United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed is optimistic that COVID-19 can help the world move forward in its fight to end extreme poverty.
Women and youth leadership will be crucial to ensuring that no more than 3% of the world live on $1.90 a day and have their basic needs met, Mohammed told Global Citizen.
While countries have made progress when it comes to school attendance, communicable diseases, and access to quality water since Mohammed helped the UN establish the 17 Global Goals in 2015, improvements in other areas, such as hunger and the environment, have declined. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped either — it’s undone or stalled progress on meeting nearly all of the Global Goals by 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020recently revealed.
Meeting the goals is becoming more a challenge as the crisis continues to put millions of people at risk of living in extreme poverty.
Mohammed, who won the 2019 Global Citizen World Leader Prize for her dedication to ending extreme poverty, is now urging the world to continue investing in the Global Goals, while simultaneously addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They [the Global Goals] matter more than ever now because already we were not on track before COVID — COVID came around and put a pause,” she said. “It exacerbated it, it showed the fragilities of inequalities, it showed very much what we were not doing.”
Between 2000 and 2015, the international community was working toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which were set at the UN Millennium Summit to eradicate extreme poverty. More than 1 billion people were lifted out of poverty as a result, but millions were still left behind.
Today, countries’ approaches to addressing inequalities have become more inclusive, more people are moving from the informal work sector to the formal sector, and government efforts have helped keep more kids in school and reduced child and maternal mortality, Mohammed explained. Now is not the time to back down on achieving all of the Global Goals, she said.
Women’s leadership is crucial to building a more sustainable world, but they rarely get the credit they deserve. That’s why Mohammed introduced the new women-led social and economic recovery initiative Rise for All in April to highlight women’s important roles.
“It's not new that women in leadership improve the well-being all round of everyone, whether it is the leadership of a business, an institution, a local initiative,” Mohammed said. “If there's a crisis in the home, we are the first to get up and deal with it. We do that everywhere, but we were not being profiled as much.”
Building Back Better for Everyone and with Everyone: #COVID19 has laid bare the weaknesses of our global community. We need to redouble our efforts to promote civic space and to ensure the equal participation of women at all levels of public life. pic.twitter.com/me8t36VMua— Amina J Mohammed (@AminaJMohammed) October 2, 2020
When women are leading, they are more inclusive, and better able to understand and deal with the multi-dimensional elements of poverty, she said. They can see how poverty is felt differently by women and children, for example.
Rather than suggesting that women should be making all of the decisions, Mohammed stressed that equal representation is what’s key.
“Together, we make a great team,” she said. “Women's leadership, young or old, is incredibly important at this juncture. Why not open the space for them to be seen doing so alongside our men?”
The choices made now to address COVID-19, from including women in leadership to transitioning to a green economy, will shape how the world recovers from the pandemic, Mohammed explained.
Everyone can be a part of achieving the Global Goals, but she believes young people’s involvement is key to promoting change.
“They need to be in the positions that will lead some of these discussions because they need to be shaping that — that's their future, that future is now,” Mohammed said.