• Melo Acuna

COVID-19's health, economic and political impact severely affected vulnerable sectors

Southeast Asia should focus on inequality, human rights among other concerns

MANILA – The United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released the Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on the impact of COVID-19 in one of the most populous regions worldwide, Southeast Asia.

In its latest policy brief, it was noted governments in the region acted swiftly to battle the pandemic and avoid its worst effects as regional cooperation has been robust across multiple sectors.

It said Southeast Asia reported significantly lower confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths, “on a per-capita basis, than most other global regions.”

However, the Secretary-General noted health, economic and political impact of COVID-19 has severely affected the region’s most vulnerable sectors.

“The pandemic has highlighted deep inequalities, shortfalls in governance and the imperative for sustainable development pathway,” the policy brief further revealed.

For the region to recover with what it described “a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive future,” various governments should address inequality because “nobody is safe until everybody is safe.” Short-term and long0term measures must address the needs of vulnerable groups including those in the informal economy, women and girls, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees.

Governments need to bridge the digital divide because people and communities must not be left behind as services and support are increasingly based on digital awareness, literacy and access.

The United Nations policy brief also underscored the need for countries to scale up or increasing their investments in decarbonizing economies for long-term sustainability and inclusivity.

It also emphasized the need to uphold human rights and good governance practices because it remains an important bedrock.

“Building back better, by definition, needs to include respecting and fulfilling fundamental human rights and protecting civil space. All governments in the subregion have supported the Secretary General António Guterres’ appeal for a global ceasefire, and it will be important for countries to translate that commitment into meaningful change on the ground by ensuring that COVID-19 responses address conflict situations,” the statement concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres delivering the 18th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture virtually on Nelson Mandela International Day (July 18). (Photo by Eskinder Debebe/UN)


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