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COVID-19 Recovery Should Prioritize Immediate Relief for At-Risk Workers, Helping Small Businesses, Secretary-General Tells Meeting on Poverty-Reduction Options

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SG/SM/20154

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the virtual high-level meeting “Trends, Options and Strategies in Poverty Eradication across the World”, in New York today:

Let me begin by thanking the President of the General Assembly for organizing this high-level meeting.

This event could not come at a more pressing moment. Now is the time to focus on the imperative to eradicate poverty in all its forms everywhere. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the immense fragilities and challenges we face —from pervasive structural inequalities to inadequate health infrastructure to the lack of universal social protection.

Societies, economies — and most of all, people — are paying a heavy price. And of course, the pandemic is placing even greater obstacles on the pathway to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Poverty eradication is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and has been a major focus of our concerted efforts.

After many years of progress, poverty and hunger are today on the rise, reversing decades of progress and elevating already high levels of inequality within and between countries.

As with so many aspects of this pandemic, the impacts are falling disproportionately on the most vulnerable — people living in poverty, the working poor, women and children, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups. Those toiling in the informal sector — often without access to any form of social protection — are particularly vulnerable to poverty in the looming economic recession.

COVID-19 recovery and response must be focused on building back better. We simply cannot go back to the way things were. We have an opportunity to create a people-centred economic recovery with decent jobs for all, enabling people to work their way out of poverty. But, this can only happen with the right policies in place, building on existing normative frameworks.

We already have the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and a wide range of internationally agreed development goals and frameworks to guide policymaking. In addition, policies need to be informed by reliable and relevant analysis and evidence. Countries need to strengthen capacities for collecting and analysing quality and reliable data.

The first priority should be immediate support for at-risk workers, protecting and strengthening the resilience of micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises — including women-led businesses — and expanding universal social protection coverage.

I have called for a rescue and recovery package equivalent to more than 10 per cent of the global economy. Greater international cooperation is urgently needed to support developing countries, including by providing liquidity and financial assistance; and by relieving or postponing payment of some foreign debts.

We need to make the connection between health and health‑care needs and social, economic and environmental well-being. Our interventions should also build on and bolster existing institutions, while steering our economies towards inclusive and green growth for a better and stronger recovery.

We need to strengthen our multilateral system to help countries — by extending sound policy advice, ensuring policy coherence and setting international parameters for an employment-led and people-centred recovery.

The challenges we face are enormously complex and interdependent. To effectively tackle them, I call on everyone — Governments, civil society, the private sector and development partners — to accelerate global actions for a world without poverty.

Let us firmly commit to the Decade of Action and deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda. Let us step up and strengthen solidarity and collaboration at this enormously challenging time.

For information media. Not an official record.