The pandemic response could have been more straightforward, but wrong information both complicated and slowed it down. “Our Spread the Word, Not the Virus” campaign got accurate information out to people in their own languages and we encouraged governments to take the lead in stopping misinformation and fake news.
Emerging stronger and better
Twelve months, twelve lessons from the pandemic
As it became apparent that COVID-19 was both a health and development crisis, UNDP launched its Rapid Response Facility which dispatched funding within 72 hours of a country request to address pre-existing vulnerabilities such as poverty, insecurity, and fragile infrastructure. With nearly US$1 billion, UNDP helped 130 countries with their social and economic response plans.
COVID-19 exposed the fault-lines in everything from food and medical supply chains, to consumption and production, to massive inequality, to the ways we work and are educated. UNDP’s responses emphasized the importance of the underlying idea of the Sustainable Development Goals—not tackling challenges in isolation but ensuring that every facet of just, fair and green recovery is taken into account.
High income countries were able to allocate resources equivalent to around 20 percent of their GDP to COVID-19, compared to the two percent allocated by low income countries. They are also able to get more vaccines to more of their citizens. Working with the WHO and our UN partners, UNDP is committed to ensuring vaccines get to all those who need them, especially the most vulnerable. We are campaigning for a Temporary Basic Income for the ones who face the most structural vulnerabilities, especially women.
COVID-19 meant human development took a pummeling for the first time since we began measuring it. We need extra action and commitment to protect hard-won gains of the past 30 years, particularly in economic opportunities, health, and education. UNDP will continue its vital stabilization work in countries in conflict and crisis, where the pandemic has worsened already dire situations.
COVID-19, like many other viruses, emerged as a result of environmental degradation and the destruction of biodiversity by humans. The more we do this, the more exposed we become to the next pandemics, which could be more frequent and more deadly. Along with our renewed emphasis on the climate crisis, we must step up our commitment to protecting nature and reduce the exploitation of highly biodiverse regions. Nature underpins development, and its services contribute directly to many SDGs. If we pass ecological tipping points there will be profound consequences for humanity.
COVID-19 recovery needs a feminist lens to get to a gender-equal world. More attention must be paid to the role women bring to crisis recovery and renewal, and the benefits that will flow from removing the structural inequalities they face in the labour market, and easing the massively disproportionate role they play as unpaid caregivers and housekeepers.
From drone medicine delivery, to robot nurses and artificial intelligence diagnoses, technology proved a boon for combatting a disease that is contagious and often deadly to humans. Investments in connectivity in government have allowed basic services to continue functioning at critical times.
UNDP is committed to unlocking all the advantages of digital transformation and to ensuring that benefits such as the internet are seen as a necessity, not a luxury.
The virus has highlighted the vital role that migration plays in the health of societies, a lesson that we need to truly learn if we are to develop just and equitable societies in the face of climate change and global instability.
Migrants not only laboured on the front lines of the coronavirus response as health workers and first responders, they played an important role in developing the vaccine that will save untold lives.
As countries were dealing with incoming waves of the pandemic, recession and depleted financial resources, UNDP’s open access and multi-sourced COVID-19 Data Futures Platform allowed users to see what interventions would cost, and evaluate their impact. Gathering data from the UN, as well as public and private sources, it is enabling real-time country-specific information on jobs, social services and debt.
The integrated Sustainable Development Goals are the plan we need to build a sustainable future. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will reduce poverty and inequality, while driving sustainable economic growth. The SDGs are inter-connected and nature dependent. We must restrict the expansion of land for agriculture, and reduce unsustainable trade, production and consumption to protect our future.
UNDP is committed to working with countries as they take this opportunity to create better social protection, improve digital connectivity and reach, deliver governance that works for everybody, and transition away from fossil fuels towards a green energy future.
COVID-19 has revealed the high cost of our dysfunctional relationship with nature. It has shown that everything about how we live and do business must change. But by showing us what ‘business as usual’ really costs, it has also given us a gift. We have learned the true value of nature. We have the capabilities to prevent pandemics, but we are not using them to their fullest. UNDP has a renewed impetus to create just social and economic change that protects the earth, the people and all life on it.