Noting that Covid-19 is a human tragedy, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal to address inequality across the world.
Covid-19 has also created a generational opportunity to build back a more equitable and sustainable world, said Guterres in his Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture address, which was delivered virtually, said a report of Xinhua.
Guterres' address was delivered on Mandela Day, an international day in honor of Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on July 18, Mandela's birthday.
"The response to the pandemic, and to the widespread discontent that preceded it, must be based on a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal that create equal opportunities for all and respect the rights and freedoms of all."
This is the only way that the world will meet the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development -- agreements that address precisely the failures that are being exposed and exploited by the pandemic, he said.
A New Social Contract within societies will enable young people to live in dignity, will ensure women have the same prospects and opportunities as men, and will protect the sick, the vulnerable, and minorities of all kinds.
However, he said, the global political and economic system is not delivering on critical global public goods: public health, climate action, sustainable development, peace. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home the tragic disconnect between self-interest and the common interest, and the huge gaps in governance structures and ethical frameworks.
"To close those gaps, and to make the New Social Contract possible, we need a New Global Deal to ensure that power, wealth and opportunities are shared more broadly and fairly at the international level."
A new model for global governance must be based on full, inclusive and equal participation in global institutions, he said. "Without that, we face even wider inequalities and gaps in solidarity, like those we see today in the fragmented global response to the COVID-19 pandemic."
In his address entitled "Tackling the Inequality Pandemic: a New Social Contract for a New Era," Guterres said COVID-19 has laid bare risks that have been ignored for decades: inadequate health systems, gaps in social protection, structural inequalities, environmental degradation, the climate crisis.
"COVID-19 has been likened to an x-ray, revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built," he said. "It is exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere: the lie that free markets can deliver health care for all; the fiction that unpaid care work is not work; the delusion that we live in a post-racist world; the myth that we are all in the same boat. Because while we are all floating on the same sea, it's clear that some are in superyachts while others are clinging to drifting debris."
People want social and economic systems that work for everyone. They want their human rights and fundamental freedoms to be respected. They want a say in decisions that affect their lives, said Guterres.
The New Social Contract, between governments, people, civil society, business and more, must integrate employment, sustainable development and social protection, based on equal rights and opportunities for all.
Labor market policies, combined with constructive dialogue between employers and labor representatives, can improve pay and working conditions. Labor representation is also critical to manage the challenges posed to jobs by technology and structural transformation, including the transition to a green economy, said Guterres.
The gradual integration of the informal sector into social protection frameworks is essential. A changing world requires a new generation of social protection policies with new safety nets including universal health coverage and the possibility of a universal basic income.
Establishing minimum levels of social protection, and reversing chronic underinvestment in public services, including education, health care, and internet access, are essential. Equally important are affirmative action programs and targeted policies to address and redress historic inequalities in gender, race or ethnicity that have been reinforced by social norms, he said.
Taxation has also a role in the New Social Contract. Everyone -- individuals and corporations -- must pay their fair share. Governments should also shift the tax burden from payrolls to carbon. Taxing carbon rather than people will increase output and employment, while reducing emissions.
He also asked for efforts to break the vicious cycle of corruption, which is both a cause and effect of inequality. "Corruption reduces and wastes funds available for social protection. It weakens social norms and the rule of law."
A New Global Deal, based on a fair globalization, on the rights and dignity of every human being, on living in balance with nature, on taking account of the rights of future generations, and on success measured in human rather than economic terms, is the best way forward, said Guterres.
The worldwide consultation process around the 75th anniversary of the United Nations has made clear that people want a global governance system that delivers for them, he said.
"The developing world must have a far stronger voice in global decision-making. We also need a more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system that enables developing countries to move up global value chains."
Illicit financial flows, money laundering and tax evasion must be prevented. A global consensus to end tax havens is essential, he added. "We must work together to integrate the principles of sustainable development into financial decision-making. Financial markets must be full partners in shifting the flow of resources away from the brown and the grey to the green, the sustainable and the equitable. Reform of the debt architecture and access to affordable credit must create fiscal space for countries to move investment in the same direction."
The corrosive effects of today's levels of inequality are clear, said Guterres. "We are sometimes told a rising tide of economic growth lifts all boats. But in reality, rising inequality sinks all boats.
Confidence in institutions and leaders is eroding. Voter turnout has fallen by a global average of 10 percent since the beginning of the 1990s. People who feel marginalized are vulnerable to arguments that blame their misfortunes on others, particularly those who look or behave differently.
Populism, nationalism, extremism, racism and scapegoating will only create new inequalities and divisions within and between communities, countries, ethnicities, and religions.
Looking to the future, two seismic shifts will shape the 21st century: the climate crisis and digital transformation. Both could widen inequalities even further, he warned.