We are facing a global health crisis unlike any
in the 75-year history of the United Nations
— one that is killing people, spreading human
suffering, and upending people’s lives. But this
is much more than a health crisis. It is a human
crisis. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is
attacking societies at their core. The IMF has just
reassessed the prospect for growth for 2020 and
2021, declaring that we have entered a recession –
as bad as or worse than in 2009. The IMF projects
recovery in 2021 only if the world succeeds
in containing the virus and take the necessary
economic measures.1
In the face of such an unprecedented situation in
recent history, the creativity of the response must
match the unique nature of the crisis – and the
magnitude of the response must match its scale.
No country will be able to exit this crisis alone.
This report is a call to action, for the immediate
health response required to suppress transmission
of the virus to end the pandemic; and to tackle
the many social and economic dimensions of this
crisis. It is, above all, a call to focus on people
– women, youth, low-wage workers, small and
medium enterprises, the informal sector and on
vulnerable groups who are already at risk.
Whole societies must come together. Every country
must step up with public, private and civic sectors
collaborating from the outset. But on their own,
national-level actions will not match the global scale
and complexity of the crisis. This moment demands
coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action
from the world’s leading economies, and maximum
financial and technical support for the poorest
and most vulnerable people and countries, who
will be the hardest hit. Given the world’s extensive
economic and social interrelationships and trade—
we are only as strong as the weakest health system.
The first step is to mount the most robust and
cooperative health response the world has ever
seen. Health system spending must be scaled up
right away to meet urgent needs and the surge in
demand for tests, expanded treatment facilities,
adequate medical supplies and more health care
workers; and for health system preparedness and
response in countries where the virus has not
yet manifested or where there is no community
transmission to date.
The strongest support must be provided to the
multilateral effort to suppress transmission
and stop the pandemic, led by the World Health
Organization (WHO), whose appeals must be
fully met. Scientific collaboration in the search
for a vaccine and effective therapeutics must be
promoted through initiatives such as the WHOsponsored solidarity trials. Universal access to
vaccines and treatment must be assured, with
full respect for human rights, gender equality and
without stigma.
The second step is to do everything possible to
cushion the knock-on effects on millions of people’s
lives, their livelihoods and the real economy. That
means the direct provision of resources to support
workers and households, provision of health and
unemployment insurance, scale-up of social
protection, and support to businesses to prevent
bankruptcies and massive job losses. That also
means designing fiscal and monetary responses
to ensure that the burden does not fall on those
countries who can least bear it.
A large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive
multilateral response amounting to at least 10 per
cent of global GDP is needed now more than ever.
This crisis is truly global. It is in everyone’s interest
to ensure that developing countries have the best
chance of managing this crisis, or COVID-19 will
risk becoming a long-lasting brake on economic
The third step is to learn from this crisis and
build back better. Had we been further advanced
in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals
and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, we
could better face this challenge – with stronger
health systems, fewer people living in extreme
poverty, less gender inequality, a healthier natural
environment, and more resilient societies. We
must seize the opportunity of this crisis to
strengthen our commitment to implement the
2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development
Goals. By making progress on our global roadmap
for a more inclusive and sustainable future, we can
better respond to future crises.
The recommendations in this report are geared to
empower governments and propel partners to act
The United Nations family – and our global network
of regional, sub-regional and country offices
working for peace, human rights, sustainable
development and humanitarian action, will support
all governments, working with our partners, to
ensure first and foremost that lives are saved,
livelihoods are restored, and that the global
economy and the people we serve emerge stronger
from this crisis. That is the logic of the Decade of
Action to deliver the SDGs. More than ever before,
we need solidarity, hope and the political will and
cooperation to see this crisis through together.