Scientists have delivered multiple safe and effective vaccines, but pharmaceutical corporations and governments are still failing to make enough doses and facilitate their distribution everywhere. Vaccines could indeed get us back to our lives and our global economy going again, but only if they are accessible to everyone, everywhere, as soon as possible.
The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to lead to an increase in inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began. The virus has exposed, fed off and increased existing inequalities of wealth, gender and race. Over two million people have died, and hundreds of millions of people are being forced into poverty while many of the richest – individuals and corporations – are thriving. Billionaire fortunes returned to their pre-pandemic highs in just nine months, while recovery for the world’s poorest people could take over a decade.
As 2020 draws to a close, the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating. Without urgent action, global poverty and inequality will deepen dramatically. Hundreds of millions of people have already lost their jobs, gone further into debt or skipped meals for months. Research by Oxfam and Development Pathways shows that over 2 billion people have had no support from their governments in their time of need.
Our analysis shows that none of the social protection support to those who are unemployed, elderly people, children and families provided in low- and middle-income countries has been adequate to meet basic needs. 41% of that government support was only a one-off payment and almost all government support has now stopped.
Decades of social policy focused on tiny levels of means-tested support have left most countries completely unprepared for the COVID-19 economic crisis. Yet, countries such as South Africa and Bolivia have shown that a universal approach to social protection is affordable, and that it has a profound impact on reducing inequality and protecting those who need it most.
Boosting climate finance for developing and climate-vulnerable countries is a key part of fulfilling the Paris Agreement. New Zealand should double its climate finance to get closer to doing its fair share towards the USD 100 billion goal.
New Zealand’s funding of climate action overseas is crucial to supporting our neighbours in the Pacific and beyond to adapt to the escalating impacts of climate breakdown and transition to a clean energy future.
Sign the Bighearts petition, calling for a boost to New Zealand’s overseas aid and climate action here
In 2017, extreme hunger was the defining humanitarian crisis, with four countries on the brink of famine and 30 million people in dire need of food assistance for survival. International outcry led to a late but robust reaction that prevented the descent into full famines in all four countries.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global crisis, but the virus brings even greater hunger in its wake. State economies are collapsing, and millions can no longer afford food. More people are experiencing extreme hunger today than in 2017, but no equivalent reaction is on the horizon.
COVID-19 hit a world woefully unprepared to fight it, because countries had failed to choose policies to fight inequality. Only one in six countries assessed for the CRI Index 2020 were spending enough on health, only a third of the global workforce had adequate social protection, and in more than 100 countries at least one in three workers had no labour protection such as sick pay. As a result, many have faced death and destitution, and inequality is increasing dramatically. Governments such as South Korea have shown the way forward in combining recovery from COVID-19 with fighting inequality.