The impact of COVID-19 on sustainable development: strengthening health system and social protection

Sylvia Beales Gray Panthers, constituency of older people, representing the UNECE RCEM

Points taken from civil society discussions and MS/UN input

Question 1 Which challenges have governments addressed in responding to COVID19?1. Despite health and economic recovery programmes put in place to respond to Covid the evidence is that pandemic increased inequalities across region, and these inequalities are likely to increase after the emergency phase of covid turns into longer term recovery. In the words of David Nabarro who addressed the RCEM yesterday covid is the disease of the disadvantaged and of the poor, and gets entrenched in poorer communities. We have seen this evidenced by the communities and people represented by the RCEM who report unequal access to health services; to social protection; to food; to safety in the workplace; to information; to jobs; to vaccinations. Lack of readily available disaggregated data makes those left out of services and social protection invisible to policy makers.

Recommendation is to track inequalities and access to services which all people across their life course have a right to via disaggregated data by age, gender, disability, social status, location, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Question 2 How to encourage/ promote the health and social protection in the COVID 19 response?

Lack of funding and transparent and welcoming partnerships with civil society can translate into poor collaboration between government and civil society. RCEM represents the diversity of people and groups across the region ans sees some groups have more chances for funding than others. Important to prioritise and embed social protection funding so that the systems are permanently in place and we do not revert to partial, non universal measures which are the hallmark of austerity policies. These will not do as they do not reach the poorest and the most disadvantaged, but the opposite, are known to fail

Recommendation : finance universal measures reaching out to the furthest behind, in collaboration with civil society; do not leave out refugees, widowed women (as the virus kills more men than women), ethnic monitories who are historically disadvantaged, unsupported younger and older people, the unemployed, those in rural areas and the urban poor

Question 3 What are effective policies to promote health and well-being and social protection to build back better?

Building forward transformatively means policies based on the right to … Human rights approach must be the litmus test; all governments are signed up to deliver the human rights of citizens which is the bedrock also of agenda 2030, what is missing. Policy that implements the human rights of citizens will transform lives and deliver wellbeing. OHCHR has excellent guidelines and ways to measure this. We must not return to pre covid problems of inequality and austerity. That way leads to disaster. Only able to respond effectively to Covid and even get rid of it by investing in and respecting and supporting human capacity in all its diversity – policy emphasis on gender equality, age and disability inclusiveness and ensuring intersectionality (avoiding silos is critical). Partnerships with civil society are needed to reach the furthest behind and roll back discrimination

Recommendations we can work together to achieve are universal social protection; greater priority to food security; resourcing mental health; support to carers; sexual and reproductive services; work to lessen the digital divide; nutrition especially for older people; less reliance on private cars and improving public infrastructure available to all including those with disabilities; vaccination programmes that are clear and transparent and inclusive; support given for vaccinations outside our region.