STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE GROUP OF 77 AND CHINA BY HIS EXCELLENCY AMBASSADOR MICHAEL RUDOLPH TEN-POW, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CO-OPERATIVE REPUBLIC OF GUYANA TO THE UNITED NATIONS, AT THE PLENARY BRIEFING BY THE DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL ON THE UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT SYSTEM SUPPORT TO THE COVID-19 SOCIO-ECONOMIC RESPONSE (New York, 9 April 2020)
Deputy Secretary General,
1. I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
2. The Group thanks you for your very informative briefing on the various ways in which the United Nations Development System is responding to this terrible disease that threatens to reshape the world as we know it. While all countries, developed and developing alike, face the same threat, the developing countries, especially those with special vulnerabilities, are least able to defend themselves and protect both the lives and livelihoods of their populations. As we meet here today, a category-5 tropical cyclone is on a path of destruction across the Pacific, which is home to many of our G-77 member States. This is a stark reminder that COVID-19 is but one of the multiple threats that these vulnerable States face.
3. The statistics and the facts are well known. The tourist industry on which the economies of many developing countries depend, has all but evaporated. The slowdown in the global economy also means less demand for the exported commodities on which other developing countries depend and less remittances from abroad. High debt burdens, the lack of access to fresh credits, and increased expenditures on public health infrastructures, further reduce the limited fiscal margins for social safety nets, including unemployment benefits and support for businesses in danger of failing. All this against a background of underdeveloped public health infrastructures and inadequate medical facilities for the treatment of patients affected by the COVID-19.
4. Developing countries are thus confronted by the dual crisis of a pandemic and an unfolding economic emergency, with the potential to reverse the development gains achieved over the past few decades by emerging and developing countries. The need is, undoubtedly, for both public health measures and fiscal and monetary policy responses, the latter of which are largely within the purview of the international financial institutions. The UN Development System should therefore, step up its advocacy with the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral development banks to use all their available instruments and provide the flexibility necessary to accelerate financial and technical support to developing countries in order to contain the spread of the disease, sustain economic activity, protect jobs, and alleviate liquidity constraints. In this connection, the World Bank Group's fast track package is a commendable first step to support developing countries in containing the pandemic and helping businesses to manage the economic downturn.
5. The countries of the South also look to a repositioned UN Development System to provide support for a robust response to COVID-19 and for meeting their longer-term development challenges. An effective response requires greater coordination of the international effort and at the national level, stepped up advocacy to highlight the situation in developing countries, as well as the mobilization of monetary and other resources to strengthen the preparedness and response capacities of the South.
6. We commend the Secretary-General on his launch of the Response and Recovery Fund, aimed at strengthening health systems and assisting populations in conditions of vulnerability across the globe. We commend those donor partners and institutions that have initiated special measures to assist developing countries in their efforts to combat the pandemic. We also commend the solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, within the framework of South-South cooperation, in contributing to the efforts to confront the pandemic. We recognize the role of the Resident Coordinators and the UN Country Teams, working together with national Governments and UN Regional Commissions, in supporting our Governments through coordinated efforts. This pandemic is a true test of whether our repositioned UNDS can respond efficiently and effectively to a major threat; we look forward to receiving further updates on the System's response to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.
7. As the world faces this unparalleled crisis, older persons have become one of its more visible victims. The pandemic spreads among persons of all ages and conditions, yet available evidence indicates that older persons and those with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of serious illness and death from the COVID-19 disease. An effective development response should identify and consider their specific needs and ensure their access to essential services on an equal basis with others.
8. In like manner, as we move forward in the implementation of concrete global actions, we reiterate the necessity for the entities of the United Nations System to put special emphasis to overcoming the specific challenges different States will face in the socio-economic recovery process from the pandemic, particularly the most vulnerable countries.
9. We believe that there is a consensus in the international community about the course of action needed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We welcome the guidance of the United Nations System, in terms of public policy, healthcare and in the spirit of solidarity that should frame our actions.
10. In conclusion, Madam Deputy Secretary-General, this is a time for the international community, developed and developing countries alike, to demonstrate our capability of working together in solidarity within the structures of the United Nations system to mitigate the impacts of the current pandemic while at the same time building the resilience that we developing countries need to successfully overcome the obstacles to our long-term development. We note the call by the Director-General of the World Health Organization to focus on saving lives and not to politicize this crisis. Moreover, we must not allow politicization, stigma or discrimination against countries, peoples or individuals which only hamper our collective endeavors in this fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic.
I thank you.