UNDP recommends implementing equity-focused approaches to mitigate pandemic fallout


Global human development — which can be measured as a combination of the world’s education, health and living standards — could decline this year for the first time since 1990 mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned on Wednesday.

Declines in fundamental areas of human development are being felt across most countries- rich and poor — in every region, according to the UNDP.

The world has seen many crises over the past 30 years, including the global financial crisis of 2007-09, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said in a statement.

“Each has hit human development hard but, overall, development gains accrued globally year-on-year, yet COVID-19 — with its triple hit to health, education, and income — may change this trend,” he said.

Inequalities more visible 

The UN body said that the drop in human development is expected to be much higher in developing countries that are less able to cope with the pandemic’s social and economic fallout than richer nations.

In education, with schools closed and stark divides in access to online learning, UNDP estimates show that 86% of children in primary education are now effectively out-of-school in countries with low human development — compared to just 20% in countries with very high human development.

The pandemic’s global death toll has exceeded 300,000 people, while the global per capita income this year is expected to fall by 4%.

Equity-focused approach 

The UNDP suggests that implementing equity-focused approaches could help economies and societies rally, mitigating the far-reaching impacts of the virus pandemic.

“The crisis shows that if we fail to bring equity into the policy toolkit, many will fall further behind,” said Pedro Conceição, director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP.

“This is particularly important for the ‘new necessities’ of the 21st century, such as access to the internet, which is helping us to benefit from tele-education, tele-medicine, and to work from home.”

Closing the gap in access to the internet for low- and middle-income countries is estimated to cost just one per cent of the extraordinary fiscal support packages the world has so far committed to respond to COVID-19.

The importance of equity is emphasized in the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 crisis, which sets out a “green, gender-equal, good governance” baseline from which to build a ‘new normal’. 

It recommends five priority steps to tackle the complexity of this crisis: protecting health systems and services; ramping up social protection; protecting jobs, small- and medium-sized businesses and informal sector workers; making macroeconomic policies work for everyone; and promoting peace, good governance and trust to build social cohesion. 

The UNDP called on the international community to rapidly invest in the ability of developing countries to follow these steps.

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