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Across the UN System, all hands are on deck to address the impact of COVID-19 from immediate humanitarian and health needs, to medium and longer-term socio-economic policy. Various initiatives are circling one another, raising issues of governance, reporting and accountability. Member States in the ECOSOC Operational Activities Segment explored some of these questions as they related to the UN Development System (UNDS), while in the 28 May and 2 June meetings on Financing for Development they also explored policy ideas, with an emphasis on accounting for vulnerability in macroeconomic analysis.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. Secretary-General, António Guterres, has initiated a "global conversation" on the future of the UN. The ongoing pandemic of Covid-19 has made physical meetings impossible and overwhelms us all with new responsibilities and demands in the face of its enormous health, social and economic impact.

In this difficult context, a document was submitted to the UN as the result of a dialogue of "the Americas". Concerned that this is the only view from our region reaching the UN, and worried about the very biased opinions it contains, which undervalue the role of women and social movements, among other questionable recommendations, such as the promotion of a closer alliance between the Un and the OAS, a joint letter was sent to the UN, ECLAC, CARICOM, GRULAC and the co-sponsors of the document.

The year 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations as well as the beginning of the final 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the wider 2030 Agenda. The Secretary-General, UN leadership and various Member States have been highlighting the importance of the 75th Anniversary as the opportunity to address challenges to global governance and reinvigorate the UN System with what is needed to deliver meaningful change to people’s lives worldwide.

Across the UN development system, Member States, the UN Secretariat and UN leadership are exploring the profound socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and what macroeconomic policy changes are needed to “build back better”. From UN-led programme activity responses to COVID-19 to needed policy responses both by the Financing for Development process and Member State-led initiatives, there are several opportunities to monitor these developments in the coming weeks.

“The UNDS is better positioned and ready to accompany countries as they seek to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerate SDG implementation. The reinvigorated Resident Coordinator system is now firmly in place ensuring stronger and independent leadership of the UNDS at country level. A new generation of UN Country Teams, more cohesive and responsive to national needs and priorities, is taking shape. Solid foundations have been built to nurture a culture of results and learning; and to improve efficiencies in business operations. Challenges remain however and continued effort is needed to ensure further consolidation through ongoing leadership from all involved, sustained funding of the RC system, strengthened capacity on system-wide evaluations; and improved implementation of the funding compact.”

The COVID-19 health crisis added to the multidimensional crises in the Arab region and their manifestation in conflicts, wars, economic and social inequalities, and the increasing number of refugees and migrants. It could lead to severe repercussions at the economic, social, and political levels. According to an ESCWA preliminary estimate, the region will lose at least USD42 billion in 2020 due to the Corona pandemic. ESCWA also considered that the global spread of the virus and the growing impact of low oil prices could aggravate income losses. Unemployment is expected to increase by 1.2 percentage points, meaning the loss of around 1.7 million jobs. The Arab region registers some of the highest rates of inequality around the world, and informal employment accounts for 50% of jobs. It also lacks universal social protection systems and is thus unable to protect workers and ensure their dignity during work stoppages.

The Coronavirus Global Response pledging event on 4 May celebrated raising 7.4 billion euro for the collaborative development of vaccines, treatment and diagnostics, but there is lack of clarity on ensuring equitable access and the role of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The European Commission pledged 1.4 billion euro, while other leading contributors included France (510 million euro), Germany (525 million), Japan (762 million), Spain (125 million), Canada (551 million), Norway (188 million), UK (441 million) and Italy (71.5 million). The USA was conspicuously absent.

The 2020 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) is scheduled to review the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and progress towards the SDGs on 7- 16 July 2020. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has released a provisional programme and concept note for the 2020 HLPF. DESA has also announced new modalities for virtual side events and exhibitions:

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.

WHO ACT Accelerator

On 24 April, the World Health Organization announced a multi-stakeholder initiative called the “Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, or the ACT Accelerator”. The ACT Accelerator describes itself as “a collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable global access to new COVID-19 essential health technologies”. It is “grounded in a vision of a planet protected from human suffering and the devastating social and economic consequences of COVID-19”.

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