The economic and societal disruption caused by COVID-19 is worsening. Huge job losses, bankruptcies, shrinking GDP, widespread failure of small businesses, fundamental shifts in consumer and public behaviour will become more apparent as the pandemic drags on.
We can no longer play by the old rules, and there are hard choices ahead. But also opportunities. We must commit to recovery that is equitable and green. We must work to reform fossil fuel subsidies, help nations deal with the increasing debt issues and comprehensively address one of the most pervasive and insidious inequalities; the status and role of women.
Fossil fuel subsidies
We believe fossil fuel subsidies can be removed without causing social harm. In five countries we are analyzing the best way to reform energy prices and we will offer a guide for policymakers on carbon pricing and subsidy reform. But we can leave no one behind. The poorest and most disenfranchised cannot be allowed to bear the brunt of the crisis.
Equity and inclusion
Women have suffered job losses, increased violence and a greater burden of unpaid care. Temporary Basic Income, an idea which has quickly gone mainstream, will give women greater freedom, choice and power. And we estimate just 12 percent of the total financial response to COVID-19 in 2020 could provide a six-month guaranteed income to 2.7 billion poor people.
Backwards or forwards?
COVID-19 has set human development back for the first time when we began measuring 30 years ago. Our present course is not only hobbling development for many, it’s guaranteeing a climate catastrophe.
Our flagship publication, the Human Development Report, on its 30th anniversary will examine how we can expand human freedom and prosperity while protecting our planet.
Jobs and livelihoods
Deprived of jobs, the poorest are literally at risk of starving. Cash transfers can avert the worst, efficiently. Using big data, AI and partnerships with cell phone companies, cash can be transferred instantly. Cash transfers are empowering, effective and avoid the costs of intermediaries.
COVID-19 is exposing a stark digital divide. This is an opportunity to think big on connectivity in the developing world and reach the underserved with healthcare and education via telemedicine and remote learning, and invest in digital entrepreneurship.
Today’s food system is the largest cause of health problems, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, as well as the greatest employer of people. There are 1.1 billion smallholder farmers who need help to improve productivity, reduce risk and ensure fair prices.
Diversified supply chains
Supply chain disruption has hurt the most vulnerable and prompts the question of whether and how countries should build greater self-sufficiency.
We need diversified global supply chains that allow countries to exploit their comparative advantages, coupled with governments’ commitments to open borders and trade.
Countries that prepared are weathering the crisis better. With global risks increasing, governments should strengthen their preparedness, so they are more ready to face the next crisis. Resilience also requires rethinking how to finance public goods differently—whether human health, or the climate.
There are gems of opportunity in this unique, terrible crisis. UNDP is fighting for a future where one third of all food produced isn’t wasted while one in 10 people goes hungry; where 10 times more isn’t spent on fossil fuel subsidies than on renewable energy, and where more than two billion people don’t live in fragility, conflict or violence. We are working to transform the lives of those who, even before the coronavirus, were out of school, out of work, offline, and off the grid.