Despite significant economic growth over the past years, middle-income countries (MICs) face increasingly complex challenges related to, among others, a growing demand from their new and still vulnerable middle-classes. As middle-classes have grown in recent decades, so have citizens’ aspirations and demands for quality public goods, better services and a more responsive and transparent state. More educated, better informed, and more connected than ever before, citizens are asking for more voice in public decisions. In parallel, growing aspirations confronted with chronic vulnerability of middle-classes tend to generate frustration and, more and more frequently, social turbulence.
“The Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have failed to step up to the gravity of the global economic crisis, in particular for developing countries, where the economic outlook continues to worsen. No major decisions were taken to support these countries, and the initial emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming too little as the crisis wears on.”
On this 17th of October, International Day for Poor People, noble and well-intentioned beautiful declarations will be made to honour people rendered and living in poverty.
There should be no mistake about it: people are not born poor, they are made poor. An economic and social system that takes away their livelihood, destroys their environment, poisons their water and their land is a murderous system that should be condemned. In wealthy countries, the mechanisms are different but the result is the same. Poor people are those who have no jobs, who fall out of social security, who have pensions or other allowances far below the poverty line.
We have many mechanisms to ‘help’ poor people. In rich, northern countries we have tens of thousands of poverty associations that do what they can, they rightly focus on the poor’s human rights, they try to ‘empower’ poor people so they can claim their rights. But they cannot give the poor what they need: a decent income.
Michelle Bachelet is UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Olivier De Schutter is UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Guy Ryder is the Director-General, International Labour Organization
Governments have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the social and economic disruption it has wrought with a range of ad-hoc schemes, including paid furloughs, cash transfers and family support. While commendable, these responses share two major limitations. First, many are temporary, short-term fixes, covering lockdowns or a notional period until economic recovery kicks in. They do nothing to change the underlying circumstances that left many millions of people vulnerable, or to put them in better standing to face future crises. Secondly, the measures simply do not address the existential threats that face many of the world’s worst-hit communities. Although worldwide government spending on the COVID-19 response is more than USD 11 trillion, by far the largest responses have come from rich countries. For example, the European Union recently adopted a Euro 750 billion recovery plan (equivalent to 6 per cent of its GDP) while Japan’s economic recovery plan equates to 22 per cent of its GDP (or USD 1.1 trillion). But among low-income developing countries the fiscal response has averaged 1.2 percent of GDP.
Global crises like this pandemic observe no geographical or political borders. Against them we are only as strong as the weakest among us. If we are to build greater resilience and a more effective ability to recover, we need to support all countries in creating robust social protection floors. The current piecemeal approach is like starting to recruit firefighters after a blaze has broken out, and then directing them to save only a few rooms in the burning building. Clearly, this doesn’t work. In these circumstances, international solidarity is essential, and in everyone’s interest. Social protection floors for all are affordable. The financing gap for all developing countries — the difference between what these countries already invest in social protection and what a full social protection floor (including health) would cost — is about USD 1,191 billion in the current year, including the impact of COVID-19. But the gap for the low-income countries is only some USD 78 billion, a negligible amount compared to the GDP of the industrialized countries. Yet the total official development assistance for social protection amounts to only 0.0047 per cent of the gross national income of donor countries.
International human rights law recognizes that wealthy States have a duty to help fulfill social rights in countries with more limited resources, and a number of steps have already been taken to convert this commitment into concrete assistance. In 2011 an expert advisory group recommended donors provide predictable, multi-year financing to strengthen social protection in developing countries. In 2012, two independent UN human rights experts proposed a Global Fund for Social Protection to help low-income countries create social protection floors for their people. The same year the ILO’s membership – governments, workers and employers from 185 countries – backed the idea of comprehensive social protection with a unanimously-adopted pledge to “establish and maintain…social protection floors as a fundamental element of their national social security systems”.
We regularly hear pledges that we must, and will, ‘build back better’ from the current crisis. We can only do this if everybody has a minimum level of social protection, including the poorest and most marginalized. Countries must deploy the maximum resources available to make social protection a reality for all. This may require more effective approaches to taxation and tackling corruption. Longer term, this redistribution of assets will help to curb inequality and discrimination and support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s promise to “leave no one behind”. This crisis offers us many lessons. One is that building back better requires international solidarity and better social protection for all, not just those who can already afford it. If we ignore this message, we risk condemning future generations to endure once more the immense suffering we see today. That, surely, is an intolerable prospect.
The United States of Trump tried everything to derail the 75th UN General Assembly and thus jeopardise the future of the United Nations. The president of China, XI Jinping, by unexpectedly declaring on 24 September that his country had just approved the decision to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, saved the GA a little and opened up a new path of hope for the UN in the future, notably the possible relaunch of the Paris Agreements. Fortunately, because the powerful global masters of business and finance, for their part, gave no evidence of wanting to stray so far from their “business as usual”.
As the World Bank and the IMF begin their virtual 2020 Annual Meetings this week, the Bretton Woods Project’s Preamble previews what they might have in store for the Covid-19 recovery and what key developments will be shaping the meetings.
The multiple crises of the COVID19 pandemic, the intensified economic recession, and the climate emergency has spotlighted the urgency for raising the calls for debt cancelation and addressing unsustainable and illegitimate debt.It is in this context that many movements, organizations and citizens groups are coming together for a “Global Week of Action for Debt Cancellation” on October 10 to 17. We hope to generate impact in the period leading up to and during the week and pave the way for a re-invigorated, sustained global debt movement to rise to what will even be bigger challenges in the coming years.
JOINthe many activities being planned for the week, or ORGANIZE YOUR OWNactivities. For shared information on what are being planned, please go to
> The website www.debtgwa.net and from there you can also go to the websites of participating organizations
This inclusive approach integrates a gender lens and gives voice from multiple vantage points to various actors, from civil society to firms doing business in Africa. Building on established measures of illicit financial flows, new insights are provided on country estimates of export misinvoicing on the continent and specific characteristics of mineral commodities are highlighted.
Some of the motivations and root causes of illicit financial flows are also underscored in the report.
A high-level United Nations panel report says global policies are needed to prevent trillions of dollars escaping developing countries through tax abuse and corruption. The UN group includes former heads of state, past central bank governors, business leaders and prominent academics.
“As countries combat the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus, they could use the lost revenues from tax avoidance, crime and corruption,” stated Eric LeCompte, United Nations finance expert and Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA Network. “Countries can emerge from the pandemic with resilience and fund public services if we can curb these staggering revenue losses.”
The United Nations High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (FACTI Panel), reported that around $1.6 trillion is laundered per year. Due to corporate tax avoidance in the form of profit-shifting, $500 billion is lost to governments each year globally. The UN panel report comes only days after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the “FinCEN files,” revealing that global banks moved more than $2 trillion over an 18-year period in suspicious transactions due to a lack of enforcement.
“Hopefully the report is a wake-up call,” said LeCompte. “We must move forward global agreements and policies that increase transparency in the financial system.”
The FACTI panel will release a final report in February 2021.
Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 750 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee USA builds an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA wins critical global financial reforms and won more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world’s poorest people. www.jubileeusa.org