Thank you for joining the briefing today.
We meet under extraordinary circumstances, in extraordinary times. Covid-19 is a human crisis of unprecedented dimensions.
The devastation is deep and widespread, far beyond the immediate health impacts and death toll.
We have already passed the tragic bar of 1 million people infected by Covid-19 across the world, with more than 80,000 deaths.
These numbers are increasing by the minute as the virus spreads across the globe. And these numbers all have a human face.
The virus is affecting billons of lives and livelihoods across the globe.
ILO estimates that 2.7 billion workers are affected in different ways - 81 per cent of the world's workforce; and that we are likely to lose the equivalent of 195 million full-time workers in just the next 3 months in such short time.
Across every sphere, women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic; even as they are the backbone of recovery in communities.
Painstaking efforts to reduce poverty are at risk.
No country is spared.
In the face of a threat of such historic magnitude, our collective response must be fast and massive. Under the leadership of the Secretary-General, the entire UN system is rallying to respond around three dimensions:
First, to support the health response to suppress the transmission of the virus, under the leadership of WHO.
Second, to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
Third, to help countries build back better, anchored in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
We have moved in record time within the UN system to provide an integrated response to Member States.
Three key, interconnected instruments are guiding our efforts: the WHO-led strategic preparedness and response plan; the global humanitarian appeal and the UN Sustainable Development Group global framework help us work with UN Country Teams.
Together, they form our emergency response. All three have been initiated. All three require your support. All three are critical to mitigating and surviving COVID-19.
In combatting the virus, WHO has provided remarkable leadership in galvanizing the international response as governments around the world tackle immediate health threats.
The solidarity vaccine trial, in which many of your governments (90) are participating, is now fully underway. Through this unprecedented collective research effort, we hope to better understand and disseminate information on the most effective treatment methods.
WHO is also providing technical guidance for countries on a wide range of issues, such as: critical preparedness, readiness and response actions; laboratory testing; surveillance for human infection; clinical management of severe acute respiratory infection and many more dimensions of this multi-faceted health crisis.
At the same time, WHO is providing operational planning guidance for UN Country Teams, with WHO country representatives working very closely with Resident Coordinators.
Their work, under such circumstances, has been extraordinary. The entire UN system stands behind WHO.
The humanitarian response is also in full gear.
Humanitarian workers are on the ground and doing everything they can to respond and prevent the loss of lives.
The UN and its humanitarian partners are working to ensure that aid continues to reach those in need while also ensuring safety measures are in place to prevent the spread of the virus. For example, doubling or tripling rations and implementing physical distancing at distribution sites.
They are doing so in the face of multiple challenges such as restrictions of movement, and access to supplies, among others. We count on all governments to help remove such barriers.
Every step that makes the delivery easier saves lives, every measure that speeds up the provision of aid matters.
Allow me therefore to reiterate – in this regard - the Secretary-General's repeated calls for a global ceasefire and a waiving of any unilateral sanctions to enable the Covid response in humanitarian settings. We have seen all of those who have signed up and I would like to commend their efforts.
It is now imperative that we forge ahead in deploying an ambitious response package for countries to be able to cope and recover better as they deal with the emergency socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 and the lockdown measures it requires.
Addressing these dimensions simultaneously is not only a moral imperative to prevent human suffering. It is also the only possible way to win the battle against the virus.
In the end it come down to this: if COVID-19 remains active somewhere, we cannot be safe anywhere. And if we do not confront the pandemic and its consequences simultaneously, the virus will continue to run like wildfire, taking lives, affecting people and threating social cohesion.
Developed countries are showing their determination and deploying all tools available to combine lockdown measures with fiscal stimulus, cash transfers, social security and other measures.
And developing countries, too, are taking decisive steps. But we must ensure massive financial and technical support to allow developing economies to win the fight against COVID-19.
The virus has already shown how swiftly it can move across borders, devastate countries and governments, and bring life to a standstill.
You can count on the UN to move at the pace and scale required.
Yesterday the UNSDG finalized a global framework for the immediate socio-economic response. It was developed by the members of the UNSDG, under the co-lead of DCO and UNDP and with inputs from our Resident Coordinators in the field.
The framework follows the Secretary-General's call for shared responsibility and global solidarity issued in late March. It is our guide for efforts of the UN country teams.
It covers a span of immediate actions to support governments in the following eight clusters:
Health First: Protecting Health Systems during the Crisis
Protecting People: Social Protection and Basic Services
Investing in Resilience: Community-led Resilience and Response Systems
Labor Markets: Protecting Jobs and Promoting Decent Work
Economic Recovery: Protecting SMEs, farmers and the most vulnerable productive actors
Macroeconomics: A surge in fiscal and financial stimulus
Social Cohesion: Social Dialogue and Political Engagement
Multilateral/Regional collaboration: regional trade policies, connectivity, and monetary-fiscal coordination
A dedicated Secretary-General's COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund has been set up to help catalyze joint action by our Country Teams to implement the framework.
Under the coordination of Resident Coordinators, the full range of UN development assets is being mobilized.
Individual entities will also continue to mobilize and deploy resources as they respond to the pandemic – but the difference this time will be in a coordinated way, under the common Framework.
We are encouraging all entities to repurpose relevant development programmes to support the response, in consultation with governments and partners.
Many have started doing so, and the efforts will be accelerated. We count on your support – in respective governing bodies – to facilitate such efforts.
The system is moving with an unprecedented sense of urgency and maximizing the use of fast-track implementation procedures.
Yesterday we met with the World bank to seek ways to reinforce our collaboration and response to COVID-19 on all three fronts. Next week we will engage our EU partners and the African Development Bank.
Traditional development timelines will not work. We are facing a development emergency.
The time has come to fully leverage on the repositioning of the development system approved by the General Assembly.
And early benefits are already clear.
The UNSDG collective leadership is working to signaling to our regional and country teams the imperative for a one UN response to the pandemic.
Our empowered Resident Coordinators are serving as the centre of gravity for the COVID-19 response, relying on and supporting the technical lead of WHO for the health response. And counting on UNDP's role that helps channel the expertise of all members of the UNCT through integrated programmatic responses. This includes Non-Resident Agencies.
The reforms we made to our business operations will significantly reduce implementation time, by allowing UN entities to quickly use administrative procedures from other UN entities with new mutual recognition agreements.
Working closely with UN Women, Resident Coordinators are now better able to focus on the most vulnerable and to ensure women and girls are at the centre of the response.
Our increased ability to draw on global and regional policy capacities is helping ensure that UN Country Teams can offer integrated policy support to governments as they deal with trade-offs and identify ways to keep supply chains open and increase investments in the response.
Our stronger focus on partnerships will ensure we leverage and enable further action by partners, including International Financing Institutions and NGOs.
We are adjusting our financial and administrative procedures to make it easier and faster for IFI resources to get to countries and people. This is not a banking crisis – so resources must flow directly to small companies, households and individuals.
To be effective, our response must be well-resourced.
We are not asking you to choose between funds.
We need to leverage these three key instruments simultaneously - the humanitarian appeal, the WHO strategy for preparedness and response, and the inter-agency COVID-19 fund that the Secretary-General launched last week to help respond to the development emergency.
Combined, these instruments will enable a joint, integrated and multi-sectoral approach to address the magnitude of this crisis.
You are already familiar with the objectives and contours of the humanitarian appeal and WHO's response plan.
We will also circulate to Member States, following this briefing, the UNSDG framework and the Terms of Refence of the new COVID-19 Fund.
We count on your guidance as we move forward.
Anchored in the 2030 Agenda, the Fund will seek to support those countries least able to cope with -- and recover from -- the socio-economic impacts of this pandemic.
Our goal is to mobilize $1 billion dollars to support its first nine months of operation, and $2 billion dollars overall – leveraging several billions more for investing in countries.
The first call for proposals will be issued on 15 April, with the first funds to be disbursed by May 1st.
Resources will be channeled through UN Country Teams under the leadership of the Resident Coordinators.
And they will target joint programmes that meet the objectives of the global framework.
While the fund will be placed under the direct leadership of the Secretary-General, it is anchored in the UNSDG to ensure fund ownership and accountability.
Other global funds are also playing their part to ensure a synergy deployment of resources.
For example, the Peacebuilding Fund is adjusting its investments through UNCTs to support data analysis, social cohesion and the fight against discrimination and hate speech.
The Joint SDG Fund investments on social protection are ongoing and have never been so relevant.
And the UN-EU partnership on the Spotlight Fund is driving efforts to address gender-based violence, which continues to increase alongside COVID-19.
We thank Member States that have already announced their initial contributions to power the quick start-up of operations.
In the face of such a catastrophic global pandemic, it is not just the virus that is spreading. So is global generosity and the will to act.
Your contributions to the other key instruments have been critical.
The Humanitarian Response Plan has already received $396.5 million- close to 20% of the $2 billion dollar requirement.
WHO's Response Plan has received over $274 million, with total requirements at over $676 million.
But let us be clear that the needs of countries will be in the trillions.
The UN-supported response will represent a small fraction of this, but we must ensure that critical multilateral expertise is fully resourced.
In particular, we must help those least able to respond. Very few countries have the fiscal space to fight off a new crisis that requires massive budgetary outlays.
Debt restructuring is at the core of global solidarity. It must happen now, accompanying emerging economies.
At the same time, it is imperative that we do not divert funding from critical humanitarian operations and the necessary investments to stay on track in our development and climate commitments (2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement).
We must continue to combat malnutrition and provide shelter to people who have been displaced.
We have to sustain our fight against endemic diseases like measles and malaria.
And we must fight vigorously what is becoming a pandemic of gender-based violence.
If funding is diverted from these lifesaving activities, the pandemic can cause even greater human suffering.
The two key words of the briefing today are solidarity and determination.
Solidarity to ensure we focus on the most vulnerable individuals and countries.
Determination to take bold steps and recognize that traditional tools and timelines do not apply.
Let us stay truthful to our promise to leave no one – and no country – behind.
Let us keep in mind our common fate with countries that were already facing a steep curve towards 2030.
Conflict-affected countries, Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States and Landlocked Developing Countries, which face specific and profound challenges.
As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, its impact will likely be most devastating in countries already affected by humanitarian crisis.
Let us also show our solidarity to middle income countries who risk seeing major reversals in the gains made in the past decade in fighting poverty.
And let us ensure that – within our countries – we help these households and individuals that are disproportionally affected. Informal workers, the elderly, women and girls. They are facing a disproportionate and unjust burden.
We must avoid letting Covid-19 widen already pervasive inequalities.
For our part you can count on the absolute determination of the UN development system to help win the battle against Covid-19 and offer a pathway to restore and accelerate progress towards the SDGs.
In each socio-economic area, our UN country teams are already at work to identify what it will take for countries to survive and meaningfully “build back better”.
If there was ever a time to step up, together, and show to the world that we are here to prevent suffering and ensure a better future for all – well, this time is now.
This is the value and the promise of our United Nations.
Several of my UNSDG colleagues are here with me today – including my UNSDG Vice-Chair Achim Steiner – and will be available to help address your questions in the following days and weeks.
Together, we will get through this.