COVID-19 PUSHES PEOPLE INTO EXTREME POVERTY. IS THERE SPACE FOR GLOBAL SOLIDARITY IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC?

The World Bank recently released a report Reversal of Fortune: The Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020, in which its predictions about the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty are alarming. The pandemic is reversing hard-won gains against poverty for the first time in over two decades.

Just this year between 88 million and 115 million people could fall back into extreme poverty due to COVID, and 6.7 percent of the global population may live under the international poverty line in 2030, according to the World Bank.  

Global poverty eradication efforts were so unprecedented until recent years that in 2015, the UN set an aim as one of the sustainability development goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty by 2030. The goal that that time seemed realistic is now getting out of reach. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and conflicts slow down the efforts to end poverty in the world.

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty reminds us about the need for solidarity

The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty will be observed tomorrow on October 17. This year, the day has a an especially important meaning to remind us about global solidarity.

The COVID era has made visible the borders of the countries again and made people to prioritize their own countries’ internal issues. It may be hard for people in the richer corners of the world to understand why to care of and help others in the poorer countries when we there is poverty and people who need help in their own countries.

Yet, the COVID pandemic is making the solidarity between the countries even more needed. If helping out of solidarity is not convincing enough then the practical consequences of not doing so should speak for themselves.

We live in a global world where things and phenomena are interconnected and affect each other. The consequences of the global poverty are manifold and their impact spills over to the rest of the world. COVID pandemic itself is an example of the situation in which disease threat that started locally rapidly spread around the world.

As the World Bank’s report points out the people who are already poor and vulnerable are bearing the brunt of the crisis. The pandemic poses severe socioeconomic and livelihood consequences for people already living in poverty. Poverty increases the COVID death risk because of an inequal access to hygiene, sanitation and health care. The COVID-19 outbreak severely disrupts the local and global economies and increases unemployment and economic hardship.

In the worst scenario, poverty combined with conflicts and climate change can stir a cocktail that will force people to start looking for opportunities for livelihood and decent life elsewhere and thus, increases migration.

Can global trade play a role in finding solutions to poverty amidst COVID-19?

Alongside with states and NGOs, many companies have committed to advance the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). One of the SDGs is partnerships for the goals: the SDGs can only be realized with strong and inclusive global partnerships and cooperation.

Because of expanding global trade and lower production costs companies in the western countries have outsourced their production to a large extend to developing countries. At the same time, they have outsourced their social, economic and environmental impacts to those countries.

In the times of crisis, business should not forget their responsibilities to apply sustainable operating practices where ever they operate.

Now more than ever international cooperation and partnerships are needed. Governments and bold companies should join forces with NGOs working in frontline to find sustainable socio-economic solutions to a crisis on our hands.  

Everyone who is capable can show solidarity, for example, by supporting NGOs helping people in poverty and by actively demanding companies to release more concreate facts about their operations’ social, economic and environmental impacts.