The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, the African Peer Review Mechanism, the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations and the African Union, co-organized a webinar on Building Resilient Societies post-COVID-19 in the Global South, held during the 2020 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.
In a short span of time, COVID-19 has shaken countries and diminished economic activities on a scale that is reminiscent of the 2008 global financial crisis. Forced to adjust its relatively upbeat economic forecast issued earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) already declared that the world will enter a recession as a result of COVID-19. Despite lockdowns, curfews, and other measures to curb its spread, the number of infections has passed the 10 million mark worldwide. The death toll has exceeded 500,000. In light of this extraordinarily challenging situation, ‘’resilience’’ is probably one of the most consulted terms in efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 impact and to rethink how countries of the South can rebuild stronger economies and societies in the mid and long terms.
The Global South with its limited health systems-hospital capacities including the ratio of doctors/inhabitants, available medicines and vital medical equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment is undoubtedly going to be immensely tested by a highly contagious virus which was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020. While saving lives should receive most of the focus of governments, due consideration needs to be given to resuscitating economies to cushion the impact of COVID-19. In addition to regular hygiene keeping, social distancing has been recommended as the best way to keep COVID-19 at bay short of a vaccine whose potential development, licensing, and ultimately authorized commercialization is at least a year away.
However, social distancing is a luxury in the global South where numerous individuals rely on the informal economy for their income and sustenance. The need for people to remain indoors to stave off COVID-19 will have a significant impact on food security as jobs are lost, and social protection is absent or very inadequate. Governments need to make sure that a health crisis does not turn into a food crisis and supply chains are not disrupted.
Several assessments of the damage that COVID-19 will cause have been made in the global South. According to the least bad projection, 122.8 million African people will suffer from contaminations, 2.3 million admissions to the hospital, and 300,000 deaths. On the African continent, between 5 and 29 million people could find themselves in extreme poverty, and 19 million jobs could be lost.
In an economic environment marked by uncertainty and a certain sense of parochialism, the Global South ought to adopt resilience as an overarching policy. It is critical and possible to attenuate economic shocks while holding out for economic assistance and the cancellation of debt owed to International Financial Institutions. A paradigm shift needs to operate in the way in which the Global South devises its economic plans. Integrating the full scope of resilience as a concept- preparing for a crisis, mitigating its consequences, and adapting to new circumstances – will be paramount for reviving capital markets and flows, protecting the most vulnerable and developing a robust pipeline for post-crisis investments.
An organization can be seen as resilient when ‘’it can respond effectively to and withstand crises by managing any adverse impacts that might threaten its viability’’ (Drachal, 2017). COVID-19 will leave a lasting impact on the way we transact and live. In the future, it will be crucial to diversify economies and support their digitalization. Accelerating industrialization, increasing knowledge, and expanding trade among countries in the Global South becomes inevitable, given that the pandemic hit the developed world earlier. At present, the value of trade between African countries, for example, is below 20%, leaving the continent particularly vulnerable to possible economic downturn in China, the United States, and Europe, its biggest trading partners.
Medical diplomacy is a concept that has regained popularity amid the COVID-19 outbreak, as seen in Italy, the most affected European country. The fast spread of COVID-19 has made it clear that no country will be able to overcome COVID-19 alone. As the developed world approves large stimulus packages to protect businesses, the Global South is compelled to explore ways to increase solidarity and cooperation, which will set a standard for the world and for future health or humanitarian emergencies.
In the Buenos Aires outcome document of the second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation ( A/RES/73/291) adopted in April 2019, the importance of South-South regional and interregional cooperation and triangular cooperation through innovative approaches for collective actions and multi-stakeholder partnerships, towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, have been highlighted.
Johannesburg, 17 July 2020 – On the margins of the High-Level Political Forum 2020, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations jointly organized a virtual event entitled “Building resilient societies post-COVID-19 in the Global South”. The event brought together representatives of Colombia, Egypt, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and South Africa to discuss different national resilient experiences in the face COVID-19 global pandemic and its social and economic fallout. It also discussed the vital contribution of triangular cooperation (TrC) provided by development partners and the UN organs besides the nature of cooperation among developing countries.
Prof. Maloka, CEO of APRM, welcomed participants to the event and emphasized that the world needs multilateral cooperation and innovative strategies if it is to overcome a disease that knows no bounds. A virus that has humbled humanity indiscriminately needs to be tackled collectively. Solidarity is needed now and fast, he said. Further strengthening regional integration is necessary, and supply chains have to be diversified urgently. Furthermore, resilience ought to be institutionalized to enhance recovery from COVID-19. In the same vein, a Memorandum of Understanding has been recently signed between APRM and UNOSSC. The MoU seeks to institutionalize the cooperation between both institutions and to collaborate further for the attainment of Agenda 2063, Africa regional integration, and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Hon. Dr. Hala El-Said, Minister of Planning and Economic Development of Egypt, indicated the Egyptian government’s efforts to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the outcome document of the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation, also known as Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA)+40. Circumstances of COVID-19 prove that South-South cooperation (SSC) is essential. Increasing access to social protection and safety nets, eradicating poverty and hunger, creating a robust health care system as well as investing in the human capital stand at the top of the agenda of the Egyptian government. Three hundred thirty-two (332) policies and measures have been taken to date to curb the pandemic in Egypt, including a comprehensive stimulus package of around 100 billion Egyptian pounds, which represents 2% of GDP. In terms of concrete steps to support SSC, Egypt has launched a Center for South-South Industrial Cooperation to transfer technological knowledge and promote innovation-based industrial development among African states.
Mr. Tshediso Matona, Director-General of the National Planning Commission in South Africa, affirmed that COVID-19 represents a mortal shock to the global system, unprecedented in scale and destruction. He stressed that global resilience should be built alongside national and regional ones. He clarified that South Africa had been engaged in the social protection front in addition to supportive interventions in the health sector besides providing social, financial packages, i.e., income grants to the most vulnerable people affected by the pandemic. Mr. Matona affirmed that recovery should be on a different trajectory, and a futuristic approach is needed to get prepared for such shocks.
Another national experience was given by Ms. Catalina Quintero, Director of SSC, Presidential Agency for Cooperation in Colombia. She displayed the restrictive measures put in place, i.e., lockdown for three months to contain the proliferation of COIVD-19 in her country. Further, a national taskforce was created to articulate the response of public institutions to the pandemic. A crowdfunding campaign was launched to support low-income families who can stay at home during the lockdown. Ms. Quintero affirmed that the positive impact brought by SSC is noticed. It is underpinned by the acknowledgment of mutual challenges and strengths, which allows for the development of home-grown solutions, a flexible mechanism allowing experience-sharing amid a crisis and solidarity among countries.
Mr. Jorge Chediek, Director of UNOSSC, reiterated the fact that SSC and triangular cooperation are essential. He remarked that Japan had been a leader in establishing TrC. He emphasized the fact that SSC does not eliminate North-South cooperation but complements it. COVID-19 has challenged the multilateral system and will wipe out massive amounts of economic production, exacerbate unemployment, disrupt financial investments, and break many value chains. Therefore, the damage must be mitigated. SSC will be critical for sharing experiences. Many countries in the South are finding solutions to manage the pandemic. Mr. Chediek made a case for using COVID-19 to re-establish global chains and repair governments.
In the same vein, H.E Mr. Adonia Ayebare, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations, argued that recovery has to start even as countries deal with a health emergency. H.E Mr. Ayebare highlighted that the Africa Center for Disease Control demonstrates good practices at the regional level. COVID-19 will test our way forward. Recovery is not a linear process, and more coordination is needed. The BAPA+40 outcome document has proved to be relevant for cooperation and should serve as a framework document as countries overcome COVID-19, as he advised.
From an Asian perspective, Mr. Tomoya Yoshida, Deputy Director-General, Human Development Department at JICA, shed light on Japan’s response to COVID-19. He displayed various restrictive and preventive measures taken by Japan to track pandemic development. He also highlighted what JICA does to extend assistance to other countries, showing an example of its project in Thailand, which experience can be shared with other developing countries. JICA strengthens the capacity of national core laboratories in Africa, the capacity of disease control experts in Africa through regional training, and by offering post-doctoral, doctoral and Master of Public Health programs. Moreover, it is engaged in networking with regional and global disease control initiatives in Africa.
Following presentations made by speakers, some of the questions raised by the audience to them were clarified by Mr. Tarik Iziraren, Deputy Director for Policy and Strategic Partnerships at UNOSSC. He commended the fruitful discussion at the meeting while assuring that countries have taken the sound and meaningful policies and measures to counter the pandemic. He further mentioned that there is a need for more substantial support for the multilateral system. No country will overcome the pandemic alone. Therefore, partnerships, including the APRM-UNOSSC one, should be established with a multitude of stakeholders besides the governments. Mr. Iziraren also affirmed that South-South solidarity had been maintained, and countries provided vital support amongst themselves.
Welcoming remarks by Prof. Eddy Maloka, CEO, APRM, and Signing of Memorandum of Understanding between APRM and UNOSSC
2- Keynote Speech by Hon. Dr. Hala El-Said, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Egypt
3- Global South and the response to the pandemic
4- Significance of South-South Cooperation in COVID-19 times
5- National experiences in curbing the pandemic in uncertain times
6- Closing remarks by Mr. Tarik Iziraren, Deputy Director for Policy and Strategic Partnerships, UNOSSC
Webinar on Building Resilient Societies Post-COVID-19 in the Global South
Held during the 2020 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable development
Closing Remarks of Mr. Tarik Iziraren
Deputy Director for Policy and Strategic Partnerships
United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)
Speech of Professor Dr. Hala Helmy El Said
Minister of Planning and Economic Development High-level Political Forum Side Event
Building Resilient Societies Post-COVID-19 in the Global South
Thursday 16th of July 2020
From 14:00 to 15:00
COVID-19 response by JICA
July 16, 2020
Deputy Director General,
Human Development Department,JICA