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The Interview

UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty: 'We need to build back better'

THE INTERVIEW
THE INTERVIEW © FRANCE 24

Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, speaks to FRANCE 24 about the worrying impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on poverty and social protection systems. 

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De Schutter says we need a debate about waving intellectual property rights on vaccines, in order to insure equal access to low-income countries with low purchasing power. 

The UN official has published a report estimating that almost 180 million more people will fall into extreme poverty because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He insists on the fact that poor countries – although they are not necessarily the most impacted by the virus – are the most impacted by the economic crisis it has caused. Developing countries, being heavily indebted, are not able to borrow money in order to strengthen social protection. Moreover, their economies depend largely on commodity exports and these prices have fallen on global markets around the world. Finally, a large part of developing countries' populations work in the informal sector, which make them even more vulnerable to the crisis.  

De Schutter says that women and children were "disproportionately" affected by Covid-19 lockdowns, reminding us that when children are not attending school, they can easily end up in child labour, marking a huge setback for their education. 

For the UN official, both rich and poor countries need to "build back better" in order to avoid the erosion of basic rights. He deplores the fact that many countries put in place only "short-term" social protection measures during the lockdowns. De Schutter says that "all individuals" should be protected "throughout their lives with basic income security guarantees", which he claims are "perfectly affordable".

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