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Adapting aid to end poverty: Delivering the commitment to leave no one behind in the context of Covid-19: Chapter 1

Introduction

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The Covid-19 pandemic is causing immense hardship around the world. It threatens to reverse decades of progress in human development and has put at risk attainment of Agenda 2030 and the commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ by the 2030 deadline. Covid-19 has created a development disaster just as the UN had announced a ‘Decade of Action’ on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).[1]

While the crisis is unprecedented in its reach and has impacted countries at all income levels and stages of development, it is the poorest countries and communities that are least able to cope. As many countries turn inwards in their responses to the crisis, there is a risk that the poorest are left even further behind. The international community cannot let this happen.

This report explores the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the incidence of global poverty, with a particular focus on the poorest people and places. It looks at the extent to which this crisis is redrawing our understanding of poverty, where need is, and which people and places may be pushed even further behind.

At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated long-term challenges in financing for sustainable development, especially in the poorest countries. It has severely impacted national revenues, while other international public and private resource flows have also fallen. Financing the SDGs, in particular the commitment to leave no one behind, has become much more difficult, if not impossible. This is seen most in the poorest countries where financing gaps were already high, even prior to the crisis, and success in mobilising additional finance from a range of sources had been weak. National capacities to tackle poverty have been further reduced.

This report looks at the critical role of official development assistance (ODA) in this more challenging poverty and financing landscape and asks how the international community needs to refocus aid – itself set to decline – to both address the immediate crisis and drive sustained pathways out of poverty, particularly for the most vulnerable. The report ends with a series of recommendations for donors.

The final death toll may never be known and the long-term impacts of the crisis on income, health and educational outcomes will be felt for many years to come. Now, more than ever, the international community must redouble efforts to reach the furthest behind to ensure that the central promise of the SDGs – to leave no one behind – is realised.

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Notes