I thank you, Madame Moderator. And let me commend you for the excellent manner you have steered this meeting. Thank you.
Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues, Dear Friends,
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening everyone.
It was an honour to co-host this event with my good friend, co-chair, Amb. Cho and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation. And we wish to thank you all for your participation and excellent contributions to the discussions.
The pandemic (as we have heard) has hit the poorest and the most vulnerable countries the hardest. The average Gini index for developing economies has increased by more than 6%, with an even larger impact for low-income countries. I am in Dhaka now, and am witnessing firsthand the enormity of the challenges that confront us as we grapple with a new and more serious wave of the pandemic.
While the richest countries have already been able to roll out major stimulus packages for their businesses and citizens, the poorer economies are being plunged into deeper crises. The SG’s report on the SDGs progress predicts that they will be pushed back by a full 10 years on achieving their SDGs. Certainly, this will further widen the inequalities in those societies.
Like many other developing countries, Bangladesh is also seriously affected by the pandemic. I thank Mr. Asif Saleh for sharing important perspectives from the situation in Bangladesh, and on our efforts to recover from the pandemic, especially in the areas of empowering women and girls, and addressing other vulnerable groups such as the urban poor. Other panelists have also highlighted these issues from their regions.
The Government has adopted a multi-pronged and multi-stakeholder approach. We have made COVID-19 recovery a priority in our current budget cycle. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already rolled out 23 stimulus packages to the tune of US$ 14.6 billion which is 4.44% of GDP to overcome the negative impacts of pandemic. We have placed the most vulnerable section of our society at the center of our efforts with a focus on women, the ultra-poor, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.
Yet no single country can tackle this crisis alone. As we move along in this difficult journey, we wish to learn from the good practices of other countries in comparable situations. We need global solidarity to chart out a sustainable and resilient pathway that will ensure “Equal Recovery from COVID-19 a Reality for All.”
We have heard excellent [insightful] presentations from the panelists, which have provided us with a lot of food for thoughts.
Allow me to share some key takeaways:
First, the growing “vaccine divides” between the rich and the poor have compounded the prevailing inequality both within and across societies. According to WHO, while in high‑income countries, 1 in 4 people have already been vaccinated, the number in the poorer countries is as low as 1 in 500. We must eliminate this inequality urgently. I reiterate our call for immediate transfer of vaccines technologies to the developing countries. Bangladesh is ready to contribute to mass scale vaccine production if technical know-how is shared with us.
Second, the Covid-19 pandemic is plunging millions into poverty and hunger. For the first time this century, we are experiencing a rising trend in extreme poverty and hunger. Perhaps it’s time for a new paradigm that would address poverty, hunger, and income inequality in a holistic manner.
Third, there needs to be enhanced global solidarity to mobilize more support for climate-vulnerable countries. The unresolved issues and unfulfilled commitments in climate financing and technology transfer have exacerbated the inequality situation in those countries. The upcoming COP-26 must come up with concrete deliverables in this regard.
Fourth, [one particularly hard-hit group in the pandemic, that I would like to highlight is the migrants] In this pandemic, migrants globally have faced dire consequences due to job losses, salary cuts, forced returns, and lack of access to social safety net. We are far from achieving SDG 10.7 on orderly, safe, and regular migration. The cost of remittances is still far above than the target of 3%.
The pandemic has led to a drop in remittances globally, and many migrant-sending countries, who are heavily dependent on remittances are seriously impacted. Remittances remain a key source of external financing and an important driver of upward mobility for many. We need to resolve these issues, address vulnerabilities of migrants, and present further opportunities for them to cope with the post-COVID job market recovery.
Fifth, the LDCs and other vulnerable countries are bearing the heaviest brunt of the crisis. They need enhanced support for institution building in the areas of social security, health, and education to fight against the menace of growing inequality. The upcoming LDC5 conference provides us a good opportunity to demonstrate our solidarity for an ambitious programme of action for the LDCs.
Sixth, financing for development is shrinking, not only ODA, but also other sources including private investment and financing. Many low-income countries are in extreme financial constraints; some are on the verge of debt distress. Resources are being diverted from SDGs implementation to immediate needs of pandemic response. The WB, IMF, IFIs, bilateral development partners and others must step up their efforts for enhanced financing, especially now that we have entered into the decade of action and delivery.
Finally, inequality is a multidimensional and complex issue. It cannot be addressed in a vacuum. SDG-10 has deep inter-linkages with other SDGs, such as, on poverty eradication, hunger, gender equality, health, education, and job creation. Particular attention needs to be given to strengthening health, including mental health, and education infrastructures. We need a holistic approach to realize an equal and just world where no one will be left behind.
Finally-finally, the need for reliable and disaggregated data cannot be underscored more; data would be critical in ensuring targeted response and recovery measures and appropriate policy measures.
I shall rest it here. It has been an excellent discussion; and we look forward to continuing our discussion and collaboration with you all as we endeavour to build back better, stronger and more resilient from this crisis.
I thank you all.