UN Chief says people must come first during pandemic recovery

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said people must be at the centre of post-pandemic recovery at a meeting to examine the economic and social impact of the crisis.

Although Covid-19 caught the world unprepared, “we cannot let this happen again,” he added on Tuesday in a video message to the Global Forum for a Human-Centered Recovery, organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The three-day forum is being held online, bringing together world leaders, heads of international organisations, and representatives of employers and workers groups from around the world, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We need a human-centered, green recovery that puts people first,” said the UN Chief.

“Putting people first means achieving universal social protection, the best line of defense against shocks of all kinds and critical to a just transition.”

Guterres commended the ILO for convening the forum, which comes at a crucial time for countries, economies, families and workers.

In the wake of the pandemic, poverty is rising, inequalities are widening, and household income is declining, while billionaires’ profits are soaring, he said.

The Secretary-General added that the situation is worse for women, as they face rising unemployment and shoulder most of the burden for care.

Many women will be unable to re-enter the workforce without “robust” safety nets and decent job opportunities, he said.

Meanwhile, vaccine inequity persists, meaning that richer countries are preparing for recovery as many low-income nations face spiraling debt as well as a massive and enduring jobs deficit.

Additionally, the Secretary-General emphasised the pressing need for climate action, recalling that countries are “dramatically off-target” when it comes to limiting global warming.

He said that putting people first means renewing the social contract and making massive investments in their future well-being.

Among the key topics of discussion at the forum are the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for a Just Transition, which the UN Chief launched in September 2021.

The goal is to create at least 400 million jobs, especially in the “green” and care sectors, and to extend social protection to nearly 4 billion people who currently are without coverage.

Guterres urged countries to act now to achieve a just recovery, stating that the balance between a global breakthrough and a global breakdown depends on choices made today.

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