UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned that the Covid-19 pandemic will cause unimaginable devastation, usher in hunger and famine of historic proportions and lead to a loss of USD 8.5 trillion in global output — the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression — if nations did not respond with unity and solidarity.
“We must avoid it. The pandemic has demonstrated our fragility. Despite all the technological and scientific advances of recent decades, we are in an unprecedented human crisis, because of a microscopic virus,” the UN Secretary General said on Thursday to the high-level event on Financing For Development.
He underlined the need for the world to respond to the unprecedented crisis with unity and solidarity. “Unless we act now, the Covid-19 pandemic will cause unimaginable devastation and suffering around the world. Hunger and famine of historic proportions. Sixty million more people pushed into extreme poverty. Up to half the global workforce – 1.6 billion people – without livelihoods,” he said.
He said the pandemic could usher in a loss of USD 8.5 trillion in global output – the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Globally, coronavirus has infected 5,813,997 people and killed 360,397, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Later addressing a virtual press conference along with Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness and Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, Guterres said the world is afflicted by enormous fragilities: weak health systems; runaway climate change; unsustainable levels of inequality. “We see other signs of this fragility everywhere, from the increasing risk of nuclear proliferation to the lawlessness of cyberspace. Ignoring these warning signs is senseless arrogance. Existential threats demand humility, unity and solidarity,” he said adding that the world cannot contemplate a return to the same failed priorities and systems.
“ We must invest in a sustainable and inclusive recovery.” When asked at the press conference why did the US and China not speak at the high-level event in which over 50 Heads of State and Government and international organisations spoke, Guterres said “both US and China participated in our work. Of course, this was decided because of the very high participation that it could be only at the level of heads of state and government and both countries, for reasons of agenda, could not do that at that level, but they would be ready to participate at other levels.
The US and China are currently engaged in a war of words over a range of issues, including on trade, the origins of the coronavirus epidemic and Hong Kong.
“But they will be engaged in the Working Group. So, there is a commitment both from the United States and China to be involved in this process, which we very much welcome.” Guterres told the high-level meeting that the UN is asking for immediate, collective action in six critically important areas to deal with the crisis.
Beginning with the global liquidity crisis, he said that this was where the health and economic crises meet; “a dangerous nexus that could prolong and deepen both,” calling for extending Special Drawing Rights to supplement public spending reserves.