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Virus sparks new generation of social protection measures




While the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has wiped out important development gains in mere months, with extreme poverty rising for the first time in decades, the pandemic could spark the transformations needed to achieve stronger social protection systems, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General said.

António Guterres was speaking at an event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development, where he called for bold and imaginative action by leaders to avert the long-term impacts of the crisis.

“The pandemic brings new awareness of the social and economic risks that arise from inadequate social protection systems, unequal access to healthcare and other public services and high levels of inequality, including gender, race inequality, and all the other forms we witness in the world,” Guterres said.

“It can therefore open the door to the transformational changes needed to build a New Social Contract at the national level that is fit for the challenges of the 21st century,” he added.

The Secretary-General outlined the components of this New Social Contract, which include a strong emphasis on quality education for all, measures related to fair labor markets and fair taxation, Universal Health Coverage, and “a new generation” of social protection measures.

He said countries with strong social protection systems before the pandemic were better positioned to rapidly offer their citizens access to much-needed healthcare. They also were able to ensure income security and protect jobs.

“We must make every effort to extend social protection systems to the two billion informal economy workers, many of whom are women,” he continued. “They are particularly vulnerable to the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.”

The World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in March 1995, saw world leaders agree that economic growth and social development must be balanced.