Each and every one of us all around the world has felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus continues to pose a threat to global public health. The socio-economic crisis, brought on by weeks of lockdown, has caused a trail of devastation, with many people missing out on paycheques, struggling to put food on the table and being unsafe in their home.
One thing that the crisis – as an x-ray – has revealed is that some people are suffering much more than others. The gap between the rich and the poor has never been more apparent. Inequality, which was already plaguing our societies, has reared its ugly head higher. For many of our partner countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, COVID-19 has brought existing problems into sharper focus. Health, water and sanitation systems are under increased pressure, and rising unemployment, especially amongst youth, has exposed already fragile social security systems.
As we navigate the exit and the recovery of this global crisis, we must also look to solidarity, international partnerships and cooperation to find answers. Helping our partners cope with the fall-out of the pandemic is not just the right thing to do. It is also in Europe’s best interest. Our interdependence has never been clearer.
This is why the European Union and its Member States, acting as “Team Europe”, have invested nearly €36 billion euros to address the needs of the most vulnerable around the world. Shortly after the COVID-19 crisis became a pandemic, Team Europe took swift coordinated action to help our partners deal with the immediate health crisis and its aftermath. Since then, contributions to Team Europe’s global response continue to grow. Resources are financing short, medium and long-term actions, tailored to the different needs of our partners. From delivering more than 20 tons of medical equipment to São Tomé e Príncipe to reinforcing the health sector in Cabo Verde, as well as supporting Small and Medium Enterprises facing liquidity shortages through local banks in Mozambique. EU assistance is helping communities across the world come to terms with the pandemic. Our mission is to fight the pandemic everywhere. After all, stronger partners make a stronger Europe.
Of course, in the immediate future, developing a vaccine as soon as possible, which is affordable and accessible for all, is on top of our agenda. In an unprecedented political collaboration bringing together governments, non-profits and donors from around the world, European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen hosted a pledging conference in early May. We raised €9.8 billion for the development of rapid diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. Portugal took part in this effort and Prime-Minister António Costa mobilized a sizable contribution, with public and private funds. Yet again another great example of what we can achieve together as Team Europe and with our global partners.
When it comes to recovery and the post-COVID-19 world however, let’s also be honest. We cannot return to the pre-coronavirus world as it was. Neither can our partners who are amongst those most affected by the climate emergency, rising inequality, human development setback and the digital divide.
As we begin the hard task of building back our economies and societies, in the words of UN Secretary General António Guterres, this is our opportunity to “build back better”. When the next generation looks back at this moment, we will want them to say that their parents pressed ahead, harnessing all the opportunities of the green and digital transitions, to build a better future for them and a more sustainable, fair and inclusive world for all.
Commissioner for International Partnerships
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal