United Nations

United Nations 19 Mar 2020

"We are in an unprecedented situation & normal rules no longer apply" - UN Chief


Facing a global health crisis "unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations," Secretary-General António Guterres today (19 Mar) called for a "coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world's leading economies."

Guterres, speaking to reporters remotely from UN Headquarters, said, "a global recession - perhaps of record dimensions - is a near certainty," and stressed that "current responses at the country level will not address the global scale and complexity of the crisis."

He welcomed the decision by G20 leaders to convene an emergency summit next week "to respond to the epic challenges" posed by the pandemic.

The Secretary-General said, "we are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply. We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis - and the magnitude of the response must match its scale.

He highlighted three critical areas for action; tackling the health emergency, focusing on the social impact and the economic response and recovery, and thirdly, a responsibility to "recover better."

Guterres said, "if we let the virus spread like wildfire - especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world -- it would kill millions of people" and urged nations to "immediately move away from a situation where each country is undertaking its own health strategies to one that ensures, in full transparency, a coordinated global response."

These strategies, he said, include "wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss" as well as "designing fiscal and monetary responses to ensure that the burden does not fall on those who can least afford it."

Noting that "more than 800 million children are out of school right now," Guterres said "we must ensure that all children have access to food and equal access to learning - bridging the digital divide and reducing the costs of connectivity."

The Secretary-General concluded by saying "we have a responsibility to ‘recover better'" and to "ensure that lessons are learned and that this crisis provides a watershed moment for health emergency preparedness and for investment in critical 21st century public services and the effective delivery of global public goods."

Asked about how these initiatives would be funded, Guterres said, "wee see that whenever there is a problem in banking system, trillions appear to solve the problems of the banks. And these trillions must appear now. The governments and central banks must work to guarantee that there is liquidity in the economy, but also that funds are mobilized to those who are most in need. And those who are most in need are people, on one hand, and the poorest countries on the the other. "

He said, "it is absolutely essential to show solidarity in the way we respond to the crisis."

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