COVID-19 highlights ‘urgent need’ for focused policy action to protect vulnerable groups: Tirumurti

United Nations, July 1: The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened targets under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and highlights the “urgent need” for focused policy action to protect vulnerable populations and improve countries’ capacity to deal with similar events in the future, India’s envoy to the UN has said.
India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador T S Tirumurti was speaking at a high-level meeting on poverty eradication here on Tuesday.
He said that COVID-19 has delivered an enormous global shock, leading to steep recession in many countries.
“The pandemic is already threatening the fulfillment of targets under Agenda 2030. The pandemic highlights the urgent need for focused policy action to cushion its consequences, protect vulnerable populations, and improve countries’ capacity to cope with similar future events,” Tirumurti said.
Going forward, India’s underlying development strategy will remain focused on raising incomes, improving living standards, focussing on women and children and enhancing the ease of living of all communities, while leaving no one behind, he said.
“We remain committed to further strengthening our robust development partnership with all our partners in the spirit of The World is One Family,” he said.
Tirumurti highlighted India’s comprehensive development strategy to end poverty in all its forms through accelerated economic growth and development, strong focus on vulnerable groups, special focus on women and children and broader social safety nets.
He said a wide range of programmes for promoting gainful employment, and improving accessibility to basic services, such as health, nutrition, sanitation, education, skills, and clean fuel, have been operationalised and targeted digital intervention is making a huge impact.
President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande on Tuesday launched the Alliance for Poverty Eradication, which will serve as a one-stop networking, information sharing and bridge-building forum that brings together nations and stakeholders to exchange ideas and best practices on poverty eradication. India has joined the Alliance as a founding member.
Muhammad-Bande said that the pandemic has made an already bad situation worse, noting that before the onset of the pandemic, 2.1 billion people were classified as poor globally, with 767 million living in extreme poverty. It is estimated that by the year 2030, more than 100 million people would have relapsed into poverty due to COVID-19 and climate change.
He said the eradication of poverty is the first of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, yet while other causes that derive inspiration from the SDGs have groups promoting them, poverty eradication does not.
“I wish to state categorically that the Poverty Eradication Alliance’s selling point is that it provides a major opportunity to confront an enduring, complex and multi-sided challenge, in this case, poverty,” he said, adding that it is expected to play an active role in the organisation of colloquia on poverty eradication.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the meeting that after many years of progress, poverty and hunger are today on the rise, reversing decades of progress and elevating already high levels of inequality within and between countries.
“As with so many aspects of this pandemic, the impacts are falling disproportionately on the most vulnerable — people living in poverty, the working poor, women and children, persons with disabilities and other marginalised groups,” he said.
Guterres said COVID-19 recovery and response must be focused on building back better and nations cannot go back to the way things were.
He said there is an opportunity to create a people-centred economic recovery with decent jobs for all, enabling people to work their way out of poverty.
He emphasised that nations’ interventions should build on and bolster existing institutions, while steering the economies towards inclusive and green growth for a better and stronger recovery.
“We need to strengthen our multilateral system to help countries — by extending sound policy advice, ensuring policy coherence and setting international parameters for an employment-led and people-centred recovery,” he said.
Sharing India’s experience and good practices in a few select areas of poverty eradication, Tirumurti highlighted that India’s rural population is protected against unemployment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which provides a legal guarantee of 100 days of wage employment per household in a year. More than half of the beneficiaries of this scheme are women.
He pointed out that through the use of Information and Communications Technology, India has achieved universal financial inclusion by linking people’s banking accounts, their identification numbers and mobile phones and brought over 393 million people into the mainstream financial system, including 200 million women, accelerating their economic empowerment.
With a view to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, India has announced a USD 270 billion stimulus package (10 per cent of India’s GDP), including those focussed on women and their livelihood.
These include PM’s Programme for the Welfare of the Poor (PM Garib Kalyan Yojana), where a package of USD 24 billion includes transfer of USD 4.2 billion in bank accounts of 200 million poor families in the last 3 months. India’s largest food security scheme in the world will also ensure sufficient food for the poor during COVID times, he said. (PTI)