framework.”

Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General stated that “as the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent. For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. Millions of businesses around the world are barely breathing. They have no savings or access to credit. These are the real faces of the world of work. If we don’t help them now, these enterprises will simply perish.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a statement on COVID-19 and its impact on businesses and workers on 27 April. She reminds policy makers that “special attention needs to be paid to day labourers, non-contract workers, temporary employees, and those without social protection coverage who work in your supply chains”.

She stated that "the baseline responsibility, for all businesses, is to respect human rights in their own operations and business relationships” and “to act in the longer term to uphold economic, social, civil and political rights”. Her remarks concluded with the following:

“This response to the pandemic must be global. We also cannot afford to leave any country behind. If developing countries, with the least capacity to contain the pandemic, become repositories for the virus, driving new waves of contagion, that would be a human rights disaster and an economic disaster.

One day, the streets, skies and shipping lanes will fill again, but the world will be changed. How businesses respond to the crisis will shape their own futures as functioning entities, and it will contribute to shaping the future of millions of people – your direct employees, and many others.

Preventing, mitigating and addressing the damage being done to human rights will be key to maintaining trust – with clients and consumers, your employees, your shareholders and your communities. It will be key to building a world of greater resilience.”

The UNDP Human Development Report Office (HDRO) has released a report featuring a series of “Global Preparedness and Vulnerability Dashboards” with the aim of assessing preparedness of countries to respond to COVID-19.

The report identifies preparedness based on a country’s ability “to respond and cope with the impacts of COVID-19 crisis, including a nation’s level of human development, healthcare system capacity and internet access”.  It notes that “the level of human development and its inequality, together with healthcare system capacity, can portray countries’ preparedness to respond effectively and efficiently to a health crisis”.

With regard to vulnerability, the report highlights “poverty, social protection and labour programmes, and an economy’s exposure to the immediate economic impacts of travel bans. Poverty adds to the high risks of long-lasting consequences.” It emphasizes the elements of human development and multidimensional poverty, recognizing “1 in 4 people still live in multidimensional poverty or are vulnerable to it, and more than 40 percent of the global population does not have any social protection”.

The report also recognizes high levels of globalization as an area of vulnerability citing that although it “has brought new opportunities and efficiency gains, but, as witnessed with COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions at one point of the chain can trigger serious local problems elsewhere. The effects of such events may be detrimental for countries and people that, for example, heavily depend on tourism such as island countries, inflows of remittances, or receiving official development assistance.”

The Rise for All initiative was launched on 27 April by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. The initiative is “a global advocacy effort to support the UN roadmap for social and economic recovery from COVID-19, and to fully fund the UN Response and Recovery Trust Fund”.

Among the early women leaders “joining the cohort” are the President of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde, the Prime Minister of Norway and Sustainable Development Goals Advocate of the Secretary-General, Erna Solberg, Sustainable Development Goals Advocate of the Secretary-General Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda Gates, Sustainable Development Goals Advocate of the Secretary-General Dia Mirza, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador of Pakistan, Muniba Mazari, along with the Executive Directors of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, of UN Women, Phumzile MlamboNgcuka, and of UNFPA, Natalia Kanem.

Rise for All announced its support of the “United Nations Framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19: Shared responsibility, global solidarity and urgent action for people in need”. The framework calls for responses to help build “a more sustainable, gender-equal, and carbon-neutral path—better than the ‘old normal’.”

The framework focuses on:

  1. protecting existing health services and strengthening health systems’ capacity to respond to COVID-19;
  2. helping people cope with adversity, through social protection and basic services;
  3. protecting jobs, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and informal sector workers through economic recovery programmes;
  4. guiding the necessary surge in fiscal and financial stimulus to make macroeconomic policies work for the most vulnerable and strengthening multilateral and regional responses; and
  5. promoting social cohesion and investing in community-led resilience and response systems.

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