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EJS Center board member Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala calls on world leaders to prevent COVID-19 from permanently harming the world’s most vulnerable citizens

EJS Center board member Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is calling for G20 leaders to act now to prevent the COVID-19-induced recession from deepening, permanently harming the world’s poorest and most marginalized citizens. 

In an op-ed for Project Syndicate drafted in partnership with former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Erik Berglöf, former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, she emphasizes the high stakes in the global response to the pandemic. She highlights the United Nations’ prediction that the COVID-19 pandemic could reverse decades of work towards improving standards of living, and plunge more than 420 million people into extreme poverty.

Drawing on her experience as Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala highlights the need for cross-border collaboration to improve access to medical supplies, build healthcare system capacity, and ensure a coordinated approach to vaccine development and distribution:

“We need global coordination of the development, mass manufacture, and equitable distribution of a vaccine or vaccines to ensure that they are universally and freely available as quickly as possible.”

In the op-ed, she and her co-authors also note the urgent need for debt relief to assist countries struggling with the economic impact of the crisis: 

“A dozen or more emerging-market countries may well run into debt-servicing problems in the coming year. The IMF should be mandated to convene relevant players and, through its debt-sustainability and policy analysis, to set broad parameters for resolution.”

Looking to the future, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala and her co-authors note that coordinated responses and effective stimulus packages could also generate long-term opportunities to advance environmental sustainability efforts:

“‘Green’ investment must be at the heart of the stimulus, with spending focused on infrastructure and other projects beneficial to sustainable development and employment. This will make recovery from this crisis truly transformative, accelerating progress in delivering on climate-change agreements.” 

Read the full op-ed here.

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