Social Watch E-Newsletter - Issue 366 - October 20, 2020

Issue 366 - October 20, 2020
Social Watch reports
Spotlight report on the 2030 Agenda

A Brazilian catastrophe


Only a handful of political leaders decided to confront scientific advice, and one of these was President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, for whom COVID-19 was “just another little flu”. The result has been catastrophic, not just in terms of the pandemic (over 100,000 diagnosed deaths by mid-August 2020, second only to those in the USA) but also in terms of the economy that his denial policies tried to protect.
In June, the World Bank forecasted an 8 percent decline in Brazil‘s GDP in 2020 (from a previous forecast of 2% growth), while the global economy is estimated to decline by 4.9 percent and emerging market and developing economies, including Brazil, by 3 percent, in their first contraction in at least 60 years. This means that in spite of Brazil being a top exporter of food and agricultural products, it risks being included this year in the Hunger Map produced by the FAO, due to the combined effect of an increase in unemployment and a decrease in social security payments.
According to the Institute for Social and Economic Studies (INESC) progress report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Brazil by Ana Cernov and Iara Pietricovsky, “Brazil is one of the few developing countries that has a public health system, with universal and free access – the Unified Health System (SUS), established by the Constitution in 1988. Just when this system most needs all available resources to deal with an unprecedented health crisis, the health budget in Brazil, which historically is insufficient, had allocated the same resources in 2019 as in 2018 and at the same levels as in 2014.” But between 2014 and 2019, the Brazilian population increased by 7 million people. As a result, the report concludes, “the lack of funding for health has limited the capacity for a quick and efficient response to the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly harming the most vulnerable populations, which depend exclusively on SUS.” Read more



What is “essential” in UK?


A range of different forms of confinement and quarantine were implemented around the world in order to slow down the spread of the pandemic and avoid a collapse of overburdened health systems. In that process, low-paid services such as home deliveries, food processing, garbage collection and care-giving were identified as “essential”.
In most comparatively affluent countries those services are largely provided by immigrants and yet, as reported from the UK by Imogen Richmond-Bishop of Just Fair, “COVID-19 has disproportionately affected migrant communities” through drops in income; limited access to welfare support; barriers for homeless migrants to access accommodation and overcrowded and substandard housing.”
One of the measures introduced in the UK in 2012 as part of the “Hostile Environment” (for immigrants) is the “No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF) provision. A person with NRPF cannot access most welfare benefits or social housing. Without the safety net of social security, many families with NRPF end up living in destitution and are at high risk of exploitation and abuse. As a result, 32 percent of foreign-born households live in poverty compared to 19 percent for white British-born people. Read more



Systemic changes or back to the old normal?


By Jens Martens, Global Policy Forum
Governments and international organizations have responded to the economic and health crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown on an unprecedented scale. The announced liquidity measures, rescue packages and recovery programmes total US$ 11 trillion worldwide. A total of 196 countries and territories have taken political measures, albeit of very different scale and scope, depending on their fiscal capacity and policy space.
If used in the right way, these programmes could offer the chance to become engines of the urgently needed socio-ecological transformation proclaimed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Some governments and international organizations have explicitly articulated this claim by promising not to return to the old normal after the dual crisis and to “build back better”, for instance by a Green (New) Deal.
But the reality behind these aspirations looks quite different. There are indications that policy responses to the crisis ignore its structural causes, favour the vested interests of influential elites in business and society, further accelerate economic concentration processes, fail to break the vicious circle of indebtedness and austerity policies, and in sum, widen socioeconomic disparities within and between countries. Such responses risk intensifying social conflicts, increasing political instability and distancing the world from achieving the SDGs rather than bringing it closer to these goals. Read more


Social Watch publishes country reports 2020

COVID-19 is a global catastrophe, pre-existing injustices aggravate the impact of the virus and without strong intervention from the State, the existing imbalances are reinforced. Civil society organizations around the world are monitoring the impact of COVID-19 and reclaiming the streets, with revitalized leadership and a rainbow of demands that combine old and new issues. “Back to normal” is not possible nor desirable. This is the main message emerging from independent civil society reports on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.

The Social Watch network has been publishing since 1996 regular reports on how governments implement their international commitments to eradicate poverty and achieve gender equality within planetary boundaries.


Trade: CSOs call for strong support for TRIPS waiver to combat COVID-19


Nearly 380 civil society organizations have urged Members of the World Trade Organization to strongly support the adoption of a draft decision proposed by India and South Africa for a waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement to combat the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
India and South Africa have submitted a proposal (IP/C/W/669) to the WTO TRIPS Council on a “Waiver from certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19”.
In their letter to the WTO Members, the CSOs said that in a global pandemic where every country is affected, a global solution is needed. Read more



Over 500 organizations and academics around the world call on IMF to stop promoting austerity


More than 500 organisations and academics from 87 countries have issued a statement today calling on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stop promoting austerity and instead support policies that advance gender justice, reduce inequality, and put people and planet first.
The IMF has already begun locking some countries into long term austerity-conditioned loans, while encouraging countries to take such recovery measures through its short-term, front loaded emergency financing packages. Such policies will further entrench gender and economic inequality and undermine any chance of an inclusive recovery, especially as many countries in the Global South are expected to need more long-term financing in the near future. Read more




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