First Edition – UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations

Welcome address by Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO during the opening of the first edition of the UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. 1st edition: Africa

Distinguished panelists,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the first edition of the UNESCO Series of Regional Expert Consultations against Racism and Discriminations. My name is Gabriela Ramos and I am the Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO.

Let me first of all remind the participants that English and French interpretation is available during this online meeting. You may wish to switch your channel to your preferred language.

This expert consultation comes at a very crucial juncture for the international community. In an era of globalization and multiculturalism, the COVID-19 crisis has further unveiled the harsh realities of racial inequality, injustice and stigmatization with the most disadvantaged groups disproportionally affected, especially women and girls who are more likely than men and boys to live in extreme poverty, to be out of school, to be subject to sexual or physical violence, to have unstable low-wage and low-benefit jobs, to be prevented from accessing leadership and decision-making, and the list goes on.

According to Tendayi Achiume who is the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, “many of the groups who have been subject to racist and xenophobic attacks because associated with having spread the disease, were already subjects to latent intolerance and xenophobia. It is of the utmost importance to tackle the root causes of intolerance and racism taking into account the specificities of each context”.

As the custodian of UNESCO’s work to promote social inclusion and the fight against racism and discriminations, UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector is upscaling its ongoing work. In order to do so, it is crucial that we understand better the mechanics of discrimination in all its forms, including racism and gender based discrimination, its history and legacies, and ultimately their repercussions on societies. It is also fundamental that we address the critical data gaps at the global level in an effort to ensure science-informed decision making and action. Given the lack of consolidated and analytic data in Africa, especially related to COVID, UNESCO has recently partnered with the Association of Canadian Studies and Metropolis in collaboration with African cities to identify key issues, indicators and socio-demographics to generate evidence-based responses that address the social and economic dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa, including discriminations and inequalities.

Through these expert consultations, we wish to privilege a scientific assessment of the situation and the needs of specific groups by involving experts from various disciplines to bridge their perspective on racism and discriminations to the policy responses of national/local governments, as well as to the fundamental needs assessment mechanism targeting the most affected populations. Today’s edition is focused on the African region.

One of the most significant aspects in analyzing racism and discriminations revolves around the concept of communal identity. In Africa, data from the past year indicates the persistence of intercommunal conflicts and violence within a number of countries. Urbanization has also exacerbated ethnic grievances with an “urban dilemma” highlighting the intersection between urbanization, poverty and violence.

Violence is another heavy consequence of discrimination that has exposed society’s flawed ways of thinking and uncivilized behavior. There are for example striking examples of these heinous acts committed against people living with albinism, who are regularly dehumanized, bullied, abandoned, mutilated and killed in complete social silence and indifference.

It is paradigmatic of the issue of racism which has prevailed throughout the years despite the innovative measures taken by governments, institutions and citizens to eradicate it through scientific research, legal frameworks and education, among others.  It has also been significantly pushed further into the forefront of global issues as a result of the accounts of racial and gender-based violence and discrimination heightened by the COVID-19 crisis.

The example of the global movements against racism and discriminations carry with them unequivocal narratives of racial injustice, discrimination and intolerance. Around the world, these voices may be different – but the narrative remains the same. It resonates not only with the marginalized groups who continue to face adversities in their respective societies but also with the individuals, governments and institutions who are committed to helping change these narratives for the better. 

This is the context in which the world must mobilize itself in today. This is also the aspiration UNESCO seeks to fulfill in this regional expert consultation series: to engage experts in a meaningful exchange of knowledge and experience, facilitate an evolution of the organizational mindset and strengthen the approach to eradicating racism and discriminations.  The insights gained from the regional expert consultation series will be an indispensable step in the right direction for UNESCO on the road to achieving this mission.

UNESCO’s present initiatives alongside the emergence of global movements is predated by its already long-held stand in the fight against racism and discriminations and the promotion of universal human rights for more than 70 years. Beyond its landmark Declaration of Race in 1950which pioneered the rejection of racial inferiority or superiority due to its non-existent scientific foundation, it also held scientific conferences in the post-Second World War where statements on racial equality as an ethical principle were issued. The 59 member cities of UNESCO’s Coalition of African Cities against Racism and Discrimination represent a unique city-level platform in the UN system aiming to fight against racism and discriminations through the development of inclusive policies, capacity-building activities and advocacy initiatives. UNESCO launched for instance in November 2019 the Master Class Series against Racism and Discriminations for secondary level students that seeks to empower young women and men to become champions against racism and discriminations in their own schools and communities, and undertake local actions to fight them. These UNESCO programmes continue to evolve to remain relevant in optimizing opportunities in the midst of these unprecedented social transformations.

UNESCO is also in the process of elaborating a Recommendation of Ethics of Artificial intelligence, a first global standard-setting instrument that will address the ethical and social issues related to discrimination, including gender bias and stereotyping, in the development and research of artificial intelligence.

The COVID-19 pandemic also reminded us of how fast, useful and convenient the use of digital technologies could be to address the crisis, and yet of how unequal it remained. Not only in terms of access, as there are more than 300 million fewer women than men using smartphones. The digital divide reaches 43% in least developed countries, which has an enormous impact on women’s and girls’ education and mobility, but also in women’s representation in the industry, in the ICT studies and in terms of gender-based violence. Cyber discrimination has also increased during the pandemic and tends to lead to self-censorship and exclusion of vulnerable groups. This digital discrimination is yet another problematic angle that our discussions should explore.

We are very honored to host this important expert consultation series with our distinguished panel of experts. We look forward to being enlightened and inspired by the insights and exchanges that will be shared in the session, and hear about the perspectives and recommendations on the way forward regarding UNESCOs upscaling of its work against racism and discriminations, which also includes the Slave Route project. Your invaluable contribution, expertise and experience will undoubtedly help shape our organizational direction in the fight against racism and discriminations. Let us take heart today as we engage in this meaningful discussion and work together towards achieving our collective goal: to end racism and discriminations once and for all.

Thank you.

Hand-Over Ceremony for the Draft Recommendation on Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Speech delivered by Ms Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, during the Hand-Over Ceremony for the Draft Recommendation on Ethics of Artificial Intelligence (AI), on 17 September.

From left to right: Mrs. Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO ADG for Social and Human Sciences; Mrs. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General; Mrs. Dafna Feinholz, Chief of Section – Bioethics and Ethics of ScienceSector for Social and Human Sciences. Photo credits: ©UNESCO/Fabrice Gentile.

Dear Director-General,

Dear Member of the Bureau of the Ad Hoc Expert Group for the Recommendation on the Ethics of AI,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the hand-over ceremony of the Draft Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. This is a culminating point of months of hard, grueling work by the Ad Hoc Expert Group, which I would call nothing less than heroic, considering the circumstances and the volume of work at hand.

The mandate that the Member States provided for UNESCO in 2019 acquired renewed importance with COVID-19 and with the acceleration of Artificial Intelligence technologies to contain the pandemic and to keep the economy going. The ethical framing is essential if they are to continue to deliver for the benefit of the people.

Every member of the Bureau, with the support of our secretariat, made a commitment to deliver high quality work – and they achieved it. I want to commend particularly the leadership of Professor Emma RUTTKAMP-BLOEM from South Africa, who brought the entire group together. Emma was supported by the Members of the Bureau – Rapporteur Professor Sang Wook Yi from the Republic of Korea and the Vice Chairs: Constanza Gomez Mont from Mexico, Dr Irena Nesterova from Latvia, Ms Golestan (Sally) Radwan from Egypt, and Dr Peter-Paul Verbeek, from the Netherlands, who is the Chairperson of the UNESCO’s COMEST.

It is a pleasure to have all six of you together again, still online, but hopefully in not-so-distant future in person as well. 

Before giving the floor to Emma, I want to recognize the very strong support and leadership of DG Azoulay on this issue, and her vision for UNESCO’s work in this area. We are now well equipped to make UNESCO’s count in this important field. I would like to give the floor to Professor Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem, the Chairperson of Ad Hoc Expert Group, to be followed by brief interventions from the Members of the Bureau.

Second Anniversary of the Launch of the UN 2030 Youth Strategy

Statement by Ms Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO at the Briefing to Member States on the Occasion of Second Anniversary of the Launch of the UN 2030 Youth Strategy, 16 September 2020.

I would like to thank the Permanent Missions of the Slovak Republic and Sri Lanka for the invitation to this event.

The Youth Strategy brings together the individual strengths of all entities of the UN System  and provides a means through which the UN can advance the paradigm that youth are true partners in the pursuit of the 2030 Agenda.

We have only 10 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, societies, politics and economies are transforming under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic and the exacerbated challenges to inclusion, human rights and equality.

Education, employability and income, social and economic inclusion, mental and physical well-being, are youth development determinants gravely impacted by the crisis.

The closure of schools and universities has affected 60.5% of total enrolled learners – more than 1.5 billion children and youth worldwide! Unemployment rates are affecting youth more than other age groups. According to ILO, almost 25% of youth between the ages of 18 and 24, stopped working due to the pandemic. Recent research confirms significant psychological impacts of social distancing and quarantine measures on young people causing stress, anxiety and loneliness.

Young adults (aged 18 to 29) experience higher level of distress compared to other age groups. Considering the impact of the pandemic, prospects for future well-being are among the major concerns of young people in the long run.

Yet, young people are not only “victims” of this crisis – they are also the big hope for better, innovative and more effective solutions. UNESCO’s youth storytelling campaign, My COVID-19 Story, has gathered more than 300 inspiring stories showcasing how young people across the world have been engaging, proving resilience and inventiveness, notably by developing new forms of solidarity.

The response to the crisis will require that governments prioritize actions to support youth in their development, in the integration in the labor markets, in finding responses to their concerns. We should avoid by all means having a lost generation, as we did in 2008. The social fabric is so stressed, that this will have a negative impact in our societies for the time to come.

At the macro level, we need to provide targeted youth support and budgets from the fiscal packages that respond to the crisis. Short-term emergency responses must be aligned with investments into long-term economic, social and environmental objectives to ensure youth wellbeing. Given that governments and Central Banks have been core to keep the economy going, in the recovery packages, partnering with the private sector, they should promote opportunities for youth.

Finally, youth-related programming at country level must be incorporated in the overall national development planning to address the crisis. Youth-related actions must not be a separate, standalone chapter but rather embedded in the overall response to the crisis.

This could happen through 3 inter-connected transversal investments to boost the Strategy’s roll-out:

  • Firstly, we need data to map out the impact of COVID on youth. Real time quantitative and qualitative data on all aspects affecting youth well-being and livelihoods. At UNESCO we have launched a global “Youth As Researchers Initiative” that aims to produce such knowledge. Many other agencies have also launched data collection processes. Partnerships should be built, and data consolidated and further supported.
  • Secondly, enhanced technical guidance must be offered to national governments and youth related stakeholders. In this sense, UNESCO and UNFPA are supporting an initiative put forward by the government of Morocco, to organize technical and policy meetings of the Fast-Track Countries, in line with the Strategy.
  • Finally, meaningful partnerships and engagement with young people will be the game changer. Establishing platforms and mechanisms to collaborate and engage with the numerous young changemakers, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists and innovators, as well as with the vibrant youth networks and organizations that have capacity to also reach out to the most vulnerable and excluded, is fundamental to shaping better, more efficient and sustainable solutions.

Thank you for your attention.

High-Level Forum on a Culture of Peace

Opening segment by Ms. Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO at the High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace, on 10th September 2020.

Your Excellency Mr. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the General Assembly, Your Excellency Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Distinguished Ambassadors and representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first thank the President of the General Assembly for having convened this Forum, a valuable tradition that gains new significance within the current climate.


Our world has been deeply shaken by the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has not only taken a tragic toll of human lives, but it has also dramatically exposed our vulnerabilities, shed light on our injustices, and disrupted our assumptions.

The numbers speak for themselves:

Livelihoods and economic prosperity are being decimated with up to 340 million jobs at risk – 11.9% of the world’s total workforce[1], whilst between 71 and 100 million people are projected to enter extreme poverty because of the crisis[2].

The opportunity gap continues to grow, with UNESCO statistics showing that 825 million students – 47% of the global total – remain affected by school closures[3], exacerbating levels of inequality already unprecedented in modern history, and contributing to the first decline in human development since records began in 1990[4]. And discrimination and violence are on the rise (including through many populist governments), with the number of reported incidences of racism and xenophobia increasing significantly.

31 million additional cases of gender-based violence are expected to emerge over the next 10 years as a result of COVID-19[5]. And I want to commend the SG leadership on defending the rights of women in the current context.

All this create the conditions for a perfect storm that is not conducive to peaceful and cohesive societies.

The pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of our world.

But it has also confirmed that among our growing diversity, we remain fundamentally interconnected and unavoidably interdependent.

It has reminded us of the need for a culture of peace – a culture of peace that is a way of life: an instrument not only to avoid war, but to address longstanding tensions between individuals and technology; people and planet; and those who have and those who do not.

This requires a commitment to build peace in the minds of men and women all the way through, and a clear understanding that an unfair and unsustainable world cannot be the basis for truthful, peaceful and trusting relationships among countries and people.

Pursuing this vision is why UNESCO exists, and what we seek to achieve through every one of our activities:

This is why, among others:

We have created an innovative framework to measure the enabling environment and impact of intercultural dialogue, looking to strengthen the evidence-base on what works and why, and create actionable insights to help leaders build effective processes to address difficult issues before they lead to conflict or violence.

We work with communities to develop intercultural skills – respect, empathy, tolerance, and mutual understanding – providing the socio-emotional basis to learn and engage with those different from ourselves. This in turn can help to tackle challenges as varied as the integration of migrant communities in Austria, the participation of indigenous populations in Costa Rica, and gender-based exclusion in Zimbabwe.

We mobilise the arts to advocate for human rights and dignity as the inalienable foundation of intercultural exchange, working with the most vulnerable to facilitate post-conflict reconciliation, integration, and the prevention of violence.

And we are developing an instrument to address the ethics of Artificial Intelligence to ensure that these amazing technologies contribute to a peaceful world.

The need for a culture of peace, the need for UNESCO, is more pronounced today than ever before. Peace is as an essential enabler, and an ultimate outcome of a fairer, sustainable world.

We cannot rest on our laurels, and at UNESCO, we are building the evidence of what works, and what does not, we have increased our investments and strengthened our partnerships and commitments.

We hope that this will support the efforts of those that are now rowing against the tide in a world that is not as we would like it to be. Too much confrontation, too much violence, too much despair.

I am sure that today’s celebration will serve as an important catalyst for action in this direction. Count on UNESCO at this critical time.

Thank you.

[1] International Labor Organization. (2020). ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. Fifth edition.

[2] Gerszon D., Laknerr M., Castaneda Aguilar A., Wu H. (2020). Updated estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty.

[3] UNESCO. (2020. Education: From disruption to recovery.

[4] UNDP. (2020). COVID-19 and Human Developement: Assessing the Crisis, Envisioning the Recovery.

[5] UNFPA. (2020). Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Planning and Ending Gender-based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage.

Third International Early Childhood Action Congress: Quality Beyond Regulations

On 30 June 2020 Gabriela Ramos delivered a keynote at the Third International Early Childhood Action Congress. Find her remarks below.

Thank you, Nathalie.

Dear Minister Melby [Minister of Education and Integration, Norway], Minister Lacombe [Minister of Family, Québec, Canada], Minister Taquet [Secretary of State in charge of Child Protection, Ministry of Solidarities and Health, France], Mr. Hidalgo [President of Ensemble for Early Childhood Education], Excellences,

Ladies and gentleman,

I am delighted to welcome you to the 3rd Early Childhood Action Congress, organised by Ensemble for Education.

The world has changed dramatically since this Congress first met two years ago.  This crisis has indeed become the greatest test to our education and care systems.

Children did not enter the crisis on an equal footing. Already before the crisis, 1 in 7 children across OECD countries grew up in poverty. Far worse for children in immigrant households, for example – with almost half of them lived in poverty in the OECD. The crisis only magnified existing inequalities and will increase risks of creating more vulnerable children, unless adequate long-term measures are put in place by governments and stakeholders.  

What is happening to ECEC and what impact on children?

In many OECD countries[1], regulated ECEC centres were ordered to close, with just a handful of exceptions to provide for children of essential workers. As a result, more than one-third of children under age 3 and almost 90% of children of age 3-5 were thrown out of the ECEC services. And this turned parents into the frontline respondents to children’s care, cognitive, social and emotional development and health.

It has never been easy for any parents to juggle between child care and work. For the most disadvantaged, it’s even more difficult as they cannot telework, their job require physical presence, while affordable ECEC are closed. And their children will suffer most. For example, their parents were less likely to read a story to them [30% less, according to our recent International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study (IELS), conducted to England, US and Estonia], which the OECD highlights as critical in developing their socio-emotional and emerging literacy skills.

Then globally, there is this ongoing challenge of the digital divide. During this crisis, not all were able to move online as half of the world’s population still do not have access to internet. Furthermore, girls could lose even more from our reliance on digital tools since they have 11% of access gap compared to boys globally. Even if a home is connected, girls in developing countries cannot even use the internet because they are often busy doing housework [3 times as much time compared to boys and men].

The crisis risks setting back the progress we have made in closing the digital gender divide.

Even if children do have access to digital tools, they might face another set of risks associated with “over-exposure” to internet. Already, the OECD Early Learning and Child Well-Being Study shows that during the crisis, 83% of 5 year-olds in England, Estonia and the United States use digital devices daily or weekly[2]. This could turn children to take an “always-on” lifestyle. Of course, the digital environment provides important opportunities for children’s learning and socialisation, but we need to be mindful of risks, especially if digital technologies are used without proper parental supervision. Even the youngest children can encounter harmful or illegal content, exposed to advertising or make purchases without understanding they are doing so, or inadvertently share personal data that can be used for commercial purposes.

Online bullying is another unwelcome by-product of being over connected. How to address these potential problems is something we are now looking very closely at the OECD with the ongoing revision the OECD Recommendations on the Protection of Children Online.

We will also need to further research the impact of ICT on children’s development and how it can be used in ECE setting [this is one of our G20 proposals].

Children’s mental and physical health should also be protected. We already know that school closure has put children at risk of malnutrition. We’ve all seen the harrowing photographs of cars lined up for miles at food banks in many advanced countries. At any point in time, an average 47 million children under 5 years of age suffer from wasting. With COVID and without free school meals, the WFP estimates show that additional 10 million will be pushed into acute malnutrition.

And what’s most unacceptable and concerning is a spike in domestic violence that could further affect children’s safety and mental health. Sadly, violence against children, and especially girls, is not a new phenomenon – the recent report by WHO[3] revealed that half of the world’s children each year are affected by physical, sexual or psychological violence, suffering injuries, disabilities and death.

This crisis has only worsened the situation due to compounding stress factors that turned aggressors more violent, such as unstable housing [with rising homeless population across OECD countries and over-crowded conditions particularly in Mexico, Latvia and Poland], financial insecurity [1 in 3 across OECD countries financially insecure before the crisis] and job loss [81% of global workforce affected]. We have already seen a surge in the reported case of domestic violence globally [by 30% in France, 40% in the UK, 50% in Brazil and 70% in Chile] and calls to helplines from children suffering violence at home. Some children are struggling with depression, even resulting in attempts at suicide, according to the report published by UNICEF last week.

Countries are doing a lot to address these challenges.

Of course, many countries have taken impressive measures already.

  • Some countries have put food assistance programmes in place.
    • US put in place the Families First Coronavirus Response Act 2020, providing additional funding to food providers like SNAP and the Child Nutrition Programmes.
  • Many services have been moved online to provide tele-consultations to support children and families.
    • In New Zealand, Oranga Tamariki (national children protection justice agency) has developed online resources for parents and carers to help them understand and respond to children’s stress responses.
  • Almost all OECD countries offer childcare options and support with alternative care solutions parents in essential services.
  • Countries are also implementing responses to ensure that families can remain in their dwelling if they struggle to cover rent, mortgage or utility payments due to a job or wage loss.
    • Several countries (i.e., the Slovak Republic and the UK) have introduced temporary deferments of mortgage payments, or temporarily suspended foreclosures (i.e. US) or evictions (i.e., France, Spain, and some Canadian regions and municipalities).
  • Some countries have introduced emergency to give families extra cash.
    • For example, the City of Paris has earmarked an exceptional budget of EUR 3.5 million to support 28 579 Parisian low-income households. Payment rates are based on canteen prices for children, and are paid automatically by the Caisse nationale d’allocations familiales into the bank accounts of households.

These measures are certainly helping to improve the condition for children to grow healthy, however, we need to ensure that these supports continue in the recovery phase and to build a more resilient and inclusive ECEC in place.

Where do we go from here? And how can the OECD help?

Early childhood education and care matters for children’s development. To help countries improve their ECEC services and systems, it is essential to have timely, reliable and comparable international information.

This is exactly why the OECD has started the International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study to put a spotlight on how children are fairing at 5 years of age in terms of their social, emotional and cognitive development. Our first round of study was conducted with England, Estonia and the US covering 7,000 children, teachers and parents.

According to the findings, children who attended ECEC had stronger emergent literacy [13 score points’ difference] and emergent numeracy [26 score points’ difference] than children who did not attend. So, starting behind means staying behind for individual children and for education systems.

In times of greater pressure on government budgets, an OECD assessment like this could highlight the importance of ECEC as an investment, not a cost. We want more countries to join this study (IELS) to build the international benchmark for ECEC.

Putting people at the centre of our response should be another priority. We need to keep supporting the ECEC centres and staff, essential workers, to gain access to temporary unemployment scheme. Indeed, countries have maintained public ECEC settings for essential workers and provided financial support to the privately funded centres to keep the business running. But even Canada, which provided generous support for staff and carers, had the issue of “unevenness” between provinces.

Looking ahead, our focus should also be on how to redress the inequality around access to and affordability of ECEC. Although many governments have done a lot to mitigate the impact on families, these support must continue beyond the crisis because out-of-pocket costs of childcare services often take out a large share of earnings especially for low-paid parents and single mothers [especially in Ireland, Slovak Republic and the UK].[4]

We need to turn this crisis into an opportunity to build a more affordable ECEC so that low-income households [one-third less likely to participate in ECEC] can start to benefit in the post-COVID world.

Local and national government, and civil society have to work together in a coordinated manner to meet higher demands and to identify children in need. We also need international cooperation especially when it comes to cyber risks as we need effective framework to reinforce the ability of cross-border legal and police responses.

Without urgent action now, COVID could destroy the hopes and futures of an entire generation.

Our future depends upon our children and they should be placed at the front and centre of our recovery efforts.

I hope that today’s Conference could create the change that we want.

Thank you.

[1] Except for Sweden and Japan. Federal states like Australia and the US introduced only state level closures of regulated ECEC settings.

[2] OECD (2020), Early Learning and Child Well-being:A Study of Five-year-Olds in England, Estonia, and the United States, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[3] Global Status Report on Preventing Violence Against Children 2020

[4] OECD (2020), Is Childcare affordable ?, Policy Brief on employment, labour and social affairs.

OECD-WWF dialogues: Aligning NDCs with a Post-COVID World

On Friday 29 May 2020, the OECD held one of a series of joint OECD-WWF Virtual Dialogues. In honor of this session, Gabriela prepared the following intervention. Find below her remarks and recording.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to welcome you to the first of a series of three joint WWF-OECD high-level dialogues aimed at informing decision-making on how we recover from the COVID-19 crisis more sustainable and more resilient than before.

The current health emergency, and its economic and social ramifications, have revealed how vulnerable our societies and economies are to shocks. We could have anticipated. But we were not adequately prepared!

Indeed, this crisis is a wakeup call that we cannot keep treating economics, health, environment, education and social justice as separate questions with separate answers. And, as we focus on overcoming COVID-19, we must not forget about other planetary emergencies – such as climate change and biodiversity loss. If we do not act now, who will suffer most again? The most vulnerable group and community.

Well, we already know that low-income households are more vulnerable to air pollution and more broadly climate change impacts.

  • For example, the health threat of Covid-19 is greater for cities and people exposed to higher levels of pollution, which are most often people living in poorer areas.
  • Globally, 2.2 billion people lack access to safely-managed drinking water services. We know that access to clean water and sanitation services are key to reducing transmission of infectious diseases.
  • Pollution affect the health and development of children – especially the low-income (and their educational outcomes) and of course cause more death for the old population disproportionately.
  • Learning lesson from the past, the crisis could affect people’s job prospect especially for some disadvantaged social groups and minorities:
    • Post-Hurricane Katrina disaster, black workers were 3.8 times more likely to have lost their jobs (increasing to 7 times for low-income black workers).
    • Climate change affect workers who are the most reliant on ecosystem services such as farmers and fishers.

By reducing the environmental and social risk factors people are exposed to, nearly a quarter of the global health burden (measured as loss from sickness, death and financial costs) could be prevented, according to WHO. So, green recovery packages need to consider multiple well-being objectives, focusing on jobs and incomes as well as health and effective reductions in emissions.

As governments start to move from short-term emergency measures towards longer-term economic recovery, many will also be considering the upgrades to their climate commitments – NDCs – that are required ahead of COP26 next year.

This presents a perfect opportunity to ensure that increased climate ambition is at the core of people-centred economic recovery strategies. Economic recovery measures should be designed to both reduce the likelihood of future shocks and increase society’s resilience to those that will inevitably occur, while at the same time focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable. In other words, to “build back better” the economy in a way that protects the environment, public health, and safeguards people’s well-being

At the OECD we are moving towards this objective and our work on climate and well-being is a great start. By better capturing multiple benefits, a well-being approach to climate action can make a stronger case for implementing and funding solutions that align multiple goals and combine different scales of action. We now need the courage and political will to pursue a truly “sustainable” recovery that is low-carbon and climate-resilient, confident that it will be the most prosperous path for the long-term.

Thank  you.

Online forum “Enhancing Multilateralism to collectively achieve the sustainable development goals”

In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the UN co-organised by Centre for China and Globalisation (CCG) and Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute

Find Gabriela Ramos’ keynote remarks and the recording of the session below. She was joined by other speakers including Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Former French Prime Minister; Nicholas Rosellini, Resident Coordinator, UN China; YI Xiaozhun, Deputy Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO).

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’d like to thank Centre for China and Globalization (CCG) AND Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC) when multilateralism stands at a critical juncture. 

The COVID-19, as tragic as it is, has reminded us of what truly matters to us – good physical and mental health, environment, social connection, education. Indeed, this deadly health crisis made us “re-evaluate our priority”. To find out what we treasure most.

For sure, the economic impact has been enormous.  According to the OECD’s latest Economic Outlook, we project 6% annual decline in global GDP for 2020, and this is far bigger than any other decline we have seen in the 60 years of the OECD’s existence. But this is just the “upbeat” scenario without considering a second wave of infections. In the case of a “double hit” scenario, global GDP could decline by more than 7.5%, with 40 million additional people being unemployed in the OECD by December 2020.

This systemic shock comes at a time when the global economy was already vulnerable with widening inequalities, climate challenges and high-level of corporate and public debt. Even the most advanced economies could not absorb the shock. Our economy, trade, people, jobs, children and women are all hard hit – the COVID-19 ended up exposing all kinds of “pre-existing” vulnerabilities and fragilities in our society. The crisis has created a clearer divide between the winners and the losers – those who can adopt and those who cannot. Women, those in informal jobs, those without savings, those with limited digital connectivity are the ones who are losing most.

But the crisis did not create these divides. For so long, the uneven distribution of the benefits of growth has been leaving too many people behind. Around the world, people have been expressing their anger through the ballot box and in the street, allowing populist and isolationist to take over in a crisis situation like this when all we need is a stronger international co-operation.

Currently, all the frameworks are overstretched, even with the WHO. We will not be able to operate effectively without an extra push of international co-operation. Then, can the pandemic “revive” multilateralism?

In fact, there may be a silver lining. Given that the pandemic respects no borders, there is a realization that this global problem requires global solutions.

First, because we can learn from each other to see why some countries managed much better than the others.

The crisis proved that lack of any sort of excess capacity can leave countries vulnerable to an unexpected demand surge. Then, who managed well? Look at how Germany managed so well with a strong hospital capacity equipped with enough intensive care beds (38.7 per 100,000 people). Another good example is Korea, which was able to deploy a massive TTT strategy. And they absorbed the potentially devastating economic shocks (Korea 2.5% decline for 2020 in the double hit scenario; Germany 8.8% and the lowest in Euro area). These analyses are based on the OECD evidence-based work comparing government responses.

Furthermore, this public health crisis also teaches us a lesson that we need to anticipate any future shocks. In building multilateral solutions now, we also need to anticipate the next crisis brought by the environmental and climate emergency.  

Second, because some of the issues can only be developed jointly.

Currently, we are all in aggressive mission to develop a coronavirus vaccine. While attention has so far focused on spurring R&D, there has been little co-ordination  or  co-operation  between  countries  in  funding,  planning  and  building  manufacturing capacity. We need globally agreed rules on managing intellectual property rights and procurement to ensure equitable access, affordability and supply for developing countries or many lives will be at risk.

Third, because we need international cooperation to help countries raise revenue after the devastation to public finances wrought by the pandemic. At the OECD, we are working for a new global tax framework for technology companies that is more necessary than ever.

Fourth, because coordinated action is needed to keep trade and investment flowing freely.

Since the onset of the crisis, there has been a push back against extended global value chains, and countries reconsidering their dependence on far away markets. But the answer must not be localisation or anti-globalisation as this could result detrimental to developing countries. We need to analyse what happened to production networks, why it happened and what could be done in the future to create shock-proof systems.

No one country alone can take on this enormous task, but multilateralism is the only answer to the challenges.

We need to turn this crisis into an opportunity to enhance multilateral co-operation. The post-COVID world that we envision needs a new growth narrative that is people-centred. Of course, we already have the SDGs to guide us where we want to land.

“Building back better” means greener, but also enhanced inclusiveness and resilience to future shocks.

For example, we are in a desperate need for more development finance. Because at the moment, flows (such as ODA risk stagnation) or dramatic falling (such as external private finance) are estimated to plunge in 2020 by about USD 700 billion compared to 2019 levels. While domestic resources remain the most stable long-term source, developing countries cannot weather this crisis or reach the SDGs without additional external finance, starting with higher aid from both traditional and emerging donors.

Against this backdrop, a strong UN must rise to these challenges. The fact that those same 193 countries came together in 2015, only five years ago, to agree the 2030 Agenda and its 17 SDGs is an example of the huge potential that it has.

But this requires political will. If, in particular the most powerful economies decide to use the UN as the forum to discuss and decide on ambitious coordinated global economic, social and environmental action, the UN once again rises to be the place to be.

Thank you.

Centre Français des Fonds et Fondations

“Fragilités humaines et environnementales, construire l’après-crise”

On 17 June 2020, Gabriela Ramos participed in an online webinar organised by the Centre Français des Fonds et Fondations, an association of foundations and endowment funds in France Through this event, CFF aimed to draw inspiration from external speakers in order to adjust their missions and actions in the face of major challenges. Gabriela particiapted in the session entitled “Et après ? Construire l’après-crise” along with Isabelle Autissier (President of WWF France) and Jean-Christope Rufin (writer). The session was moderated by Miren Bengoa , déléguée générale, Fondation Chanel.

Find Gabriela’s remarks in French below.

Q 1 : Pour construire le « monde d’après », quelle place pour les femmes ?

Je vous remercie, Miren.

Je suis heureuse, pour cette table ronde, d’être aux côtés de Jean-Christophe Rufin, d’Isabelle Autissier et de mon cher ami Justin Vaïsse.

Tout d’abord, je tiens à remercier le Centre français des Fonds et Fondations de m’avoir invitée aujourd’hui à cette réunion, particulièrement d’actualité dans le contexte qui est le nôtre. C’est en de tels moments de crise que nous prenons véritablement la mesure du rôle que peuvent jouer les organisations philanthropiques à l’appui de l’action et des ressources publiques.

Nous traversons une crise qui n’a aucun équivalent dans l’histoire moderne – et qui est en train de modifier profondément nos comportements. Un premier impact économique est déjà visible, car de nombreux travailleurs ont perdu leur emploi du fait de la mise à l’arrêt de l’activité. 

Les effets à long terme de l’épidémie de COVID-19 sur la santé publique et l’économie commencent à se matérialiser. Nous ne savons pas encore à quel point nos modes de vie vont changer dans les années qui viennent.

La philanthropie peut rapprocher les populations, et stimuler le sentiment d’appartenance à l’humanité. La philanthropie peut avoir valeur d’exemple, et venir soutenir et renforcer les organisations non lucratives.

Mais plus important encore, la philanthropie peut apporter un éclairage sur les complexités de nos sociétés, à l’instar des inégalités, qui pourraient sinon ne pas être suffisamment prises en compte.

La pandémie de COVID-19 a fait apparaître avec un maximum d’acuité les multiples vulnérabilités de nos sociétés et de nos économies.

En effet, l’épidémie de COVID-19 a fait naître des préoccupations en matière d’équité concernant les personnes âgées ou souffrant de handicap, celles qui n’ont pas facilement accès aux soins de santé, celles qui ne possèdent pas une couverture maladie suffisante, ou encore celles qui vivent dans des conditions de grande promiscuité, les travailleurs faiblement rémunérés, les travailleurs non salariés, les communautés de couleur, et bien d’autres encore. Ces populations sont en situation de fragilité et moins à même de combattre la maladie due au COVID-19. C’est pourquoi la réponse des organisations philanthropiques à la crise exige de prendre en compte les groupes qui courent le plus de risques de souffrir de façon disproportionnée durant la crise, face à des difficultés historiques ou systémiques exacerbées.

Prenons l’exemple des femmes, par exemple, et des conséquences disproportionnées qu’elles ont à subir. La situation n’est pas nouvelle – les difficultés rencontrées par les femmes durant la crise trouvent leurs racines dans des décennies d’inégalités. Je me réjouis donc que les fondations présentes aujourd’hui m’aient demandé de traiter cette question.

Au cours de la crise, nous avons été en première ligne pour apporter des réponses face à la crise du COVID-19. Notre système de santé s’appuie essentiellement sur les femmes [70 % du personnel soignant dans le monde et 95 % des professionnels dispensant des soins de longue durée dans les pays de l’OCDE sont des femmes], et il est surprenant de constater qu’elles ne perçoivent toujours pas leur juste part [l’écart de rémunération entre hommes et femmes est de 28 % et seulement 25 % des fonctions de direction dans le secteur de la santé sont occupées par des femmes].

 La crise a mis en lumière la nécessité dans laquelle nous nous trouvons de mieux prendre en compte la problématique hommes-femmes, non seulement dans la réponse immédiate face à la crise, mais aussi dans les mesures que nous allons prendre pour retrouver une « nouvelle normalité ».

Violences faites aux femmes

Par ailleurs, les mesures de confinement prises pour endiguer la pandémie de COVID-19 ont fait peser sur les femmes des risques accrus eu égard aux violences conjugales, pouvant parfois aller jusqu’aux féminicides. Avant même la crise du COVID-19, 1 femme sur 3 déclarait avoir déjà subi des violences physiques ou sexuelles ; en outre, 38 % des femmes assassinées sont tuées par leur conjoint.  Avec la crise, on estime que la fréquence des violences sexistes a augmenté de 40-50 % au Brésil, au Royaume-Uni et dans d’autres pays.

L’accès aux soins de santé, à la justice et aux services d’accompagnement et de police propres à protéger les femmes contre les violences et à venir en aide aux victimes de violences a été en grande partie coupé. Compte tenu des suppressions d’emplois entraînées par la crise du COVID-19, de nombreuses femmes ont peut-être aujourd’hui encore moins de possibilités de partir lorsqu’elles sont victimes de violences conjugales.

Face à de telles difficultés, les pouvoirs publics se mobilisent et les organisations à but non lucratif montent au créneau.  La France a adopté diverses mesures afin d’aider les victimes à dénoncer plus facilement les violences conjugales : le gouvernement a notamment mis en place un numéro d’alerte par SMS ou donné la possibilité aux femmes de se rendre dans une pharmacie ou un supermarché pour signaler des violences.  L’European Family Justice Centre Alliance a élaboré une série de lignes directrices quant aux ajustements que les professionnels pourraient être contraints d’opérer dans leurs pratiques à la lumière de cette crise.

Néanmoins, ces efforts ne sont que la partie émergée de l’iceberg. Pour mettre un terme à cette violation inacceptable des droits humains, nous devons veiller à ce que toute l’attention portée aujourd’hui à la lutte contre les violences faites aux femmes soit maintenue une fois que la crise du COVID-19 commencera à s’estomper.

Juste avant l’épidémie de COVID-19, les 5 et 6 février 2020, l’OCDE a organisé la première Conférence à haut niveau sur le thème « Abolir la violence domestique »,
avec le soutien de ministres dont Madame la Ministre Marlène Schiappa. Le résultat a été incroyable.

19 ambassadeurs appellent l’OCDE à mettre à profit son expertise et à intensifier son engagement et ses activités pour lutter contre les violences conjugales sur: 1) collecter des données administratives et des données d’enquête pour évaluer précisément  l’incidence de ces violences; 2) coordonner pour fournir la palette de services complémentaires; 3) remédier aux blocages qui persistent dans le système judiciaire; et 4) modifié le contexte socioéconomique et culturel qui permet aux violences faites aux femmes.

La crise COVID-19 a mis en évidence le coût et le risque de l’inaction face à la violence domestique. Nous devons renforcer notre travail dans tous ces domaines. À l’OCDE, nous recherchons des partenaires pour faire avancer les travaux sur la base de ces quatre domaines prioritaires. Votre intérêt à collaborer sera très apprécié.

À l’avenir, nous devrons nous assurer que les mesures prises pour relancer l’économie après la crise du COVID-19 contribuent à bâtir des sociétés plus inclusives et à résorber les inégalités entre hommes et femmes plutôt qu’à les creuser. Il nous faudra prendre des mesures de prévention pour éliminer les retards persistants en termes de salaires et de perspectives professionnelles que continueront de subir les femmes au sortir de la crise. C’est pourquoi l’ouverture des structures d’accueil des jeunes enfants et des établissements scolaires à plein temps doit être l’un des piliers des plans de relance de l’activité économique.  

Le rôle des fondations et des organismes philanthropiques

Les données de l’OCDE montrent que 16 % des flux financiers philanthropiques sont axés sur la lutte contre les inégalités femmes-hommes, et que 5 % seulement de ces fonds ont pour objectif (principal) de favoriser l’égalité entre les sexes[1]. Certaines fondations ouvrent la voie, parmi lesquelles des fondations européennes comme le Children Investment Foundation Fund (CIFF) ou Dutch Postcode Lottery qui ont fait des dons importants en faveur des femmes, et des fondations françaises, comme celles de CHANEL ou de L’Oréal qui sont exclusivement spécialisées dans les questions relatives à l’égalité femmes-hommes [ce qui signifie que la promotion de l’égalité femmes-hommes représente plus de 90 % de leur portefeuille].

Toutefois, ces données montrent également que 84 % des flux financiers philanthropiques ne tiennent pas encore compte des problèmes spécifiques à chaque sexe, c’est-à-dire qu’ils sont indifférents à la question des sexes. Or, tout comme nos sociétés, la philanthropie n’est indépendante des considérations de sexe. Le fait de ne pas prendre en compte les besoins et la situation des femmes et des filles peut au bout du compte nuire à l’égalité femmes-hommes et à l’autonomisation des femmes, mais aussi induire un retour en arrière à de multiples égards.

Les fondations peuvent faire plus, et s’engager à orienter leurs portefeuilles de manière à tenir compte des besoins et de la situation des femmes et des filles, et à intégrer la problématique femmes-hommes aux travaux qu’elles mènent avec l’ensemble de leurs partenaires dans tous les secteurs – agriculture, santé, énergie ou développement économique au sens large.

En adaptant nos politiques et nos pratiques pour faire face à la crise, nous devons accorder une attention particulière aux moyens de réduire, et non d’accentuer, les inégalités existantes entre hommes et femmes.

La pandémie de coronavirus nous offre aussi l’occasion de transformer le monde à long terme. Pour cela, il faut dans un premier temps examiner sans détour les problèmes afin de trouver ensemble des solutions—en gardant à l’esprit que le statut, la santé et la sécurité des femmes ne sont pas « une affaire de femmes » mais bien des questions qui sont imbriquées avec de nombreuses autres qui nous concernent tous.

Quoiqu’il en soit, ne nous concentrons pas uniquement sur les femmes. Le thème général de la manifestation d’aujourd’hui vise juste. La crise nous a montré que nous vivons dans un système imbriqué complexe, dans lequel de multiples facteurs interagissent et influent les uns sur les autres. Ce dont nous avons besoin, c’est d’une approche globale pour relever les défis qui se présentent à nous aujourd’hui. Je me réjouis à la perspective d’entendre les autres participants au panel et d’échanger sur la manière dont ces différents éléments doivent s’articuler les uns aux autres dans les modèles auxquels nous réfléchissons pour reconstruire un monde meilleur, plus inclusif et durable. 

Q : Vous avez beaucoup travaillé sur la résilience des systèmes face à la crise, quel est à votre sens le rôle de la philanthropie ?

  • La pandémie de COVID-19 est venue brutalement nous rappeler la fragilité de certains de nos systèmes humains les plus fondamentaux.
    • La pénurie de masques, de tests, de respirateurs et d’autres fournitures essentielles ont placé les personnels d’urgence et la population en général en situation de fragilité face à la maladie.
  • L’économie mondiale a évolué, passant d’un monde connecté à un monde interconnecté puis à un monde interdépendant. Ce faisant, nous avons bâti une mondialisation plus rapide, plus profonde, plus abordable et plus imbriquée que jamais auparavant.
  • De façon plus générale, nous avons assisté à un effondrement en cascade de pans entiers de nos réseaux de production, réseaux de transport et réseaux financiers, sous l’effet d’une conjonction délétère de chocs sur l’offre et la demande.
    • Néanmoins, nombre de nos réseaux et systèmes ont été capables de s’adapter et de se réorganiser, ce qui dénote un certain degré de flexibilité et de résilience.
  • Dans un monde si complexe, plutôt que de s’appuyer uniquement sur la capacité des acteurs du système à prévenir, éviter, affronter et absorber les menaces de tous ordres, la résilience met l’accent sur la nécessité de se rétablir et de s’adapter une fois la crise passée.
  • Dans la crise actuelle, les fondations sont appelées à mobiliser un volume plus important de ressources et adapter les modalités de leurs dons.
    • Dans une démarche sans précédent dans le secteur philanthropique, la Fondation Ford, et quatre autres fondations américaines ont récemment annoncé une augmentation significative de leurs budgets annuels grâce à l’émission des obligations à la hauteur de plus d’un milliard de dollars.
  • Les fondations joue déjà un rôle clé dans la promotion de la santé, notamment dans les pays en développement.
    • 3,2 milliards USD (soit 41% des dons et investissements des fondations) ont été dédiés à des activités dans les secteurs de la santé (ODD 3) en 2018.
    • Les fondations philanthropiques dans leur ensemble sont le troisième bailleur de fonds le plus important dans ce domaine, après les États-Unis et le Fonds mondial de lutte contre le sida, la tuberculose et le paludisme.
    •  La Fondation Bill et Melinda Gates représente 82% du total des sommes consacrées par les fondations à ce secteur,
      • Mais d’autres bailleurs de fonds privés ont également joué un rôle important, en particulier le Wellcome Trust (8%), la Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (4%), la Fondation de David et Lucile Packard (1%) et la Fondation William et Flora Hewlett (1%).
    • Par ailleurs, les maladies infectieuses (par exemple la polio, le paludisme, la tuberculose, les MST, y compris le VIH / sida, le trachome et d’autres maladies tropicales négligées) sont au cœur du programme de santé de nombreuses fondations. Avec 1,9 milliard USD en 2018, les fondations restent le troisième bailleur de fonds le plus important dans ce domaine.
    • La prépondérance de la Fondation Gates et du Wellcome Trust dans le secteur de la santé s’observe aussi à propos de la pandémie actuelle, au cours de laquelle ces deux institutions ont pris des initiatives importantes pour y faire face, comme le COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator ou Fond COVID-Zero
  • Au-delà de la santé, les fondations philanthropiques privées sont également d’importants bailleurs de fonds dans les domaines de l’agriculture, de la gouvernance et de la société civile, de l’éducation ainsi que d’autres secteurs.
  • Cependant, d’autres domaines – tels que la lutte contre le changement climatique ou encore l’égalité homme femme – pourtant clés pour la sortie de cette crise – ont été traditionnellement moins investis par les fondations [respectivement 6.5% et 5% des flux philanthropiques dans les pays en développement entre 2013-15].

Sur le rôle de l’OCDE:

  • L’OCDE, notamment au travers de son Centre de développement, œuvre en faveur d’un rapprochement entre les fondations et les gouvernements, à travers la mise en places des instances de dialogue entre les fondations et les gouvernements et la collecte des données sur les flux philanthropiques.
  • Cependant, il est encore nécessaire d’améliorer la relation et le dialogue entre les fondations et les gouvernement des pays donateurs.
    • les fondations déclarent coopérer systématiquement avec les gouvernements des pays en développement (67%), tandis qu’un peu moins que la moitié des fondations (45%) coopèrent avec les gouvernements des pays donateurs dans le cadre de l’élaboration ou de la mise en œuvre de leurs programmes et projets (OECD 2018, Private Philanthropy for Development report).
  • Le dialogue avec les fondations est promu par l’OECD à travers plusieurs initiatives
    • Le Réseau mondial des fondations œuvrant pour le développement (netFWD) – initié par le Centre de développement de l’OCDE –  et ses groupes de travail sur la santé, l’éducation et l’égalité des genres
    • La table ronde de haut niveau initié par le Secrétaire général de l’OCDE en 2019, en marge de la Réunion du Conseil au niveau des Ministres.

Comprendre la situation est le plus important. L’OCDE investit dans la collecte des données and les analyses des flux philanthropiques fiables, comparables et disponibles pour tous.

  • Au sein du Centre de développement de l’OCDE, le Centre sur la philanthropie collecte données et informations qualitatives sur la philanthropie internationale et domestique dans le pays en voie de développement, nous donnant des éléments nécessaires pour mettre en évidence les lacunes, mais aussi imaginer les partenariats public privé autour des priorités de développement partagées par les fondations et les gouvernements.

[Le Centre a récemment publié un rapport sur la philanthropie domestique en Inde et bientôt publiera une analyse du rôle de la philanthropie dans la promotion de l’égalité homme femme en Colombie, Afrique du Sud, Nigeria et Inde.

  • Le Centre sur la philanthropie a récemment lancé la deuxième édition du rapport La philanthropie privée pour le développement, pour examiner les apports de ressources que les fondations philanthropiques consacrent au développement, ainsi que leurs priorités et leurs pratiques et comportements en matière de partenariat. La première édition était le fruit d’une collaboration étroite entre le Centre de développement de l’OCDE et la Direction de la coopération pour le développement de l’OCDE]
    • Le système statistique du CAD sur les financements pour le développement inclut les données des fondations philanthropiques privées depuis 2010, date à laquelle la Fondation Bill et Melinda Gates a commencé à partager avec l’OCDE ses données sur ses activités de développement.

Récemment, ces efforts ont été considérablement étendus avec plus de 30 des plus grandes fondations qui ont partagé leurs données en 2019, conformément aux standards de l’APD.

[1] Données 2013-2015 ( et données plus récentes de 2017 (

Beyond GDP: What Counts for economic and social performance? Understanding different daily life challenges in Europe?

On 16 June 2020 Gabriela Ramos participated in a virtual webinar entitled “Beyond GDP: What Counts for economic and social performance? Understanding different daily life challenges in Europe?” co-hosted by the HLEG and Bertelsmann Stiftung. She was joined by Brigitte Mohn, Member of the Executive Board, Bertelsmann Stiftung; Christian Kastrop, State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection; former Director, Europe’s Future, Bertelsmann Stiftung; Joseph E. Stiglitz, HLEG Co-Chair and Nobel Prize Laureate; Martine Durand, HLEG Co-Chair and former OECD Chief Statistician; Wolfgang Schmidt, State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance; Gary Gillespie, Chief Economist, Scottish Government; Dennis Snower, Global Solutions Initiative. Find the recording of the session below, session agenda here, summary here, and Gabriela’s remarks as delivered below.

A) What do you think are some of the most urgent priorities here, from an inequality and vulnerability perspective? 

  • Thank you, Martine [Durand, Chair of this session].
  • Dear State Secretary [Wolfgang Schmidt], distinguished guests,
  • First, I’d like to thank the Bertelsmann Foundation for organising this important meeting and for supporting the High Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (HLEG).
  • When we set up the HLEG in 2013, our central message was “what we measure affect what we do. If we measure the wrong thing, we will do the wrong thing. If we don’t measure something, it becomes neglected, as if the problem didn’t exist”. This was a strong message that continues to guide the work at the OECD.   
  • In a crisis moment like this, we take a step back and think what matters most to us. And what we care about most are falling apart.
  • Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic unveiled in a more dramatic way the accumulation of our vulnerabilities as societies and economies.
  • First, this health crisis bluntly reminded us that high-quality and affordable universal health coverage is the foundation to protecting the most vulnerable. It has put the spotlight on inadequate health security and preparedness, including inadequate healthcare facilities and resources such as shortages of hospital beds, medicines, ventilators and healthcare workforce.
  • We need to analyse why some countries like Germany had better results… Because they have already built resilience in the health systems.  Particularly in this crisis, the most important bottlenecks in hospital capacity are caused by a lack of intensive care beds.
  • No wonder Germany managed the pandemic well, with the highest number of intensive care beds in the OECD [33.9 per 100,000] compared to Italy for example even with UHC [8.5 per 100,000].
  • We need capable governments that are fit to address the multiple gaps in the health care systems. Needless to say, universal health coverage is a must.
    • Today, about 925 million people spend more than 10% of their household income on healthcare; 200 million people spend more than 25% of their income on health. Look at the countries with universal health coverage (South Korea, Singapore, Japan) which managed better.
  • And the sustainability of healthcare workers….In fact, the virus has particularly profound implications for developing countries since about 90% of low-income countries face health-worker shortages.
  • Building a strong health system should be our priority. This is not a cost but an investment for a better future.
  • Second, the crisis has laid bare pre-existing gaps in social protection provisions.
  • 55 % of the world’s population (4 billion people) are NOT covered by social insurance or social assistance. Globally, ONLY 20 % of unemployed people are covered by unemployment benefits, and in some regions the coverage is much lower.
  • Even in countries with the most advanced systems of social protection, some workers and their families miss out: workers with non-standard jobs [the self-employed, temporary, and informal workers, and those who work very short hours] are often not covered by insurance-based unemployment and sickness benefit schemes.
  • Furthermore, as migrants across the OECD lose their jobs and their livelihoods, they also lose their ability to send remittances to their families. With remittances estimated to  fall  by  close  to  20%  in  2020,  this  is  likely  to  put  even  further  strain  on  the  budgets  of  vulnerable households, including in emerging and developing countries.

No wonder the most affected are the ones that were already struggling. We need to fix this.  

  • Going forward, we need to be mindful. The magnitude of the impact is so big that people will want growth at any cost.
  • Our society is already increasingly divided not least because of the social distancing but because the crisis has basically shed light on all kinds of inequalities.
  • We need to include distributional outcomes, and sustainability issues. We need to see the outcomes for the most affected and intervene there. 

We already know that inequalities have a compounding effect.

First, COVID may deepen the intergenerational divide and create a lost generation of youth.

  • The Economic Outlook that we released last week highlights that if we are unable to avoid a second wave, OECD unemployment rate would nearly double to 10% with little recovery of jobs expected in 2021.
  • Youth are the particularly hard hit by this economic fallout. Already, more than 1 in 6 young people have stopped working since the onset of the pandemic or have working hours cut by 23%.
  • Furthermore, lockdown will increase the risk of dropping out from education and employment since the more we spend out of school or employment makes the transition back to normal more difficult.
  • Our research shows that it is the most disadvantaged who have the greatest risk of learning loss from school breaks.
  • It can take up to 6 weeks of adjustment time for these students to be mentally and physically ready to re-engage with the curriculum after a summer break.
  • So the crisis might cast a dark shadow over children’s future well-being.
  • We are particularly concerned about the projected rise in child poverty of 15% (or 86 million more children), based on UNICEF data.
  • As we moved towards teleworking and e-learning, the digital divide has created clear winners and losers.
  • Indeed, half of the world’s population now connected to the Internet.
  • Across the OECD, 22% of children from the lowest socio-economic status don’t have internet access.
  • We need urgent investment in affordable and sustainable digital infrastructure.
  • And, women have also been disproportionately affected as they are facing many burdens: unpaid work (3 times as much as men on average in the OECD); over-representation in informal economy without adequate social protection (60% globally and 73% for young women); overrepresentation in the hardest hit sectors; and access to liquidity for women owned businesses.

We need to urgently address this disproportionate impact. 

Solutions?  We need to drive the people-centred growth.

  • The pandemic has inspired an outpouring of public appreciation for the front line workers – doctors and nurses are the most obvious but they actually represent less than 20% of all essential health workers. Too often, we overlook the heroism and dignity of millions of under-paid, under-valued and essential workers, including cleaners in an acute nursing facility or waste pickers or food vendors. Or I would say teachers as well! Despite their contributions to our society and this health crisis, they do not get the respect that they deserve.  
  • Healthcare workers: Nursing assistants, house keepers, medical assistants, etc – their median pay is just $13.48 an hour in the US for example. And let’s not forget about another layer of inequality – 70% of the health care workers are women.
  • Teachers: ONLY 26% of teachers on average across OECD countries (TALIS) think that the work they do is valued by society.
  • And informal workers who provide essential services. Many are essential workers who today are responsible for ensuring food security, collecting our waste and recyclables, and providing care work.  Despite the tremendous value of this work in sustaining our economies and societies, informal workers are too often excluded or marginalized within economic and social policy.
  • Going forward, this needs to change.

To fulfil this mission, we need to rethink the growth model, and it begins with reviewing our objectives. Societal progress should not be measured by income and outputs. Instead it should be based on multidimensional well-being (educational attainment, social connection, good health, environmental quality, economic and personal security) – the things that matter in people’s lives.

But better measures of “social progress” is not enough. What matters is to anchor these measures in the policy process.

It is actually encouraging to see that more than half of OECD governments have now developed their own well-being and sustainable development indicator dashboards.

And well-being is not just for measurement, it is to be used to inform policy at national [New Zealand’s well-being budget is the most visible approach, but also Italy and France have used well-being metrics in national budget. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have used subjective well-being measures in cost-benefit analysis] and international level [EU Council Conclusions on the Economy of well-being under the Finnish Presidency in 2019]

These experiences hold the promise of delivering policies that, because they go beyond the traditional silos, are more effective in achieving their goals and in improving people’s lives, as well as in overcoming the barriers between elites and others that are at the root of today’s political crises.

Talking points

Economic Outlook

  • The shadow of 2008 falls over the outlook today. In the Economic Outlook released just last week at the Ministerial Council Roundtable, we provided a dual outlook scenario.
  • In the case where we avoid a second wave of infections, we will see global economic activity fall 6% in 2020 and unemployment climb from 5.4% in 2019 to 9.2% (nearly double!). This is far greater than anything experienced during the 2008 financial crisis. In the case where we are unable to avoid a second wave, OECD unemployment rate would nearly double to 10% with little recovery of jobs expected in 2021.
    • Even more concerning are the long-lasting effects to the most vulnerable people in our society. 
  • In fact, we thought that we learnt a lesson from the 2008 crisis, where the GDP loss brought down people’s well-being in the recession and the subsequent weak recovery. What followed was a reinforcement of pre-existing inequalities (income and wealth) as well as a birth of new inequalities (skills, social mobility, and subjective well-being), which in turn is causing political and social upheaval.
    • On average, OECD households spent around 21% of their disposable income on housing costs, and nearly 1 in 5 lower-income households spent more than 40%.
    • 30% of households were living in overcrowded conditions in Mexico, Latvia and Poland.
    • Middle-income households will also struggle to make ends meet as 1 in 5 middle-income households spends more than it earns across the OECD. In most OECD countries, over-indebtedness is more widespread among middle-income households than among low and high-income households, and concerns around 11% of middle-income households on average.  With a loss of income and job security across all OECD countries, middle and lower classes will be further squeezed.

Measures taken by countries to support the affected workers and SMEs.

  • Countries have responded by ramping up their income-support programmes and get money into the hands of those who need it most:
    • Stepping up means-tested support to bolster the incomes of those with the least resources (11 of 37 OECD countries);
    • Providing targeted transfers to support those whose vulnerability has been revealed by the crisis 28 countries);
    • Offering universal transfers, to ensure a rapid pay-out and limit the number of people that fall through the cracks (3 countries); and
    • Providing direct relief to those unable to meet their expenses (27 countries).

Where and towards which population groups should we be focusing our efforts?

Child well-being

  • Child well-being needs to be a priority in the COVID recovery and the higher level of investment and better policy making required to manage the impact of this crisis. Stress concern of projected rise in child poverty of 15% or 86 million more children[1] and need of the international community and country governments need to respond quickly to protect children and invest in child well-being.
  • Education and school is one of the main channel through which confinement is exacerbating existing stressors and inequalities. Learning loss is a critical issue. Children from disadvantaged families typically lose one month of learning during the two month break from school over summer. This loss is cumulative. In fact, children from advantaged families can make learning gains through parental support and new opportunities to learn.
  • Evidence from the joint OECD-Harvard study reveals that many children and youth are not actively engaged in distance learning, particularly the most vulnerable: only about half of students are able to access all or most of the curriculum.[2]
  • Extended confinement will create problems once schools and centres re-open, in particular school routines and ability to concentrate. Deliberate effort is needed to rebuild student’s engagement and avoid increases in school drop-outs, makeup for lack of access for disadvantaged children, and support children making school transitions.  Schools need to provide special measures for students exposed to violence at home and experiencing higher levels of psychological stress.


  • Efforts needs to be made to keep young people engaged in training and education and the labour market. One Lesson from the Great Recession is that the problem of young people not in education or employment (NEET) is structural and will persist after economies pick up. 
  • Governments need to build commitment across the public administration, set procedures and prepare guidelines to applying a youth and intergenerational lens in crisis response and recovery measures. Targeted policies and services are needed for the most vulnerable youths, including young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs); young migrants; homeless youth; and young women, adolescents and children facing increased risks of domestic violence.

Structural issues

  • Making social protection more responsive and addressing structural issues[3]:
  • The COVID‑19 is accentuating  a  range  of  structural  challenges  of  social  protection  systems that need to be addressed to ensure that social protection serves inclusive  growth. For example, even in countries with the most advanced systems of social protection, some workers and their families miss out: workers with non-standard jobs –the self-employed, temporary, and informal workers, and those who work very short hours –are often not covered while others already out of work before the crisis face protracted hardship. In countries with large informal sectors and weak social protection systems, where growing numbers of people lose work without any access to income support, the situation is worse.
  • Policymakers need to get money into the hands of people who need it as quick as possible and deign new programmes to capture all. OECD countries have adopted different approaches from means-tested support to temporary transfers, universal transfers, and targeted relief. For example, the US and Japan have provided money transfers to citizens, and France, Finland, Japan and the UK have extended deadlines for tax submissions.
  • Careful consideration of how support programmes can be made as effective and as sustainable as possible is needed, over the coming months and possibly years. For example, making minimum-income protection more responsive, through timely reassessments of entitlements in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.
  • On supporting Vulnerable Workers and Companies[4]:
  • Paid sick leave is a crucial tool in slowing the infection: Extending paid sick leave coverage to non-standard workers, including the self-employed is important and SME need to be provided financial compensation.
  • Immediate measures are needed to secure jobs and incomes, and grant firms flexibility to recruit staff replacements, where necessary.  Low-skilled, low-wage, and young people may be the most vulnerable to job losses because they are in the sectors most at  risk. They are less likely to hold jobs that allow them to telework.  
  • Important lesson learned from the Great Recession is the positive role that short-time work (STW) schemes can play in mitigating the economic and social costs of major economic crises. For instance, Korea relaxed the requirements for its employment retention subsidy programme and raised for six months the wage subsidy that companies can claim if they keep their employees on paid-leave or leave-of-absence programmes.
  • Many firms need financial support, particularly small firms. Several countries have taken rapid steps to help firms to cut costs or to provide them with liquidity by permitting a deferral of tax and social contribution payments, and provisions of temporary loans and grants. Australia, for instance, announced a package to reduce the financial burden to SMEs including changes in depreciation rules and the possibility for businesses hit hard by the downturn to defer tax obligations.

[1] Joint projection by UNICEF and Save the Children

[2] Taken from Schooling disrupted, schooling rethought: How the Covid-19 pandemic is changing education (2020)

[3] Taken from Supporting Livelihoods Brief

[4] Taken from supporting people and companies brief

Interview with LinkedIn Spain: ¿Cómo va a afectar la crisis del coronavirus a las mujeres?

Gabriela Ramos participated in an interview with Virginia Collera of LinkedIn Spain on the impact of the COVID pandemic on women. Find the full interview here. This interview was used to inform an article published by Virginia Collera.

Find Gabriela’s speaking points below.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is a fundamentally social crisis. The virus spreads between people, and impacts individuals, households and communities. Any country’s response to the pandemic must be guided by social data and expertise as much as by medical data and expertise. Failing to identify and address social impacts of the pandemic opens the way for devastating social damage and loss of life.

What is the context? What are the impact of the crisis on women?

  • The COVID-19 crisis has made starkly visible that the world’s formal economies and the maintenance of our daily lives are built on the invisible and unpaid labour of women and girls around the world.
  • Women with caring responsibilities, informal workers, low-income families and youth are among the hardest hit.
    • Women make up 70% of the healthcare workforce globally, around 85% of nurses, 95% of the long-term care workers, and half of doctors in the OECD. This puts them at adverse risk of infection.
    • Although women are over-represented in the health care workforce, they are clustered into lower-status [only 25% in leadership position] and lower-paid jobs [average gender pay gap of 28%].
    • Women also perform “unpaid” care work at home, spending 3 times as much as men on average across OECD countries and up to 10 times as much globally.
    • Women have borne the brunt of the economic disruption caused by lockdowns. Today, nearly 60 % of women around the world work in the informal economy (this number jumps to 73 % when we focus on young women of aged 15-24).
    • They earn less, save less, have no adequate social protection, and are constantly at greater risk of falling into poverty. Furthermore, there is an unevenness between men and women in terms of job loss, reflecting the fact that women are more likely to work in services that require interacting with people.
    • We also know that women-owned businesses are going through difficult times. Normally, women-owned businesses normally struggle to access credit (8% less chance) and operate business with lower levels of capitalization and more reliant on self-financing. As women-owned businesses are concentrated in customer-facing sectors, they are much more likely than men to expect a drop in sales in this crisis.
    • VAW is rising sharply due to the confinement (i.e., 40% increase of reported case in the UK, 40-50% in Brazil and 70% increase in Chile). Even before the crisis, 1 in 3 women suffered domestic violence and 38% of all murders of women are committed by their partners. Furthermore, the victims of violence are twice as likely to experience depression, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV, 1.5 times more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections.
    • All these impacts could potentially bring the biggest disaster for women in developing countries with higher informality, more case of VAW, more demand for unpaid work, and more cases of child marriage, early pregnancy and child labour.

Why is this crisis different from before? 2008 crisis hit men harder but what is the difference this time?

  • Evidence from past economic crises suggests that recessions often affect men’s and women’s employment differently, with men historically the biggest losers.
  • And indeed, the 2008 financial crisis, for instance, was to some extent a ‘male’ crisis : especially in the early years, job losses were much greater in male-dominated sectors of the economy (notably construction and manufacturing), with women’s working hours actually increasing.
  • This time could well be different. This crisis is different in nature to previous ones; it is not just an economic crisis, but also a health and social crisis.
    • Many women are already struggling to make it to work at all, given the need for at least one parent to stay home due to school or childcare facility closure. The lucky ones might be able to use teleworking as a partial and temporary solution.
    • Beyond this, the confinement and distancing measures being put in place around the world are threatening to shatter several female-dominated industries[i.e., health (70%), air travel (47%); tourism, retail activities, accommodation services (60%), and food and beverage service activities (53%)]
    • Also, as just mentioned, the majority of the frontline workers are women and they have little voice.
  • At least in the short term, jobs that rely on travel and on physical interaction with customers are clearly vulnerable.
  • Regardless of the gendered impact of job and business loss, we know that women are often more vulnerable than men to any sharp loss of income. Across OECD countries, women’s incomes are, on average, lower than men’s, and their poverty rates are higher.
    • Women are at a higher risk of poverty than men [Across the OECD, the average relative poverty rate for women is 12.3%, while 10.9% for men. The highest gender gap can be found in Korea, Latvia, Estonia in the OECD].
    • Twice as many women as men aged over 65 live alone in G20 countries. Pension payment to 65+ women are 25% lower than for men.
  • Also,  evidence from the 2008 financial crisis suggests that, in many countries, children in single-parent families were hit much harder by the recession than children in two parent families, not only in terms of income, but also in terms of access to essential material goods and activities such as adequate nutrition and an adequately warm home.
  • And the confinement: increasing domestic burden for women and also putting them at higher risk of exposure to domestic violence.

Gender mainstreaming – what is the priority now? Universal health coverage

  • It is a key time to apply OECD’s gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming recommendations
  • This includes prioritizing the funding of primary healthcare and universal health coverage grounded in gender equality and human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Decision-makers must examine gender-based differences in health expenditures, disease detection and response, emergency preparedness, research and development and the health workforce.

Mass teleworking experience: how women fare in this new environment. 

  • COVID-19 has an unequal effect on women’s and men’s work and home life:  Teleworking (for those who have it as an option) is harder for women to implement as they bear the greater burden of housework and childcare. School closures, caring for sick relatives, and home confinement has made this burden even greater.  
  • In How’s Life 2020,  the OECD highlighted that every day, women in OECD countries work 25 minutes longer than men do when both paid and unpaid work are considered. 
    • Over a year, this adds up to the equivalent of 4 months’ of a full-time job.  
  • And this is also all down to the digital gender divide that we have been experiencing even from before the crisis, globally.
  • Women, on average, have less access, less exposure and less experience with digital technologies than men, potentially putting them at a disadvantage when working remotely. Especially when coupled with their greater care responsibilities, women workers are likely to find it particularly difficult to work at full capacity through any period of sustained telework.  
  • Nevertheless, fortunate impacts is that women may gain digital skills to help close key digital skills gaps.
  • Further good news from transition to digital à In the public sector, some countries are also expanding flexible working options to help parents juggle work and care.

For example, Ireland has introduced a host of flexible working opportunities for public sector employees, including teleworking, flexible shifts, staggered shifts, longer opening hours and weekend working. An innovative practice involves requiring employees to work in different roles or organisations on a temporary basis to effectively facilitate the flexible work options while allowing delivery of critical services.