|Overview : |
The proposal seeks to inform the on-going humanitarian, early recovery and prevention of violent conflict strategies with a high quality human rights-based analysis that helps answer the question ‘Which barriers keep people beyond the reach of infrastructure, employment, services, jobs and other socio-economic early recovery measures?’ proposed in the UN Framework for the immediate socio economic response to COVID-19. The analysis would be an input for the recovery strategy and a contribution to “build back better”, linking with the “transformative economy” notion of the 2030 Agenda, making the latter shape the medium and long-term phases after COVID 19 and into recovery. OHCHR is in a privileged position to provide this added value.
Background and objective/s of project
Ecuador remains the most affected country per capita among all the countries covered by ROSA, vis-à-vis the economic capacity to respond. As of 04 May 2020, 1,569 people have died of COVID-19 and an additional 1,336 deaths were likely caused by the virus. There are 31,881 cases of COVID-19 throughout the 24 provinces of Ecuador: 55% males and 45% females.
COVID-19 has taken its toll on an already struggling public health system. There is limited and insufficient capacity for testing, quarantining and prompt treatment of those with the virus. In addition, there exists a lack of health workers for epidemiological surveillance, and the situation has gotten more critical as over 400 health care workers have contracted COVID-19. On top of this, the country has limited supplies of personal protective equipment and, especially in Guayaquil, insufficient capacity to handle the number of cases requiring medical care.
The groups disproportionally affected include women, children, persons deprive from liberty, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, Afro Ecuadorian and montubio peoples, peasants, migrants and refugees, persons living in the informal economy, in the streets and in poverty, as detailed in the Humanitarian Response Plan. The situation has proved to exacerbate the already concerning rate of gender-based violence: 6.5% of women in Ecuador have been victims of some form of violence.
Prior to the COVID-19 health emergency, Ecuador´s economy was already on weak footing with GDP growing only 0.1% in 2019 and the country facing dire fiscal problems and social unrest. The October 2019 intention to eliminate subsidies for fuels would have impacted disproportionately indigenous and workers small scale economies and thus triggered the social protests hitting an already weakened economy and left a more fragile governance. CONAIE, FUT Social movements have already raised alarms if such measures are to be taken.
In 2019, the global fiscal deficit reached 2.7% of GDP and this is forecast to increase to 6.7% in 2020 (World Bank). This will have negative repercussions on Ecuador’s already high debt levels, which are projected to increase from 53.5% of GDP in February 2020 to 60.2% by December. Further compounding these challenges, the country’s international reserves have fallen to their lowest point since 2007, at $2,177 million. The combination of these factors leaves Ecuador with limited policy options to address the COVID-19 health emergency including limited fiscal space for countercyclical macroeconomic policies, and the government had announced cuts to public spending and legislation to increase taxes. The proposed measures reflect little understanding of the ESCR Covenant that positions States as the duty bearers of the obligation to use the maximum of the available resources, and individuals as the holders of at least the minimum core of relevant rights.
Ecuador´s GDP is expected to contract by between 6% and 7% in 2020 (IMF, World Bank, ECLAC), and this weakened economic activity will lead to a fall in tax receipts and increase the fiscal pressure on the country. In addition, the drop in oil prices will mean fiscal contributions from that sector (which totaled about 15% of total revenue in 2019) are expected to be substantially lower. These factors have led to a marked increase in Ecuador´s sovereign risk (4,715 points as of 13 April), making it virtually impossible to access international credit markets. In addition, because Ecuador´s economy is dollarized, it cannot make use of the monetary, exchange and fiscal policy options used by neighboring countries that have their own national currency. Prior to the COVID crisis, Ecuador had agreed a USD 4.2billion facility with the IMF, and more recently the IMF approved another USD 643million financing to support the crisis response, including the health and social protection systems (IMF), but it will be important to understand whether there are conditionalities that affect human rights.
The impact of the weakened economy will be felt by Ecuadorian citizens, with the World Bank projecting that the extreme poverty rate ($1.90 PPP/day) will increase 66% in 2020. National poverty will also increase, with the World Bank projecting this to increase by 20% (from 25% to 30%) in 2020 as a result of the crisis. This will hit rural communities particularly hard, where poverty rates are more than double those in urban areas (41.8% and 18.7%, respectively).
While in December 2019, the economically active population was 8 million people and the unemployment rate 3.8%, almost 5 million economically active people had a precarious employment situation (including those in the informal economy and those that sell goods on the street). These people are not covered by the country´s social security system and will be more severely affected as the unemployment rate increases due to the reduction of economic activity as a result of the health emergency.
The UNCT has put in place a three-elements strategy to respond to the COViD-19 crisis: i) short term: the $46 million Humanitarian Response Plan recently agreed and launched with the Government; ii) mid-term: the implementation of the UN Framework for the immediate socio economic response to COVID-19 and inter-agency group on social protection; iii) long term: the implementation of the SG prevention agenda with focus on prevention of violent conflicts, building on the lessons learned from the October 2019 protests. In devising this strategy, the UNCT is aware that the 2030 Agenda remains as relevant as ever.
With this context in mind, the proposed objective is to inform these on-going strategies with a high quality human rights-based analysis that helps answer answer the question ‘Which barriers keep people beyond the reach of infrastructure, employment, services, jobs and other socio-economic early recovery measures?’ proposed in the UN Framework for the immediate socio economic response to COVID-19. The analysis would be an input for the recovery strategy and a contribution to “build back better”, linking with the “transformative economy” notion of the 2030 Agenda, making the latter shape the medium and long-term phases after COVID 19 and into recovery. In addition, the urgent need to tackle the above question was raised by the ESCR Committee in 2019 and OHCHR is in a privileged position to provide this added value