Dear President Macron,
In a few days, France will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). In this Christmas period, we, ONE Youth Ambassadors from across Europe, have only one wish: to put an end to extreme poverty and inequality in the world, which are constantly increasing. For this wish to come true, Mr. President, here are three goals you can help us reach.
1. Ensuring universal and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine
Global health is a key issue in the fight against inequalities, even more so since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our first wish is to see a strong commitment from the EU to universal and equitable access to vaccines, as they are 18 times more accessible in EU countries than in the poorest countries of the world.
Ending the pandemic everywhere is crucial: while in Europe, booster shots have already started being administered, 97% of the population in low-income countries have still not received their first one. Vaccinating massively in only a limited number of countries will not put an end to this health crisis, as the latest identified variant, Omicron, demonstrates.
Mr. President, France should ensure that EU leaders urgently donate all their surplus doses and publish monthly delivery schedules to allow low-income countries to implement their vaccine strategies.
The temporary suspension of intellectual property rights is also an essential step. France will have to show leadership in order to obtain a common position within the EU in favour of the TRIPS waiver.
Lastly, the European Union and the African Union should strive to increase their financial support for health systems strengthening and pharmaceutical production capacity so that all countries are able to provide effective and efficient health systems for their populations.
2. Providing financial support to the most vulnerable countries
To end inequality, we need to show solidarity with the poorest countries, which are even more affected by the devastating effects of the pandemic. This is our second wish.
Africa’s economic needs are estimated by the IMF and World Bank at $1.2 trillion. While rich countries have been able to provide stimulus packages worth 20% of their GDP, low-income countries have been able to provide only 2%. However, this was not taken into account when Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), the reserve currency granted by the IMF in the event of a major crisis, were distributed. As a result, African countries received only $33 billion of the $650 billion allocated. France must coordinate a European commitment to reallocate the majority of SDRs to the countries that need them most.
Furthermore, during the pandemic, the use of financial products has increased considerably. Yet, these are the very few products that are not taxed in the EU. France can therefore act by facilitating an agreement on the creation of an ambitious European Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), which includes derivatives and whose entire revenue is used to support the most vulnerable countries.
3. Listening to youth in Africa and Europe
Our third wish is to see greater inclusion of youth in the debates and negotiations between the European Union and the African Union. The ONE Youth Ambassadors programme is a perfect example of how youth participation is essential to making a difference in the fight against inequality.
The Africa-France Summit last October sent a strong signal on youth inclusion and civic engagement, as it was conceived as a direct exchange between you, Mr. President, and young people, who will be the real changemakers on the African continent. Indeed, it is estimated that 230 million young Africans will enter the labour market by 2030 and, in 2050, one in three young people will live in sub-Saharan Africa.
The French Presidency of the EU should be an opportunity to continue to make youth a key contributor and allow them to bring forward their innovative ideas. To this end, all African Union and European Union delegations should include at least one youth representative. France can also support the creation of an Africa-Europe youth platform that would be a space for intercultural exchange and dialogue.
In the next six months, France has the ability to take a stand against growing inequalities. The values of sharing and caring that characterise the holiday season should encourage us to commit to a fairer future. Mr. President, you have the power to show that the EU can be a leading actor in international solidarity. We hope we can count on your support.