Who should run this world

The way out of the coronavirus crisis must lead to a better world

Only if everyone stands together will our world be able to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and its harrowing consequences. Last Thursday, the heads of state and government of the G-20 countries took steps in the right direction at an unscheduled meeting via videoconferencing. Yet we are still far from a concerted and cohesive global response that does justice to the unprecedented scale of what we are facing.

We are still a long way from flattening the infection curve. Initially it took 67 days for 100,000 people to become infected, but the number of infections per day will soon reach 100,000 and more. Without concerted and courageous action, it is almost inevitable that the number of new cases will rise into the millions. The Consequences: Health systems on the verge of collapse, economies in free fall and desperate people that will hit the poorest hardest.

We must prepare for the worst and do everything we can to prevent it. This is how this call to action - based on science, solidarity and smart politics - should be understood. It comprises three points.
 

First, it is important to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.

This requires aggressive and early testing and the tracing of contacts, supplemented by quarantine, medical treatment and safety precautions for first aiders as well as measures to restrict freedom of movement and contacts. Despite the harm these steps bring, they must be sustained until there is therapy and a vaccine.

It is vital that these robust and concerted efforts be undertaken under the direction of the World Health Organization, a member of the United Nations system. If countries act independently of one another - and they must act for the good of their people - they will not be able to meet the challenge for all.
 

Second, there is a need to address the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis.

The virus is spreading like wildfire and is likely to find its way very quickly to the global south, where health systems are limited, people are more vulnerable and millions live in densely populated slums or overcrowded settlements for refugees and internally displaced persons. Given these circumstances, the virus could sweep across developing countries with devastating consequences and then spread back to where it was believed to have been overcome. In our tightly knit world, we are only as strong as the weakest of our health systems.

There is therefore no doubt that we must fight the virus for the benefit of all humanity, placing particular emphasis on those who are hardest hit: women, the elderly, young people, the low-paid, small and medium-sized businesses, the informal sector and others Groups in precarious situations.

Recent United Nations reports show that the risk of contagion from the virus has spread to the economy as well, and outline the funding measures needed to deal with the shocking effects. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already announced that we have entered a recession that could be as bad or worse as in 2009.

We need comprehensive multilateral defensive measures, the costs of which, expressed as a percentage of global gross domestic product, will be in the double-digit range.

The developed countries can do this on their own and are already at it. However, we need to massively increase the resources available to developing countries. To do this, it is necessary to expand the capacities of the IMF, in particular through the issuing of special drawing rights, as well as those of other international financial institutions, so that they can quickly provide the countries with the funds they need. I know this is difficult at a time when countries are being forced to increase their domestic spending to unprecedented levels. However, this spending will be in vain if we fail to get the virus under control.

Coordinated swap transactions between central banks can also provide more liquidity in emerging markets. Debt relief must also be a priority, such as an immediate remission of interest payments in 2020.


Third, it is important to emerge stronger from the crisis.

We cannot simply go back to pre-COVID-19, that is, with societies that are unnecessarily vulnerable to crises. The pandemic has shown us in the most drastic way the price we pay for weaknesses in health systems, social protection and public services. It has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities, especially gender inequality, and illustrates how invisible and unpaid care work keeps the formal economy going. She has also highlighted the human rights challenges, including stigma and violence against women

Now is the time to do twice as much to build more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient to pandemics, climate change and other global challenges. The way out of the crisis must lead to an economic rethink. We are still guided by the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations system has fully mobilized its forces: We support the countermeasures in the countries, we make our supply chains available to the world and we campaign for a global ceasefire.

Defeating the pandemic anywhere in the world dictates both morality and enlightened self-interest. At this extraordinary moment, we cannot fall back on the usual tools. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We are facing an enormous test that demands determined, coordinated and innovative action in the service of all of us.
 

António Guterres is the Secretary General of the United Nations

Released on April 2, 2020 on www.guardian.com. Translation by the German Translation Service of the United Nations, New York