GENEVA, 3 JULY 2020 – Philippine Permanent Representative Evan P. Garcia urged member-states of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to build strong social safety nets amidst the unprecedented economic shocks brought about by the COVID19 pandemic.

Ambassador Garcia also emphasized the specific vulnerabilities of middle-income countries (MICs), which accounts for 75% of the world’s population and 62% of the world’s poor.

“Taking into account the needs and vulnerabilities of MICs is necessary in any framework to support the sustained recovery of the global economy under the post-pandemic ‘new normal,” the Ambassador said at the first segment of the 67th session of UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Board (TDB) earlier today.

The current downturn in global trade could push around 40 to 60 million people into extreme poverty, according to recent UNCTAD reports. This threatens to reverse considerable gains in achieving 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across many economies.

The Philippines has been calling attention to the need to mainstream resilience agenda in considering strengthening the response to pandemics and other disruptive emergencies.

During a meeting of ambassadors of G77 and China in May, Ambassador Garcia pushed for measures to promote states’ ability to deliver timely interventions, absorb shocks in the financial sector, and ensure unimpeded flow of supply chains. He put special emphasis on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). MSMEs in developing countries have “less inbuilt resilience to economic shocks” but “will face greater disruption over a longer period,” according to a recent report by the International Trade Center (ITC).

Ambassador Garcia, citing that “it is important to uphold international cooperation not only to win the war against the virus but also to win the future,” also stressed the need to work together for for better access to quality education and nutrition, universal health coverage, achieving gender equality, reducing inequalities, and protecting the vulnerable such as migrants, women, and the youth.

Ambassador Garcia’s remarks mirror the Philippine government’s emphasis on providing direct assistance to people affected by pandemic-induced economic shocks. The Philippines launched an unprecedented Social Amelioration Program (SAP) that dispensed USD 3.9 billion in emergency cash and non-cash subsidy programs. This was part of the Program for Recovery with Equity and Solidarity (PH-PROGRESO), the Philippines’ four-pillar post-pandemic economic recovery plan.

In line with the SAP, the Philippines has rolled out for social protection mechanisms for vulnerable sectors, including migrant workers, women and children, older persons, persons with disability, indigenous peoples, and religious minorities.

In response to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s call for sharing of good practices on measures taken to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, Ambassador Garcia has also shared details of the Philippines comprehensive response to the pandemic with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCR). END