Examining the Influence of the Pandemic on Inclusivity

The 193 UN member nations promised to ensure that “no one is left behind” when they signed up to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The concept was clear: we must ensure that all people, not just a select few, benefit from advancements in human development.

However, when the epidemic struck, our ability to accomplish the SDGs was harmed as our attention was diverted to the urgent needs of the pandemic, making it more difficult to ensure that “no one is left behind.”

The time for emergency aid is basically past for many countries (with a few notable exceptions). But now is the time for supreme audit institutions (SAIs) to review these packages to see how they affected the fundamental principle of “leaving no one behind”.

The INTOSAI Development Initiative has proposed using post-compliance audits that focus on diversity as one way to accomplish so. By performing these types of audits, SAIs can determine whether compliance frameworks taking into account the principle of inclusion and hold governments accountable if those frameworks were not followed.

Depending on the local methods used when the financial support packages were introduced, these audits may rely on different sources of information.

For example, in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, public sector authorities are legally required to consider how a budget or policy can affect existing inequalities based on factors such as age, disability, sexual orientation, or race. Some COVID-specific emergency frameworks, such as the one used in the Philippines, incorporate wording about “economic inclusion” and clearly state how packages will reach specific demographics.

SAIs play a key role in helping us understand who was left behind as part of national pandemic responses by noting where frameworks lack inclusion provisions and keeping governments accountable if they fail to comply.

Regardless of how urgent the situation is, emergency frameworks might nevertheless include certain safeguards. For example, early in the pandemic, UN Women issued recommendations on undertaking fast gender assessments of COVID-19 programmes and policies to ensure that they account for the pandemic’s gendered implications.

These audits aim to highlight the necessity of these frameworks, which include at least some anti-inequality measures. Additionally, they will highlight instances where governments have failed to follow existing inclusion requirements, ensuring that no one is left behind when we emerge from the worst of the crisis.

During the epidemic, governments faced issues such as obtaining medical supplies and vaccines quickly, enforcing social restrictions, ensuring health systems could cope, and offering socio-economic packages aimed at safeguarding jobs and livelihoods.

Because these monies were disbursed so quickly, important processes and protections were bypassed. The interventions were frequently created with speed in mind rather than equity.

Although it is understandable to loosen certain processes in times of crisis, the circumstance has exacerbated the many types of inequality that existed long before the pandemic.

Gender disparities have worsened, particularly in the labor sector, where women’s jobs are 19% more vulnerable than men’s.

Due to the pandemic, many people with disabilities have lost access to support services.

Immigrants have historically had poorer labor market outcomes due to less stable working conditions.

Those who have already been abandoned are likely to remain so.

Photo Credit: https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-what-is-herd-immunity-and-how-will-it-help-prevent-spread-of-covid-19-11956941