Australian Unions and Community Organisations urge Global Social Protection Fund during COVID-19 pandemic

June 8, 2020: Eight Australian trade union and civil society organisations including AFTINET called on the Australian government on June 4, 2020, to support the world’s poorest countries to deal with the health, economic, and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The impact of COVID-19 on countries that lack the foundation of adequate health services and income support will be profound, and the leaders of wealthier countries and international institutions must take immediate and decisive action to address this looming crisis,” said their letter to Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne.

The majority of the world’s people have no social protection: 55% have no access to social protection, and a further 20% have little coverage of essential services or income measures.

The letter from the eight organisations urged the Australian government to push for the creation of a Global Social Protection Fund to address the social protection gaps in the world’s poorest countries. This would be a pooling of resources at the global level by the richest countries in order to address the recovery needs of the most disadvantaged countries.

“Given the interconnectedness of the global economy, it is also in our national interest to support countries to become resilient to crises,” said the letter.

Around US$35 billion would secure 5-year funding for the poorest 28 countries in the world to provide emergency relief now and build resilience over time to weather the next crisis. An additional US$100 billion would address social protection coverage gaps in lower to middle income countries. With total global spending on the COVID-19 crisis projected to reach US$10 trillion or more, these amounts are affordable.

A Global Social Protection Fund would enable the governments of the poorest countries to guarantee social protection floors of basic income security through pensions, child benefits, income support benefits and services for the unemployed; and universal access to essential and affordable social services such as health, education, food security, sanitation and housing.

This concept has been on the agenda for years - the 2012 ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors, and UN Sustainable Development Goal 1 which aims to achieve social protection floors for all and substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable by 2030.

The call was issued by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, Oxfam Australia, Jubilee Australia, ActionAid Australia, Aid/Watch, and the Uniting Church in Australia – Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.