in Review

Recommitting to help countries recover fairly from COVID-19, and with climate-resilient economies.

When January 2020 dawned, COVID-19 was quietly making its way through Wuhan, China.

Map of China showing a circle radiating from Wuhan

Most of the world had no idea what was in store, or how our lives would be made unrecognizable by a microscopic parasite.

While the virus did its work, people carried on—flying in planes, shopping in busy markets, and crowding into sports arenas, restaurants and theatres.

On March 11 the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO) speaks at a press conference regarding the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the UN Office in Geneva
Photo: UN Photo/Elma Okic

Vibrant cities became silent and still. Entire industries ceased to function, and hundreds of millions lost their jobs.

Photo: UNDP Turkey/Levent Kulu
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Hitting Pause

As the world held its breath, it became clear that an equally severe social and economic crisis was running in tandem with the health crisis.

Alongside the health response, led by WHO, UNDP took the lead in the socio-economic response.

Community workers in Bangladesh with full personal protection working on the ground to promote coronavirus prevention awareness, and distribution of hygiene packages that include soap and hand sanitizer, among poor urban households.
Photo: UNDP Bangladesh/Fahad Kaizer

In more than 100 countries, from Serbia to Thailand, we began working on impact assessments for governments and partners. Our goal was to lessen the economic pain and build a fair, equitable, and green recovery.

This is critical. Pandemics eventually go away. But without proper economic support, economic suffering will ripple out, escalate, and jeopardize lives, livelihoods, and societies for years to come.

Lines ripple outward in an animated image

The consequences, when tied with the two existential crises we face—climate change and widening inequality—are potentially catastrophic.

COVID-19 is giving us an opportunity to move towards a more sustainable economy.

Photo: UNDP India/Dhiraj Singh
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Protect the vulnerable

In theory, pandemics are levelers—anybody can catch a virus. But COVID-19 has many interlocking facets, and the poorest and most vulnerable are hardest hit by almost all of them.

UNDP is advocating for a Temporary Basic Income, and Universal Health Coverage. Even before the pandemic, 100 million people were pushed into extreme poverty every year because of the cost of healthcare.

Our Temporary Basic Income simulator shows how much it would cost to lift the vulnerable out of poverty in 132 countries.

An interactive map is displayed in a web browser

Women have lost more jobs, shouldered a greater share of unpaid work, and suffered a surge in domestic violence. With UN Women, UNDP has created a Gender Response Tracker which monitors the policies that governments are using to tackle the crisis—directly addressing women’s economic and social needs, as well as their physical security.

A woman wearing a colorful knit face mask turns to face the camera
Photo: UNDP Colombia/Oscar Bermeo
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Know more to do more

The more we know, the more effectively we can act. Real time data are key.

The COVID-19 Socio-Economic Recovery Data Insights Platform pulls data from the UN, nonprofits, academia, development partners and countries around the world. It’s a tool for analysis, insights and potential collaboration. It’s constantly evolving, allowing us to change tack when circumstances do.

Community workers in Bangladesh with full personal protection working on the ground to promote coronavirus prevention awareness, and distribution of hygiene packages that include soap and hand sanitizer, among poor urban households.

The pandemic has also shone a glaring light on the consequences of the digital divide; lockdown emphasized that the internet is necessity, not a luxury.

Closing the digital divide would reduce by two thirds the number of children deprived of learning because their schools were shut.

“Humans wield more power over the planet than ever before. In the wake of COVID-19, record-breaking temperatures and spiraling inequality, it is time to use that power to redefine what we mean by progress, where our carbon and consumption footprints are no longer hidden,”

—UNDP Administrator
Achim Steiner

As we build back from the pandemic UNDP’s 30th Human Development Report introduces an experimental global measurement that illustrates the challenge of tackling poverty and inequality while easing pressure on the planet.

Photo: UNDP Costa Rica/Priscilla Mora Flores
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The other health crises

“The problem was how to get to the office, how we are viewed when out in public. It is not easy; we are a forgotten population.”

—Venus, Panama

The enormous strain that COVID-19 has placed on healthcare has affected those coping with other diseases. UNDP is working with partners in Kyrgyzstan and Panama to help those living with HIV, and in the LGBTQ community.

Photo: UNDP/Grey Díaz

In Guinea Bissau, we are combining COVID-19 messaging into other disease prevention campaigns, such as malaria.

Camara, a 21 years old mother of 2 children, is installing over her bed the mosquito net she received when she was pregnant from her first child.
Photo: UNDP Guinea Bissau/Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

The long months of lockdown have taken a severe mental toll, especially in countries, such as Syria, where people are already facing huge challenges. UNDP is providing online support.

A Syrian man using his laptop for a video call with another man.
Photo: UNDP Syria
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Get the word out

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

—Mark Twain

Truth has been another victim of coronavirus, and misinformation has proved deadly. UNDP is encouraging governments to lead in the fight to prevent unnecessary suffering.

Photo: UNDP Nepal

We are supporting indigenous communities in Peru as they broadcast safety messages in their own languages.

Indigenous Peruvian text sits atop a photo of a man and girl in a forest
Photo: UNDP Peru/Monica Suárez Galindo

UNDP Iraq launched a “Let’s Beat Corona” campaign in ten cities.

A woman wearing protective gear hangs a sign for the 'Let’s Beat Corona' campaign.
Photo: UNDP Iraq

To create a fuller picture, we asked eight leading photographers to examine the far-reaching fallout of COVID-19 at an international exhibition Photoville in New York.

An activist of the "Blue Shields" (“Escudos Azules”) is playing with a child after spending the day with the slum dwellers of Los Altos de la Estancia.
Photo: Nadege Mazars
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The white swan

A ‘white swan’ event can be predicted. Public health experts knew it was not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’ the next pandemic would arrive. As some countries have shown, it’s possible to be prepared, and mount a swift and effective defense. In other places this simply wasn’t possible, because COVID-19 did so much more than make people sick.

Yet the virus has shown where we have failed to address inequalities and injustices, as well as the destruction of the natural world. And it’s illuminated a clear path of action.

With the Sustainable Development Goals as our guide, we must unite as a global community and recommit to help every country recover justly and fairly, with strong, climate-resilient economies.