Fri | Dec 3, 2021

UN head urges ‘quantum leap in support’ for vulnerable nations

Published:Monday | October 4, 2021 | 1:13 PM
United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, addressing a UN Conference on Trade and Development in Barbados on October 4, 2021 - Contributed photo.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, Monday warned that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic must be sustainable and inclusive.

Addressing the 15th session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Barbados, Guterres warned that the pandemic is putting decades of development progress at risk and urged greater support for vulnerable nations as they tackle the challenges of debt distress, lack of investment, unfair trade and the climate emergency.

He supported the call for vaccine equity, adding that it is but “the first step in a much longer race” and that an uneven recovery is leaving much of the world behind.

“We need to turn this around with a bold, sustainable and inclusive global recovery,” Guterres said, adding, “one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

“One that delivers hope to people — and healing to our planet.  And one that levels the playing field for all countries as they support their people during this extraordinary moment in history.”

He said countries cannot build back from the pandemic if they are held down by debt, describing it as “a dagger through the heart of global recovery”.

While welcoming the recent issuance of US$650 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a type of foreign reserve asset created by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he appealed for “a quantum leap in support”.

Guterres told the meeting that his four-point debt action plan calls for re-allocating unused SDRs to vulnerable countries, including middle-income nations, and for the G20 wealthy economies to extend their debt suspension initiative, established in May 2020, through next year.

The UN secretary-general also reiterated his call to reform “the international debt architecture”, particularly for middle-income countries, to examine innovative measures such as debt swaps, buybacks and exchanges.

“Fourth and finally, we need private finance to help fill the gap. It is deeply unfair that rich countries can borrow cheaply and spend their way to recovery, while low and middle-income countries struggle to keep their economies afloat.”

He said that with the COVID-19 pandemic putting development at risk, countries must be supported in making “bold investments” in education, social protection, health care and decent work.

“We need to put people above profits, including through fair tax burdens, and ending tax evasion, money laundering, and illicit financial flows,” he said.

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