Helen Clark, et al. show why 2021 can be a turning point toward a healthier, greener, safer and fairer world

Dorothy S. Bass

By Graça Machel, Helen Clark, Mary Robinson, Ban Ki-moon, and Gordon Brown

This year must mark a global turning point. Whereas international cooperation often failed in 2020, we now have an opportunity – and the responsibility – to usher in a new era in which a healthier, greener, safer, and fairer world is possible.

The great truth that has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic is that no one, anywhere, is safe from COVID-19 until everyone, everywhere, is safe. The first step, which will pay for itself many times over, is to ensure mass vaccination in every affected country. Support from the G7 and G20 that will make vaccines readily accessible to low- and middle-income countries is not an act of charity; it is in every country’s strategic interest. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund believes that such support would be the best public investment ever made.

At the G7 summit this week in Cornwall, member states and their invitees should lead the way by guaranteeing to pay 67{14f62f8d01b0e9e4416e7be29f093eee2960b1e4c60488fca25d8fca5b82c641} of required funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator this year and next. This is based on a fair-share financing approach and a financial burden-sharing formula proposed by the governments of Norway and South Africa, and reflects a realistic assessment of countries’ ability to pay.

The G7 should also lead the way in support of dose sharing and voluntary licensing agreements, potentially including temporary patent waivers that would allow the knowledge and technology transfer needed to manufacture vaccines on every continent.

Moreover, the world’s multilateral and regional financial institutions should be asked to release new resources for low- and middle-income countries to strengthen their health systems’ capacity. And they should also support implementation of the detailed recommendations of the recent report to the World Health Organization by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.

Global economic policy alignment will be crucial in rebuilding the world economy in the pandemic’s wake. We were fortunate that, over the past year, in the initial COVID-19 recovery phase, most countries followed similar policies, resulting in an acceptable level of alignment. What we need now is an agreed global growth plan with coordinated monetary and fiscal interventions to prevent an uneven and unbalanced recovery – and ensure a more inclusive, equitable, and greener future. For example, the IMF’s proposals for a synchronized push on infrastructure, including green infrastructure, across all continents would, if adopted by the G7 and G20, raise global economic output by a projected $2 trillion by 2025.

The G20 and G7 must also address the growing divergence caused by differences in health outcomes and uncoordinated macroeconomic policy approaches. While most advanced economies can look forward to strong growth and widely available vaccines, much of the emerging and developing world must face the new waves and new variants of the virus with depleted economic and social buffers. Following a slow recovery in global trade and foreign direct investment, many countries face rising debt and falling tax revenues, as well as declining aid flows.

With up to 150 million more people forced into poverty by COVID-19, and with widespread cuts in health-care and education budgets, the pandemic may have delayed progress toward the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by up to five years, with girls and women suffering most. We call on the G7 to extend their initiative on girls’ education and to support the UNICEF plan for digital connectivity that ensures the inclusion of all young people.

The G7 and G20 can help to bridge the financing gaps faced by vulnerable countries and act to restore a viable path toward the SDGs. This will require the multilateral development banks to deploy more finance, more efficiently, optimizing their balance sheets and reviewing their capital adequacy framework, as already requested by the G20, and consider replenishments. In this respect, we need to examine new guarantee-based instruments to crowd in private-sector finance for health, education, and social safety nets, and we need to make progress on international agreements to curtail tax avoidance such as the global minimum rate recently backed by G7 finance ministers.

In addition, we must redouble our efforts to ensure debt sustainability for low- and middle-income countries. That means extending the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative and encouraging broader participation by private creditors, and possibly by non-G20 official creditors, in the new Common Framework for Debt Treatments. Success will depend on greater transparency on the part of both debtors and creditors.

This year is also vital for progress toward reaching net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. In advance of the United Nations climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow this November, the G7 and G20 countries must announce bold national commitments. They must require companies to disclose their carbon footprints, deliver on the proposed fund for mitigation and adaptation in low- and lower-middle-income countries, and ensure that their economic recovery plans boost renewables and green infrastructure.

This is not a task for national governments alone. Firms, cities, and multilateral institutions all must be at the center of efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. And, as with the post-pandemic global recovery, the coordinated efforts we need must be set firmly in place this year.

This commentary is signed by: María Elena Agüero – Secretary-General of Club de Madrid; Bertie Ahern Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland (1997-2008); Philippe Aghion – Professor of Economics, Collège de France and the London School of Economics; Shamshad Akhtar – 14th Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, former vice president of the World Bank for the Middle-East and North Africa and member of GWL Voices; Farida Allaghi – former Ambassador of Libya to EU; Amat Alsoswa – Yemen’s first female ambassador and minister, member of GWL Voices, former assistant secretary-general, assistant administrator, and director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States; Abdulaziz Altwaijri – former Director General of ISESCO; Rosalia Arteaga – President of Ecuador 1997; Shaukat Aziz – Prime Minister of Pakistan (2004-07); Jean Badershneider – Vice President of Exxon Mobile 2000-13 and CEO and Founding Board Member Global Fund to End Modern Slavery; Jan Peter Balkenende – Prime Minister of The Netherlands (2002-10); Joyce Banda – President of Malawi (2012-14); Ajay Banga – Executive Chairman of Mastercard; Kaushik Basu – President of the International Economic Association and Chief Economist of the World Bank (2012-16); Oliver Bäte – CEO of Allianz Group; Marek Belka – Prime Minister of Poland 2004-05 and President of the National Bank of Poland 2010-16; Carol Bellamy – Chair of ECPAT International, former chair of the board of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF), former director of the Peace Corps, executive director of UNICEF, and president and CEO of World Learning Erik Berglof – EBRD Chief Economist (2006-15), Professor of Economics, LSE; Sali Berisha – President of Albania 1992-97, Prime Minister 2005-13; Catherine Bertini – Former executive director of the United Nations World Food Program and UN under-secretary for Management; Suman Bery – Chief Economist at Royal Dutch Shell (2012-16), Director-General of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi; Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud – Chairman of King Faisal Foundations Center for Research and Islamic Studies; Ana Birchall – Deputy Prime Minister of Romania 2016-19; Valdis Birkavs – Prime Minister of Latvia (1993-94); Mario Blejer – Governor of the Central Bank of Argentina (2002); Director of the Centre for Central Banking Studies, Bank of England (2003-08); Irina Bokova – Former director-general of UNESCO; Patrick Bolton – Professor of Finance and Economics, Imperial College London; Professor, Columbia University; Dumitru Bragish – Prime Minister of Moldova 1999-2001; Richard Branson – Co-Founder of The B Team and Founder of the Virgin Group; Mayu Brizuela de Avila – Former foreign minister of El Salvador; Jesper Brodin – CEO, Ingka Group (IKEA); Gro Brundtland – Former prime minister of Norway; John Bruton – former prime minister of Ireland; Robin Burgess – Professor of Economics, LSE; Sharon Burrow – Vice-Chair, The B Team and General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation; Micheline Calmy-Rey – former president of Switzerland; Kathy Calvin – Former president and CEO of the United Nations Foundation; Kathy Calvin – Board Member, UN Foundation; Fernando Henrique Cardoso – President of Brazil (1995-2003); Wendy Carlin – Professor of Economics, University College London; Hikmet Cetin – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey 1991-94; Lynda Chalker – former minister of overseas development UK; Laura Chinchilla – President of Costa Rica (2010-14), Vice President of the Club de Madrid; Bai Chong-En – Dean, Tsinghua School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University; Helen Clark – Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008); Joe Clark – former prime minister of Canada; Marie-Louise Coleiro-Preca – President of Malta (2014-19); Emil Constantinescu – President of Romania (1996-2000); Diane Coyle CBE – Co-Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, University of Cambridge; Chester Crocker – former assistant US secretary of state; Mirko Cvetkovic – Prime Minister of Serbia (2008-12); Marzuki Darusman – former attorney-general of Indonesia; Herman De Croo – Minister of State, Honorary Speaker of the House Belgium; Nathalie de Gaulle – Founder and Partner SOCIETER; FW de Klerk – former president of South Africa; Dominique de Villepin – Former prime minister of France (2005-07); Kemal Derviş – Minister of Economic Affairs of Turkey (2001-02), Administrator of UNDP (2005-09); Senior Fellow of Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institute; Mathias Dewatripont – Professor of Economics, Université libre de Bruxelles; Beatrice Weder di Mauro – President, Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and Professor of International Economics, Graduate Institute in Geneva; Božidar Djelić – Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia (2007-11); Mark Dybul – Former US Global AIDS Coordinator (2006-09) and Executive Director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (2012-17); Victor J. Dzau – President of the National Academy of Medicine; Barry Eichengreen – Professor of Economics and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley; Susan Elliott – CEO and President National Committee on American Foreign Policy; Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés – President of the UN General Assembly 73rd session, Minister of National Defense of Ecuador (2012-14), Minister of Foreign Affairs (2017-18); Gareth Evans – Former foreign minister of Australia; Emmanuel Faber – Former CEO and Chairman, Danone; Jeremy Farrar – Director of the Wellcome Trust; Leonel Fernandez – President of the Dominican Republic, (1996-2000; 2004-12); Christiana Figueres – Former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Founder, Global Optimism; Jan Fisher – Prime Minister of the Czech Republic (2009-10); Vincente Fox – Former President of Mexico (2000-06); Abraham Foxman – National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (1987-15); Franco Frattini – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy (2002-04, 2008-2011), European Commissioner (2004-08); Louise Fréchette – Former UN deputy secretary-general; Julio Frenk – President of the University of Miami (2015-Present) and former secretary of health of Mexico (2000-06); Robert Fulton – Chief Executive, Global Leadership Foundation; Chiril Gaburici – Prime Minister of Moldova (2015); Ahmed Galal – Finance Minister of Egypt (2013-14); Lawrence Gonzi – Former prime minister of Malta; Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic – President of Croatia (2015-20); Mats Granryd – Director-General, GSMA; Ameenah Gurib-Fakim – President of Mauritius (2015-18); Sergei Guriev – Chief Economist of the EBRD (2016-19), Professor of Economics, Sciences Po; Afred Gusenbauer – Chancellor of Austria (2007-08); Tarja Halonen – President of Finland (2000-12); Diane Havlir – Professor of Medicine and Chief of the HIV/AIDS Division at the University of California, San Francisco; Noeleen Heyzer – Under-Secretary-General of the UN (2007-15), Executive Director UN Development Fund for Women (1994-2007); Bengt Holmström – Nobel Laureate for Economics (2016); Professor of Economics, MIT; Arianna Huffington – Founder and CEO, Thrive Global; Mo Ibrahim – Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Enrique Iglesias – Former foreign minister of Uruguay; Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu – Secretary-General of OIC (2004-14); Mladen Ivanic – President of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014-18); Harold James – Professor of European Studies & Professor of History and International Affairs, Princeton University; Rob Johnson – President, Institute for New Economic Thinking; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Former president of Liberia; Mehdi Jomaa – Prime Minister of Tunisia (2014-15); T. Anthony Jones – Vice-President and Executive Director of GFNA; Lee Jong-Wha – Professor of Economics, Korea University; Chief Economist & Head of the Office of Regional Economic Integration at the Asian Development Bank (2007-13); Ivo Josipovic – President of Croatia (2010-15); Yolanda Kakabadse – Former president, World Wildlife Fund International; Angela Kane – Vice President of the International Institute for Peace in Vienna, and Senior Fellow at the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation; Kostas Karamanlis – Prime Minister of Greece (2004-09); Kerry Kennedy – President Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights; Karim Khalili – Vice President of Afghanistan (2004-14), Chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council; Ban Ki-moon – Secretary-General of the United Nations (2007-16); Jadranka Kosor – Prime Minister of Croatia (2009-11); Anne Krueger – First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF (2001-06), Senior Research Professor of International Economics, School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; Leonid Kuchma – President of Ukraine (1994-2005); Chandrika Kumaratunga President of Sri Lanka (1994-2005); Aleksander Kwaśniewski – President of Poland (1995-2005); Hervé Ladsous – Former UN under-secretary-general; Ricardo Lagos – President of Chile (2000-06); Zlatko Lagumdzija – Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2001-02), Deputy Prime Minister (2012-15); Guilherme Leal – Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Natura & Co; Yves Leterme – Prime Minister of Belgium, (2008, 2009-11); Doris Leuthard – President of the Swiss Confederation (2010 and 2017); Justin Yifu Lin – Chief Economist & Senior Vice-President of the World Bank (2008-12), Dean of Institute of New Structural Economics, Peking University; Andrew Liveris Chairman Emeritus and Former CEO, Dow Chemical; Tzipi Livni – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel (2006-09); Petru Lucinschi – President of Moldova (1997-2001); José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero – President of the Government of Spain (2004-11); Igor Luksic – Prime Minister of Montenegro (2010-12); Nora Lustig – President Emeritus of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic Association, Professor of Latin American Economics, Tulane University; Jessie Rose Mabutas – Member of Audit and Risk Committee of the Executive Board at The African Capacity Building Foundation; Graça Machel – Former Education Minister for Mozambique; Mauricio Macri – President of Argentina (2015-19); Susana Malcorra – Dean of IE School of Global & Public Affairs at IE University, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Worship (2015); Purnima Mane – Former President Pathfinder International (2012-16) and former deputy executive director and assistant secretary-general, UNFPA (2007-11); Juan Manuel Santos – former president of Columbia; Cristina Manzano – Representative of Constituent Foundation FRIDE; Moussa Mara – Prime Minister of Mali (2014-15); Giorgi Margvelashvili – President of Georgia (2013-18); Dalia Marin – Professor of International Economics, TUM School of Management, Munich; Taher Masri – Prime Minister of Jordan (1991), Speaker of the House of Representatives of Jordan (1993-95); Colin Mayer CBE – Professor of Management Studies, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; Carolyn McAskie – Former assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping at the UN; Peter Medgyessy – Prime Minister of Hungary (2002-04); Rexhep Meidani – President of Albania (1997-2002); Stjepan Mesic – President of Croatia (2000-10); James Michel – President of Seychelles (2004-16); Hiro Mizuno – Special Envoy of UN Secretary-General on Innovative Finance and Sustainable Investments and Board Member, Tesla; Festus Mogae – President of Botswana (1998-2008); Torben Möger – Pedersen CEO, PensionDanmark; Amre Moussa – Secretary-General, Arab League (2001-11), Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt (1991-2001); Rovshan Muradov – Secretary-General, Nizami Ganjavi International Center; Joseph Muscat Prime Minister of Malta (2013-20); Mustapha Kamel Nabli – Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia (2011-12); Piroska Nagy-Mohácsi – Program Director of the Institute of Global Affairs, LSE, Director of Policy, EBRD (2009-15); Ngaire Woods – Dean, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford; Bujar Nishani – President of Albania (2012-17); Jean Oelwang – Founding CEO and President, Virgin Unite; Paul Olman – Chair, The B Team, Co-Founder & Chair, IMAGINE, and CEO (2009-18), Unilever; Jim O’Neill – Chair of Chatham House; Djoomart Otorbayev – Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan (2014-15); Roza Otumbayeva – President of the Kyrgyz Republic (2010-11); George Papandreou – Prime Minister of Greece (2009-11); Georgi Parvanov – President of Bulgaria (2002-12); Andres Pastrana – President of Colombia (1998-2002); P.J. Patterson – Prime Minister of Jamaica (1992-2006); Thomas R. Pickering – Former US under-secretary of state; Navi Pillay –Former UN high commissioner for human rights, judge of the International Criminal Court, and president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; François-Henri Pinault – Chairman and CEO, Kering; Christopher Pissarides – Nobel laureate for economics (2010) and Professor of Economics & Political Science, LSE; Rosen Plevneliev – President of Bulgaria (2012-17); Richard Portes CBE – Professor of Economics, London Business School, Founder and Honorary President of the Centre for Economic Policy Research; Jorge ‘Tuto’ Quiroga – President of Bolivia (2001-02); Jean-Pierre Raffarin – former prime minister of France; José Manuel Ramos-Horta – President of Timor Leste (2007-12); Abelraouf Rawabdeh – Prime Minister of Jordan (1999-2000), President of the Senate (2013-15); Hélène Rey – Professor of Economics, London Business School; George Robertson – former secretary-general of NATO; Mary Robinson – Former president of Ireland; Dani Rodrik – President-Elect of the International Economic Association, Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard University; Gérard Roland – Professor of Economics and Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley; Petre Roman – Prime Minister of Romania, (1989-1991); Ismail Serageldin – Co-Chair NGIC, Vice-President of the World Bank (1992-2000); Fatiha Serour – Co-Founder, Justice Impact Lab, International consultant/adviser, Africa Group for Justice and Accountability, former deputy special representative and assistant secretary-general in Somalia; Han Seung-Soo – Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea (2008-09); Karin Sham Poo – Former deputy executive director, UNICEF, Interim Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict; Robert Shapiro – Under-Secretary of Commerce (1997-2001); Jenny Shipley – Prime Minister of New Zealand (1997-99); Mari Simonen – Deputy Executive Director, External Relations, United Nations Affairs and Management of UNFPA; Juan Somavia – Director-General of the ILO (1999-2012); Michael Spence – Nobel laureate for economics (2001); William R. Berkley – Professor in Economics and Business, NYU; Devi Sridhar – Professor of Global Public Health, University of Edinburgh; Eduardo Stein – former vice president of Guatemala; Joseph Stiglitz – Chief Economist of the World Bank (1997-2000), Nobel laureate for economics (2001), Professor, Columbia University; Petar Stoyanov – President of Bulgaria (1997-2002); Alexander Stubb – Prime Minister of Finland (2014-15); Boris Tadic – President of Serbia (2004-12); Aminata Touré – Prime Minister of Senegal (2013-14); Elbegdorj Tsakhia – President of Mongolia (2009-17); Danilo Türk – President of Slovenia (2007-12), President of the Club de Madrid; Hamdi Ulukaya – Founder, Chairman and CEO, Chobani; Cassam Uteem – President of Mauritius (1992-2002), Vice President of the Club de Madrid; Marianna V. Vardinoyannis – Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO; Harold Varmus – Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine (1989); Raimonds Vejonis – President of Latvia (2015-19); Melanne Verveer – Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security at Georgetown University; Vaira Vike-Freiberga – Co-Chair NGIC, President of Latvia (1999-2007); Ernst-Ludwig von Thadden – President, Mannheim University (2012-19), Professor, Economics Department; Filip Vujanovic – President of Montenegro (2003-18); Leonard Wantchekon – Founder and President of the African School of Economics, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University; Shang-Jin Wei – Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank (2014-16), Professor of Chinese Business and Economy and Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School; Michelle Williams – Dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Yashar Yakish – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey (2002-03); Yu Yongding – China Academy of Social Sciences; Jigme Yoser Thinley Lyonchhen – Prime Minister of Bhutan (2008-13); Muhammad Yunus – Chairman, Yunus Centre; Viktor Yuschenko – President of Ukraine (2005-10); Kateryna Yushchenko – First Lady of Ukraine (2005-10); Valdis Zatlers – President of Latvia (2007-11); Ernesto Zedillo – Former president of Mexico.

Graça Machel is founder of the Graça Machel Trust. Helen Clark, a former prime minister of New Zealand (1999-2008), is Chair of the Board of Women Political Leaders. Mary Robinson is a former president of Ireland. Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders, is a former secretary-general of the United Nations and South Korean foreign minister. Gordon Brown, a former prime minister of the United Kingdom, is United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021, published here with permission.

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