COVID-19 Pandemic Shapes the Future World People Want
The peoples of the world are unanimous – access to basic services such as universal healthcare must become a priority going forward. So too should global solidarity, helping those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing the climate change emergency.
The resultant report, Shaping Our Future Together showed that people across the world were unified in their concerns, with the current coronavirus pandemic being the foremost in their minds.
“When you ask people about their fears and hopes for the future, when you ask people about their expectations of international cooperation about their priorities in the immediate, post-COVID, there is remarkable unity across generations, regions, income groups, education groups, and from people from different political direction,” Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the commemoration of UN’s 75th anniversary, said during a virtual press conference on the findings on Friday, Jan. 8.
Yesterday, Jan. 10, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres marked the 75th anniversary of the first UN General Assembly held in London by giving a keynote address. He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic “has had a disproportionate and terrible impact on the poor and dispossessed, older people and children, those with disabilities and minorities of all kinds”.
“It has pushed an estimated 88 million people into poverty and put more than 270 million at risk at acute food insecurity,” Guterres said. The second short-term priority was a call for greater global solidarity and increased support to places hardest hit by the pandemic. Indeed, Guterres said in his speech that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted serious gaps in global cooperation and solidarity. “We have seen this most recently in vaccine nationalism, some rich countries compete to buy vaccines for their own people, with no consideration for the world’s poor,” he said.
But he went on to thank the government and people of the UK for supporting the COVAX facility, established by the World Health Organisation (WHO). COVAX is the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level. In December, COVAX announced that it had arrangements in place to access two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine candidates on behalf of 190 participating nations. At the time, WHO said in a statement that this would ensure deliveries of the vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 to participating countries.
Guterres said the pandemic has highlighted the “deep fragilities in our world” and in order to tackle them we need to reduce inequality and injustice and to strengthen the bonds of mutual support and trust. He also said that the world needed “a networked multilateralism, so that global and regional organisations communicate and work together towards common goals”.
“And we need an inclusive multilateralism, based on the equal representation of women, and taking in young people, civil society, business and technology, cities and regions, science and academia,” he said.
People around the world also called for safe water and sanitation, and education.
Rethinking the global economy and making it more inclusive to tackle inequalities was another concern. Meanwhile addressing climate change and destruction to the environment also remained top long-concerns for respondents.
“Respondents in all regions identified climate change and environmental issues as the number one long-term global challenge,” the report noted. Guterres was pragmatic, admitting that while the UN was proud of its achievements over the last 75 years, including helping to boost global health, literacy, living standards and promoting human rights and gender equality, it was also aware of its failures. The biggest one being the inability to adequately address climate change.
“The climate emergency is already upon us and the global response has been utterly inadequate,” he stated.
“The past decade was the hottest in human history, carbon dioxide levels are at record highs, apocalyptic fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes are becoming the new normal,” he stated.
“If we don’t change course,” Guterres warned, “we might be headed for a catastrophic temperature rise or more than 3 degrees this century.”
“Biodiversity is collapsing, one million species are at risk of extinction, and whole ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes.
“This is a war on nature and a war with no winners,” Guterres said.
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