Today our world is in crisis. As the new coronavirus rages across the globe, it should no longer be possible to ignore and maintain the structural inequalities that over the last decade have kept our societies in a stranglehold and placed people’s well-being in deep peril. Inequalities were blighting the world well before the outset of COVID-19.

As we stated in our report ‘Inequalities unwrapped. An urgent call for systemic change’, economic, social, environmental and political inequalities had already reached staggering heights, further compounded by gender inequality. In 2019, this led to a multiplication of protests, marches and social unrest in all four corners of the world.

While these are still early days to know the full impact COVID-19 will bring, we already see that the pandemic, as is common in disaster situations, brutally exposes and exacerbates various forms of inequalities within and among countries. As the very wealthy are shielded from the financial and economic impacts in ways that the rest of the global population is not, the wealth and income gaps between people widen.

Billion workers will be affected due to COVID-19

Billion people lack access to hand-washing facilities in their homes


Workforce in the health sector worldwide are women


Women in developing countries work in the informal economy or in precarious jobs
Access to much needed basic social services differs, discrimination rises and socially constructed norms risk privileging some groups over others, as we see for example with gendered roles. People and states across the globe have unequal access to political decision-making, whilst civil society space shrinks further. Compounding the existing unequal impacts of climate change and some COVID-19 related environmental setbacks, these various forms of inequalities leave the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at high risk of delay or of retrogression.

Tackling inequalities and building an inclusive and sustainable economy should be on top of the EU and Member States’ priority list.

We appreciate the fact that the European Commission sets out to support the countries and people most at risk in its global response to the pandemic. However, to address inequalities comprehensively and systematically, its response must be underpinned by a multidimensional and intersectional analysis of inequalities in partner countries.

We believe that tackling inequalities and building an inclusive and sustainable economy should therefore be on top of the EU and Member States’ priority list. COVID-19 responses must align with human rights obligations and the commitment to leave no one behind. They should focus on developing the resilience of people at risk, particularly in disproportionately impacted countries.

13 recommendations:


1. Put the fight against inequalities on top of your international cooperation and partnerships’ priority list.

2. Mainstream equality in international cooperation.

3. Act in solidarity, by boosting aid levels in support of partner countries.

4. Focus on long-term and massive investments in human development.

5. Ensure the response to COVID-19 does not reinforce harmful gender norms, discriminatory practices and inequalities.

6. Promote labour rights and environmental standards through policy dialogue and trade negotiations.

7. Support the progressive collection of taxes, closing of loopholes and addressing of tax avoidance.

8. Work with EU Member States in international fora to ensure debt cancellation, and no imposition of conditionalities or austerity.

9. Invest in economic sectors or industries contributing to sustainable development and equality so they can grow and create jobs.

10. Focus support for the private sector on local micro, small and medium-sized, as well as mission-driven enterprises.

11. Financial support to business should be limited to companies which are compliant on tax, labour rights, sustainability and due diligence.

12. Safeguard and increase direct and flexible support to civil society.

13. Action to tackle the drivers of nature loss and climate change should also be prioritised.


Media enquiries

For any media questions, please contact :

Iva Petkovic
Communications Coordinator
+32 (0)2 743 87 93


Photo by Bud Helisson on Unsplash