We know what policies can fix the COVID-19 inequality emergency. But only people power can win them

By Ben Phillips, Advisor to the United Nations, governments and civil society organisations, former Campaigns Director for Oxfam and for ActionAid, and co-founder of  the Fight Inequality Alliance. He is the author of “How to Fight Inequality


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

COVID-19 did not create the inequality crisis. But COVID-19 is seeing inequality metastasise into the most socially dangerous global emergency since World War II.  The problem is clear. The OECD Secretary-General has rightly drawn the analogy with the Post-War reconstruction and Marshall Plan to illustrate the level of ambition needed. Opening the OECD conference on “Confronting Planetary Emergencies”, President Michael D Higgins of Ireland set out the need for a “radical departure” from “decades of unfettered neoliberalism” which have left people “without protection as to basic necessities of life, security and the ability to participate”. As he noted, “it is no longer sufficient to describe, however brilliantly, systemic failure. We must have the courage to speak out and work for the alternatives.”

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L’Afrique pense par elle-même son développement

Par Firmin Edouard Matoko, Sous-directeur général, Priorité Afrique et Relations extérieures


Ce blog fait partie d’une série qui invite acteurs et penseurs à renouveler le discours actuel sur l’Afrique et son développement.

Les africains ont aujourd’hui plusieurs certitudes quant au futur de leur continent: celui-ci regorge de richesses naturelles (« un scandale de la nature » disent certains) ; il est culturellement riche et abonde de ressources humaines talentueuses. Enfin, après des décennies d’enfermement idéologique et d’injustice épistémique, l’Afrique est désormais capable de penser par elle-même et d’écrire son avenir[1].

La réalité d’une Afrique riche en ressources naturelles mais non encore totalement exploitées a été le fil conducteur des stratégies de développement post-indépendances d’inspiration classique ou libérale. Deux économistes africains, l’égyptien Samir Amin et le zimbabwéen Thandika Mkandawire se distinguent très vite par leurs analyses sur les conditions inégales de développement des pays africains et en se situant dans un schéma de rupture anticolonial. Dans un sens, on peut situer à travers les thèses de ces deux précurseurs le point de départ d’une pensée africaine du développement. D’ailleurs, la création en 1973 du CODESRIA dont les deux éminents économistes suscités furent secrétaires exécutifs avait pour objectif de « développer des capacités et des outils scientifiques susceptibles de promouvoir la cohésion, le bien-être et le progrès des sociétés africaines. Ceci passait évidemment par l’émergence d’une communauté panafricaine de chercheurs actifs, la protection de leur liberté intellectuelle et de leur autonomie dans l’accomplissement de leur mission et l’élimination des barrières linguistiques, disciplinaires, régionales, de genre et entre les générations ».

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Reimagining a post-COVID world

By Richard Kozul-Wright, Director of the Globalisation and Development Strategies Division, UNCTAD


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

The coronavirus has ruptured our world and, as with past global pandemics, raised fundamental questions about the way we organise society and the values that structure our lives. But it has also encouraged us to imagine a better world. However, if we are to act on that imagination, we will need to acknowledge the mistakes of the last decade, above all in the world’s richest economies.

Recovering better demands that we treat the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to identify and address underlying structural barriers, at both the national and global levels, in the way of a more prosperous, equitable and resilient future. This did not happen after the global financial crisis when returning to business as usual was the winning policy mindset. But higher share prices or fuller treasuries, or more sophisticated supply chains will not be the basis on which future generations judge our response to the current crisis.

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Preventing a child marriage pandemic

By Gabrielle Szabo, Senior Gender Equality Adviser and Chiara Orlassino, Research Adviser, Save the Children UK


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

Shumi, 16, avoided child marriage with the support of Jasmin, a neighbour and Save the Children-trained peer leader who runs an advocacy group for girls in the village. Photo: Tom Merilion/Save The Children/Bangaladesh

By New Year’s Eve, half-a-million girls may already have married as a result of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. New analysis from our Global Girlhood Report suggests that by 2025, 2.5 million girls may marry as children. These marriages will add to the estimated 12 million child marriages that take place every year, 2 million of which involve girls under 15 years of age.

These increases will continue over the next decade, but they are not a challenge for future leaders and communities – they are a challenge for today. The risks that set girls on a path to child marriage are already mounting, and materialising. Decision-makers and gender equality advocates must ask ourselves what we can do to stop COVID-19 triggering a child marriage pandemic now. Fortunately, our history already holds many of the answers and we are learning more about how to respond to new challenges from each other every day.

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Mobilising investment to sustain economic recovery: what can impact investors do?

By Alberto Bernardini, Sustainable Finance Director, GreenWave


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

Private investment in sustainable development has been on the rise in recent years. Impact investments differ from traditional investments as they aim to generate positive, measurable impacts on society and on the environment, in addition to being financially profitable. According to the Global Impact Investing Network’s (GIIN) annual impact investor survey, close to 300 impact investors worldwide collectively managed USD 404 billion of impact investment assets in 2019. This is almost double the USD 228 billion worth of assets under management by 200 impact investors in 2017. Moreover, the rapidly growing impact investment market could provide the capital needed to address the world’s most pressing challenges in areas like sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, conservation, microfinance, and affordable and accessible basic services such as housing, healthcare, and education. 

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Public health and migration: from the Postcolonial era to COVID-19

By Ranabir Samaddar, Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies, Calcutta Research Group


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

Photo: Juan Alberto Casado, Shutterstock

I wrote The Postcolonial Age of Migration in 2016-2019. It came out just two months ago as the pandemic continued (and continues) to rage in India and around the world. Global mobility came to a screeching halt and I have not yet seen the book in print. Locked down in my house and aware that the book had come out, I was driven to reflect on what I had written: did I do justice to our age, which I had described as the postcolonial age of migration? The book time and again goes back to colonial histories of war, plunder, changes in land use pattern, peasant dispossession, primitive accumulation, and their continuities in our time. Against this backdrop, the book discusses how the colonial practices of violence and border building are being reproduced today on a global scale. Wars, famines, and ecological changes are major driving factors behind migration and forced migration flows today. They also influence patterns of labour mobility. Yet as I reflected, the overwhelming reality of the COVID-19 pandemic brought home the realisation that the book does not account for epidemiological disasters as an integral part of the colonial history of migration and the postcolonial age of migration. The absence of any concern for migrant workers and refugees in public health structures should have been discussed. The book speaks of refugees’ health concerns in camps, yet the broader perspective of migrants and public health is absent.

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Achieving inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and the SDGs in the post-COVID-19 world

By Professor Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

In the context of international development, the year 2015 marked the transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the much broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the much more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It signalled an emerging paradigm shift in the international development agenda, a collectively agreed set of universal goals for an inclusive and sustainable global development process.

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How can island states reimagine tourism for green recovery?

Riad Meddeb, Senior Principal Advisor for Small Island Developing States, UNDP


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide. This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 crisis in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Grenada’s Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, Molinere Beauséjour Marine. Credit: Grenada Tourism Authority

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have experienced great success in expanding their tourism industries, particularly over the past 10 years. The industry is an economic lifeline and driver of development for many SIDS. Their rich biodiversity and beautiful ecosystems attracted around 44 million visitors in 2019. However, global travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have devastated SIDS’ economies. Compared to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), export revenues from tourism represent about 9% of SIDS economies. In countries like St. Lucia and Palau, tourism revenues make up 98 and 88 percent of total exports respectively. It is a vital source of revenue for community livelihoods, disaster recovery, biodiversity and cultural heritage preservation.

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Beyond vested interests: Reforming international co-operation post COVID-19

By Imme Scholz, Deputy Director of the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and Deputy Chair of the German Council for Sustainable Development[i]


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


The world is now in the eighth month of the COVID-19 pandemic. When this was written, the highest daily infection rates were recorded in India, the US and Brazil, while the highest death rates (per 100,000 inhabitants) were registered in Europe and the Americas. Africa so far has not turned into a hotspot of the disease – good news that is attributed to effective public health workers and Africa’s young population. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare weaknesses and blind spots in societies, economies and policies worldwide. Notably that public services the world over take too long to understand their new responsibilities under changed circumstances and as a result act too slowly, at the expense of the most vulnerable. For example, infection and death rates are high in OECD countries despite good health care systems. And insufficient digital infrastructure and access in public administrations, schools and households, exacerbated by social inequalities, affect access to education in Germany or in Latin American countries alike.

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COVID-19 has pushed extreme poverty numbers in Africa to over half a billion

By Baldwin Tong, PhD candidate, MODUL University Vienna, Department of Sustainability, Governance, and Methods


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

The global economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a large setback of the international community’s goal to achieve SDG 1 of “no poverty” by 2030. Extreme poverty around the world is increasing, the first time that has happened this century after decades of global poverty reduction. Over 700 million people worldwide are currently estimated to be living in extreme poverty. Global poverty headline numbers have therefore returned to approximately 2015 levels meaning that the world has lost almost 5 years in its effort to end extreme poverty due in large part to COVID-19. The following analysis is based on data from the World Poverty Clock.

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