October 16, 2020
The impacts of the pandemic are ripping through the lives of millions. 150 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2021, according to new analysis released by the World Bank. The magnitude of the crisis is an unprecedented challenge to the international community. To address the desperate human need and extreme inequalities being worsened by the pandemic, a coordinated multilateral response is essential. So far, rhetoric about transformation has not been matched with concrete actions.
This mismatch was on full display at this year’s IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings. Nearly all senior leadership at the World Bank and the IMF have acknowledged the need for lasting structural change. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva recently called for a “greener, smarter and fairer” recovery. Yet the actions of both institutions point in the opposite direction. As an open letter signed by CESR and over 500 organizations highlights, recent IMF loan programs and emergency financing agreements continue to call for a “swift” return to fiscal consolidation (or austerity) as soon as the peak of the crisis has passed.
Given the IMF’s strong influence over economic policy options available to governments, especially in the Global South, the Fund is a key advocacy target for us. This year, our work with partners in Latin America and Egypt was in the spotlight at two official side-events in the run up to the Annual Meetings. CESR’s Mahinour El Badrawi spoke at a session on the policies of international financial institutions in contexts of crises and conflicts, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. In “Changing the Rules for a Just Recovery”, CESR’s Ignacio Saiz chaired a lively discussion among participants from Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Haiti and Colombia about how IMF policies could better serve the people of the region, with one participant claiming that current economic policies supported by the Fund are “racist, sexist, and against the poor”.
Ecuador is one of the countries whose recent agreement with the Fund raised alarm bells ahead of the Annual Meetings. A widely-publicized statement from Progressive International’s Debt Justice working group (co-drafted by CESR) called on the IMF to take responsibility for the impact of its disastrous austerity policies in Ecuador—a message reiterated in an op-ed published by the Guardian (co-authored by CESR staff). The statement prompted a response from the IMF Managing Director.
We’re pleased to share different ways to engage with this and other recent COVID-19 related work. We see these activities as contributing to broader collective advocacy efforts. We’d love to hear questions, suggestions, and provocations to help sharpen how we approach them. Please do get in touch with thoughts and ideas.
Sign Up: "Recovering Rights" series
Last week, we launched a new brief on financing universal health coverage with Partners In Health. As the brief discusses, governments have obligations to ensure their own health systems are structured and financed in ways that ensure rights are protect during this critical time. They must also ensure others have resources to do the same.
Other recent briefs look at:
- the gendered impacts of the pandemic and what governments must do to advance substantive equality for women, in collaboration with IWRAW-AP;
- how monetary policy can be used as a tool to advance rights in economic recovery efforts, in collaboration with the Institute for Economic Justice.
Recovering Rights is series of two-page briefs that unpack—as simply and concretely as possible—what human rights standards say about different aspects of relief and recovery. The briefs translate human rights standards into useful tools for advocates and activists in making clear demands for economic transformation. Sign up here to have future Recovering Rights topics sent to your inbox as soon as they are released.
Read: Blog posts, reports and articles
Our “Confronting COVID” blog series shares experiences of partners and allies in responding to the economic fallout of the pandemic. Recently, we’ve heard from:
- Carilee Osborne and Pamela Choga of the Institute for Economic Justice, reflecting on the challenges of leveraging South Africa’s strong constitutional rights protections to influence economic policy making.
- Alejandro Rodríguez Llach of Dejusticia, outlining efforts to build on a newly created Solidarity Tax in Colombia.
- Angella Nabwowe Kasule of Uganda's Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, describing how the pandemic has increased momentum around calls to better fund public services.
- Livi Gerbase from INESC, detailing how civil society sees pandemic recovery programs as an opportunity to make the case for rolling back austerity in Brazil.
- Joshua Castellino of Minority Rights Group International, detailing the disproportionate health and economic impacts of the pandemic on minority groups around the world and how civil society and governments should use economic policy to respond.
In September, we co-published the 2020 Spotlight Report, with partners including Global Policy Forum, Public Services International, Social Watch, and DAWN. This year’s report, “Shifting Policies for Systemic Change”, focuses on the changes we need so that human rights, gender justice and sustainability goals are prioritized in the wake of the pandemic and beyond.
Watch and Listen: Videos and Webinars
As part of our work in Latin America, we held a series of virtual dialogues aimed at sharing tools and exploring opportunities to advocate for a just economic recovery from COVID-19, with partners in the Initiative for Human Rights in Fiscal Policy, Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y el Caribe and Latindadd. Recordings of the dialogues are available here.
- The recordings of the IMF Civil Society Policy Forum events (described above) can be found here (clips six and eight).
- Ignacio spoke at the launch event of the 2020 Spotlight Report.
Photo credits in order of appearance:
Photo courtesy of Marc Nozell via Flickr
Photo courtesy of MRG depicts a Syrian refugee woman putting a face mask on a boy as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus in al-Wazzani area, southern Lebanon / Ali Hashisho / Reuters
Photo courtesy of Iniciativa P&D via Twitter @DHyPolFiscal