Today, 17 October 2020 – On the International day for the eradication of poverty the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) expresses solidarity with hundreds of millions of people suffering under the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that 500 million more people will further slide into poverty due to the economic lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the virus. Communities worldwide are being pushed deeper into poverty, precarious existence and inequalities – with a massive loss of paid- and self-employment and livelihoods as well as severely limited access to food, water and sanitation, adequate housing, education, health services and other basic needs.

Women and children suffer the worst effects of the pandemic. According to UN Women, 243 million women and girls globally have been subjected to sexual and/or violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the last 12 months. With the pandemic, emerging data show the cases, particularly domestic violence, have increased by as much as 30% in countries like France and Singapore.

In Latin America and the Caribbean it is estimated that the number of people who live in poverty will increase from 185,9 to 219,1 million and people living in extreme poverty will increase from 67.5 million to 90.7 million. Inequalities measured by the Gini coefficient have increased by 4,9 percentage points in 2020 compared to 2019 in the region.

In the meantime the profit of the biggest companies have gone up. The GAFA firms and Microsoft are expected to make 46 billion USD more profit in 2020 than before the pandemic. Most of the profit is paid to their shareholders – while taxes are avoided. Billionaires wealth has increased by 27% during the pandemic.

Last September, parallel to the UNGA, GCAP national coalitions in 19 countries around the world organized People’s Assemblies  to provide an opportunity for the people to analyse the situation and to develop demands for solutions. Women’s organisations, youth, elderly people, persons with disabilities, persons discriminated by work and descent pointed out that apart from poverty and inequality – health, food security and the international debt crisis are the major concerns.

Governments in many countries are unable to support their people and face the crisis due to debt payments. Over US$300 billion is being spent annually by the Global South for Public External Debt payments to bilateral and multilateral lenders such as the World Bank and IMF, private banks, speculators, and investors in government bonds and securities. The debt problem is compounded by illicit financial flows, also in the billions of dollars.

The main response to the crisis, to provide the urgent liquidity needed to fund public services and social protection, the only support people have in defense against COVID-19, has been the promotion of a new debt wave, under non-concessional terms for most developing countries. Under this landscape, for many developing countries, recovery will be long and slow. It is crucial that global measures to face the crisis are more ambitious and address a permanent systemic change for an inclusive recovery. For these reasons, GCAP joined a broad global civil society movement calling for the unconditional cancelation of public external debts – at least for the next four years.

The struggle against poverty, inequalities and injustice has become more challenging. GCAP was born 15 years ago, with the late President Nelson Mandela sounding out the first call to stand up against poverty together for equality.

We shall continue to raise the voices of the people, putting the most vulnerable first and working to build together a better, just and sustainable world for all.