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How Nordic leaders can help turn the tide on COVID-19


This year’s Nordic Council annual session, held between 24-30 October, is more important than ever before. Of course, this year it will look a little different, with meetings taking place online and the number of debates limited. However, it remains an important time in the region’s political calendar.

This year UN Secretary-General António Guterres will join the conversation about COVID-19’s impact on the Nordic region, as well as the world.

The Nordic Council facilitates greater cooperation between Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland, giving them a stronger voice in the world. But it’s not just this collaboration that makes other leaders take note — it’s also these countries’ steadfast leadership when it comes to global development and equality.

Sweden and Norway stand out for backing this up with generous levels of overseas aid: Sweden has long been committed to investing 1% of its national income in development assistance, above the UN’s 0.7% target, and Norway recently restated its commitment to do the same. Denmark regularly meets or exceeds its international commitments too.

These actions have earned the Nordics an international reputation as open-minded, fair, and dependable partners. To put it simply: when these governments speak out on inequality or injustice, the world listens. So we are urging these leaders to use their voices and standing in the international community to deliver a strong, coordinated international response to the pandemic.

Tackle the double standards at play in the pandemic

Wealthy governments have ripped up the rulebook in order to stabilise their economies, and rightly so. But poorer countries have to play by a different set of rules, and some have been forced to make impossible choices between saving lives and livelihoods, or servicing debt. This is not only unfair, but could prove short-sighted and expensive given the risk of economic crisis and default. It’s a double standard that the world can’t afford right now.

We’re therefore calling on Nordic leaders to agree:

    • The extension of existing debt relief measures that can help provide financial flexibility for African governments during the crisis
    • The inclusion of private and multilateral creditors in debt relief efforts, because we need to use every tool in our toolbox to help the most vulnerable respond
    • A new allocation of Special Drawing Rights, the IMF’s own currency, which rich countries should transfer to poorer countries

This is the fastest and smartest way to inject the capital needed to stabilise economies and respond to the pandemic. Failure to act risks reversing years of progress in reducing global poverty. It means job losses, instability, and millions more people going to bed hungry.

Guarantee global vaccine access

We also need Nordic leadership to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are available to everyone, regardless of wealth or nationality. If medicines are only accessible to a few countries, stockpiled by the wealthy, or produced in insufficient quantities, we risk extending the lifespan of the pandemic. Fair global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines will end the pandemic faster for everyone, saving lives and helping economies recover.

There is only one mechanism positioned to deliver a coordinated global response at the scale and speed needed: the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. However, it is currently under-resourced and needs to raise an additional US$35 billion by March 2021. One concrete way Nordic governments can step up the fight against the virus is to pledge to ensure the ACT Accelerator is fully financed, with each government increasing its financial contributions to the global effort.

We know exactly what’s at stake. The pandemic threatens the lives and livelihoods of every single person on this planet. No country, community, region, or individual is immune to its effects. It’s in our collective self-interest to beat this disease as quickly as possible — and we know what is needed to get this done.

Will you help amplify our call to Nordic leaders?

Photo credit: © André Jamholt / norden.org

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