United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro. Photograph: UN Photo/Mark Garten
The recent series of global crises – food, fuel and finance – have underscored that we live in an age of increasing vulnerabilities, where complex feedback loops cut across geographic, sectoral, and economic boundaries. Reports from the grassroots suggest that vulnerable populations are bearing a disproportionate burden.
The Global Pulse initiative was born out of the realization that we are not adequately equipped to respond. We are operating with 20th century tools in a new Millennium. Our traditional monitoring systems have been effective in tracking medium to longer term development trends, but were not designed to generate the type of real-time, cross-sectoral information that policy makers need to protect vulnerable populations in times of fast-hitting, inter-connected crises.
Global Pulse will be designed to harness the latest innovation in technologies, tools and analysis to instil the international community with the agility needed to cushion populations against future shocks. It will help bridge the current information gap between when a global crisis hits vulnerable populations and when actionable information becomes available to decision makers.
But we cannot rely on global innovation alone. The voices of vulnerable populations themselves play an important role in helping us understand how resilience is either being eroded or – in some instances – increased. It is their stories, experiences and lessons we need to listen to more often. As part of the Global Pulse initiative, the Secretary-General will be presenting regular reports highlighting how vulnerable populations are coping during crises. The first report was published in September 2009. It presented an account of the immediate impacts of the global economic downturn on populations.
The second report – which is being made public today – is entitled “Voices of the Vulnerable: Recovery from the Ground Up”. Many of the themes that emerged in last year’s report have been confirmed. We continue to hear accounts of lost employment, unaffordability of nutritious food, disproportionately high costs of coping for children, young adults and women, and growing tensions arising within families and communities as they try to make ends meet.
The voices featured in this latest report are voices of quiet sacrifice. The report’s main message is one of caution. While we may be seeing signs of recovery in countries and businesses across the world, it is clear that households – especially poor and already vulnerable families – have carried a disproportionate burden. They will emerge from this crisis seriously weakened unless global recovery plans include measures that will help rebuild their depleted resilience.
The report also highlights that we need to look beyond global and national growth estimates to understand how populations are really coping. We need to capture what lies below the radar! This is what Global Pulse is hoping to contribute by combining existing information sources with new real-time data from the ground. I hope that you will become part of the Global Pulse community and help us forge a better understanding of vulnerability and resilience.
Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations