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Back | Programme Area: Research-Related Activities, Research-Related Activities 2020+

Covid-19: Protecting and Supporting Vulnerable Groups

  • Project from: 2020 to 2020

In seeking to offer a timely and relevant response to the Covid-19 situation in line with UNRISD’s strategic focus, mission and mandate, in early 2020 the Institute directed its inquiry towards the uneven distribution of impacts of both the pandemic and the crisis response, as well as the social, political and economic drivers of these disparities.

With a blog series, online survey, report, and launch webinar, UNRISD successfully engaged its networks and drew on its vast body of social development research to provide evidence-based insights into the Covid-19 crisis as it developed and evolved throughout the year. Given the timing of the Institute's initiative in early 2020, when many low-income and least developed countries were typically seeing relatively low infection rates and policies were still taking shape, there was also a window of opportunity for informed analysis to provide added value in such contexts.

Our attention focused on vulnerable groups, motivated by the principles of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first. UNRISD had a rich body of research and analysis to draw upon. The long-standing focus on more equal and resilient systems that is emblematic of the Institute’s work is highly relevant in emergency and crisis situations. And as the world faced a global pandemic that both exposed and exacerbated inequalities, this substantial body of work provided important insights and lessons: the imperative of universalism in social policies; that there can be no resilience without social and environmental justice; the gendered impact of crises and policy responses; the need for renewed commitments to international solidarity and multilateralism; and the role of research in making sense of the crisis.

Through this work we were able to present viable approaches for (re)building social, political and economic systems to bring about lasting transformative change, that will not only leave us better prepared for future crisis events, but also support a vision of social justice, equality and sustainability, as laid out by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Activities and Outputs

Online Survey
The Institute drew on the knowledge and expertise of its global network, as well as this reputational capital, when it launched a survey primarily targeted at its network of academics and practitioners. The objective was to gain rapid insight into how Covid-19 policies and interventions (by governments and non-state actors) were affecting vulnerable individuals, groups and communities; and from that propose evidence-based recommendations on how they could be better designed to ensure that the Covid-19 response leaves no one behind (while bearing in mind that there could be no one-size-fits all answers).

The UNRISD Covid-19 survey was open from 27 April to 21 June 2020 in English, French and Spanish (responses in other languages were also welcome), and 329 responses were received. The survey responses confirmed that, as a result of lockdowns, many people around the world faced a terrible choice between lives and livelihoods.

Report: Protecting and Supporting Vulnerable Groups Through the Covid-19 Crisis
UNRISD published its report, Protecting and Supporting Vulnerable Groups Through the Covid-19 Crisis, in July 2020. The report presents the main trends, effectiveness and unintended consequences of policies and other interventions brought to light by the survey; and discusses good practices, as well as what more could be done to protect and support vulnerable groups now and going forward. Taken together, these unique insights should help inform the design of future policies and interventions to leave no one behind in addressing this pandemic, as well as public health crises to come.

The UNRISD report is also included in the United Nations iLibrary (the global search, discovery, and viewing source for digital content created by the United Nations).

Webinar: Lives or Livelihoods?
On 9 July UNRISD convened a webinar titled Lives or Livelihoods? Protecting and Supporting Vulnerable Groups Through the Covid-19 Crisis to launch the report, with opening remarks from Dr. David Nabarro, the WHO Covid-19 Special Envoy. Speakers were Eva Bortolotti and Paul Ladd, the authors of the UNRISD report, and the discussant was Rockaya Aidara, Policy Specialist at the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).

Read the posts on Covid-19 Response in English or French.