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Over 400 civil society groups from across the world unite to demand world leaders act together to fight #COVID-19 and deliver a plan to build back better

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In response to the global crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, community volunteers, local civil society groups, and major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have joined forces to demand a 12-point plan from world leaders.

Ahead of the World Health Assembly and as governments consider key steps towards recovery, the group is calling for a joined up plan to fight the crisis and build a just recovery that tackles the interlinked challenges of providing universal healthcare, reducing inequalities and guaranteeing human rights; alongside the critical need to re-think our economies in response to the parallel crises of climate change and biodiversity.

An unprecedented coalition of over 400 organisations working on human rights and sustainable development in every continent have come together including Action for Sustainable Development, CIVICUS, Femnet, Forus, GCAP, Global Citizen, HelpAge International, Oxfam, Restless Development, Save The Children, Women Deliver and many more regional networks, voluntary groups and local activists.

It comes as the impact of the crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable groups is becoming increasingly evident. Recent analysis shows that the COVID-19 crisis risks pushing half a billion people into poverty. The UN has estimated that the pandemic could almost double the number of people suffering acute hunger, pushing it to more than a quarter of a billion by the end of 2020 and there are predictions of very high numbers of more cases of domestic violence around the world this year as a result of pandemic restrictions.

The statement comes ahead of a joint ‘Day of Solidarity’ to highlight community action around the world on Friday, 22 May 2020.

In a joint statement, the groups have said: “We are strongly committed to ensuring that civil society organisations and volunteers play a critical role in supporting community action and ensuring that those who are most often marginalised are not left behind through this challenging time… but we expect world leaders to ensure key measures are addressed to build a fairer future.”

GCAP Global Co-Chairwoman Rebecca Malay said: “Now is the best time to come together to change the system that created these multiple crises. Only with the people can governments achieve the change we need.”

GCAP Global Co-Chairman Riccardo Moro said: “This global pandemic shows how connected we are, but at the same time how weak we are in responding together. Competition among nations and irresponsible delegitimization of multilateral institutions, combined with neoliberal policies that have systematically shrunk resources and public roles, have harmed our capacity to respond to this crisis. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the most vulnerable are paying the highest price and inequalities, already unacceptable, are increasing. We need strong political initiatives to provide health care and social protection for all. We need robust policies to support a fair recovery in the framework of climate justice, focusing on social inclusion and reduction of inequalities. We call for debt cancellation and daring financial policies. We condemn all forms of discrimination, racism, and lack of human rights. We support the UN Secretary General’s call for immediate ceasefires globally. We call for a true and committed and effective global solidarity.”

HelpAge International CEO Justin Derbyshire said: “COVID-19 has a disproportionate impact on older people and those with disabilities and underlying health conditions, who also face serious social and economic consequences from the pandemic. It highlights the importance of a whole-of-society approach to deliver well-resourced health and social protection systems that respond to all ages. This is an urgent healthcare emergency that shines a glaring light on the underlying fragility and inequalities of our societies and the critical need for stronger, more resilient and equitable systems, as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals.”

CIVICUS Secretary General Lysa John said: “Inequalities have exacerbated the challenges facing many populations during this global pandemic, it is essential that any stimulus and rescue packages must include commitments and measures to ensure universal health and social care, gender equality and a global commitment to universal social protection. At the same time, it is critical that as part of the recovery, every country meets their obligations under the Paris Agreement; putting us firmly on the path to net zero, with global heating limited to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. To achieve the above, meaningful partnerships with Civil Society are vital. We urge decision makers to involve Civil Society in policy responses and create enabling conditions for our participation.”

African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) Executive Director Memory Kachambwa said: “Women play an outsized role in the COVID-19 response. They constitute 70% of the world’s health care workforce and recognizing that they are workers who are on the frontlines of responding to this health emergency, they must be adequately, appropriately and properly protected and supported to cope with the multiple impacts. At the same time, women’s traditional role as caregivers for sick family members is putting more women and girls at greater risk of infection and increasing the burden of care work. Women particularly from the Global South are engaged in informal work, with poor social security and are among the most affected during this pandemic.

"Past health emergencies have caused a disruption in routine health services such as access to sexual and reproductive health products and services, access to vaccines programmes, and the provision of quality maternal care—this disruption of services has grave consequences to millions of lives. We call on governments to safeguard the provision of essential health services through strong primary healthcare systems and universal healthcare systems that are inclusive of sexual and reproductive health services during and post this COVID-19 crisis. Governments must include service providers working on ending gender-based violence as essential services.”

"In summary as world leaders begin to map a way forward out of the crisis, the groups call on them to ensure the approach to recovery is guided by the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals. They insist that: “We need a major economic stimulus that underpins a new social contract between people, governments and the market, that radically reduces inequality, gender inequalities and lays the foundations for a just, equal and sustainable economy that works for all people at every stage of their lives.”

Full set of 12 points are as follows:

The UN to:

1. Connect immediate response and recovery funding directly with local groups which includes a ‘gender marker’ for women, marginalized people, community organisations and social enterprises to ensure we leave no one behind

2. Safeguard freedom of expression and support innovative approaches to digital freedom of assembly to ensure all voices are heard

3. Promote the global ceasefire and support governments to re-direct military spending to social protection

4. Call for a ban on the live wild animal trade and a halt to deforestation

In the short term ‘response’ phase, member state governments and donor agencies to:

5. Safeguard health-care workers and social care workers on the frontline by ensuring they have access to safe and decent working conditions and are resourced properly

6. Involve civil society organizations in policy and operational responses to COVID-19

7. Uphold financial and policy commitments to a human rights based approach, in particular the rights of older people, persons with disabilities and women, girls and gender diverse people

8. Implement clear social and environmental conditions on any emergency financial stimulus to companies, such as treating workers fairly and cutting carbon emissions

In the medium term ‘recovery’ phase, Member state governments and donor agencies to:

9. Drive a seismic shift towards universal healthcare, welfare payments and social protection that include essential services such as vaccine programs, sexual and reproductive health products and services for all

10. Cancel national debts to ensure sufficient finance is available to governments to ensure a just recovery

11. Adopt fairer taxation policies on those who hold the most resources in our society, alongside measures to tackle illicit financial flows to pay for these protections

12. Put in place incentives for a feminist, green industrial revolution to enable rapid scaling up of sustainable jobs

For more information, click here.

For more information, see also GCAP’s COVID-19 page.

coronavirus

Commission approves €39.6 million Greek scheme to support certain vegetable producers affected by coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €39.6 million Greek scheme to support producers of certain vegetables in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State Aid Temporary Framework. The public support will take the form of direct grants. The scheme will be open to producers of ‘Kalamon' table olives, early watermelon of low coverage and spring potatoes.

It will be also open to producers of greenhouse crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants in Crete. The scheme aims at addressing the liquidity needs of the beneficiaries, thus helping them continue their activities during and after the coronavirus outbreak. The Commission found that the Greek scheme is in line with the conditions of the Temporary Framework. In particular, (i) the aid does not exceed €100,000 per beneficiary as provided by the Temporary Framework for undertakings in the primary agricultural sector and (ii) the scheme will run until 30 June 2021.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58929 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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Commission approves €450 million Greek scheme to support companies active in certain sectors affected by coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €450 million Greek scheme to support companies active in the tourism, transport, construction and energy sectors that have been particularly affected by the measures imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. The support, which will take the form of subsidized loans, will be open to companies with up to 3,000 employees in the sectors concerned.

The scheme will be financed with the resources of the Greek Infrastructure Fund (also called ‘InfraFoF'), which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Greek State. The Greek Infrastructure Fund is managed by the European Investment Bank. The scheme will be implemented through local banks on behalf of the Greek Infrastructure Fund, which also requires the banks to provide complementary financing to the public loans.

The measure aims at helping the beneficiaries address their liquidity needs and continue their activities during and after the outbreak. The Commission found that the measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, i) the support can be granted only in relation to new loans; ii) the interest rates applied to the subsidized loans are in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework; and iii) the subsidized loans may be granted until 30 June 2021.

The Commission concluded that the scheme is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the Greek economy, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules.

More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58368 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website.

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Commission approves €9.35 million Portuguese employment aid scheme to preserve jobs on the Azores Islands during the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission has approved a €9.35 million Portuguese aid scheme for preserving employment on the Azores Islands during the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the state aid Temporary Framework. It follows two measures approved by the Commission in May 2020, which have expired.  The scheme aims at compensating the wage costs of companies in the Region of the Azores, which would otherwise have laid off personnel due to the coronavirus outbreak and the emergency measures taken by the state to limit its spread.

The period for aid applications is 20 July to 31 December 2020 and aid can be granted as from April 2020. The maximum subsidy period is eight months. For the employers, there are two support options under the notified measure. Under the first option, the wage subsidy will amount to €111.13 per month and employee corresponding to 13.47% of the regional minimum gross monthly salary (including employer's social security contributions) and will be paid in one instalment. Under the second option, the wage subsidy will amount to €196.38 per month and employee, corresponding to 23.8% of the regional minimum gross monthly salary (including employer's social security contributions) which will be paid in three instalments.

The Commission found that the Portuguese measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, employers commit to keep the employees covered by the subsidies for the period during which they receive aid. The Commission concluded that the Portuguese measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules.

More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58658 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.

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