In a recent webinar, global civil society platform CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) described the pandemic response around the world as ineffective and seriously lacking in terms of human rights and the Leave No One Behind principle, drawing from its multistakeholder research World in lockdown, development on hold: A special CPDE report on the (in)effectiveness of the Covid-19 response.

Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergencies Programme and keynote speaker at the event, echoed the findings: “A lot of communities right now are in the rearview mirror and not being observed through the lens of equity and human rights. This pandemic is uneven around the world, it’s uneven in its impacts. It’s been a great revealer: it peeled away the bandages from old wounds in our society and it’s also revealed and driven new inequities.”

Dr. Ryan lamented that while there had been great examples of community resilience and international cooperation, including in the civil society, to fight the pandemic, the world is “not doing a really good job at ensuring that basic human rights are being upheld: the right to health, the right to have access to health, the right to personal dignity, and in some cases, Covid-19 has been actually utilised as a means of denying people their rights. “We got an F, in terms of not leaving everyone behind,” he adds.

In the CPDE study, Co-Chair Beverly Longid, and Latin America and the Caribbean region’s Josefina Villegas shared that many states have used the pandemic to attack human rights and civil liberties, such as the freedoms of movement, association, and organisation, and that some countries have deployed excessive police force, instead of comprehensive medical solutions as the primary response to the pandemic.

The attacks on democratic rights and spaces, the research explains, “limit systems and mechanisms for promoting effective development cooperation (EDC) principles in the pandemic response and undermined the position of civil society organisations (CSOs) as development partners and independent actors in their own right.” At the same time, the study recognises that despite the pandemic’s challenges and the shrinking of civic space, CSOs have continued to engage in advocacy work, helping create alternative development plans especially for the marginalised, to leave no one behind.

On the subject of Covid-19 and its impact on implementing the effectiveness agenda at country level, Ulrika Modeer, Assistant Secretary General, Assistant Administrator, and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy at the United Nations Development Programme, explained that the pandemic’s main challenge to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would be the growing inequalities – between poor and rich countries, and inside rich countries as well – which have enabled the spread of the pandemic. She also pointed to the need to look at the principle of development effectiveness and challenge countries, donors, and government to leverage resources around it.

Meanwhile, in her session ‘Making aid transparent, predictable and accountable to improve the effectiveness of the pandemic response,’ Gabriella Fesus, Head of Social Inclusion and Protection, Health and Demography, European Commission, spoke of the Commission’s efforts to mobilise resources, including financial and technical support, and acknowledged that there is a need to improve the system, and develop further ownership, alignment, and inclusiveness.

Independent researcher for the CPDE International Civil Society Organisations (ICSO) sector Catherine Turner found the same impacts on international civil society, in their research. CSOs, she explained, faced limitations to their operating environment, in the form of shrinking civic space and movement restriction, as well as concerns around funding and being excluded by the government from decision-making, even as they are being engaged by governments.

Helen Holm, coordinator for Covid-19 response at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), accepting Dr. Ryan’s point regarding the world’s failure in promoting human rights in its pandemic response, and talked about how donors can do better in applying the effective development cooperation principles in the pandemic response in order to truly Leave No One Behind and deliver results. For instance, she explains that Sida early on recognised the need to support civil society, even more as restrictive measures were put in place.

Finally, Monica Asuna, Deputy Chief Economist at the National Treasury of Kenya, shared challenges in addressing the country’s priority concerns, especially the need for social assistance to the heavily affected and for health equipment and other resources to fight the pandemic, in her segment on whether Covid-19 responses are respecting the EDC principle on Country Ownership.

The discussions were moderated by CPDE Co-Chair Justin Kilcullen.

CPDE is an open platform that unites civil society organisations from around the world on the issue of effective development cooperation (EDC). It strives to make development more effective by reshaping the global aid architecture and empowering CSOs working on the ground.

To download the study and learn more, visit CPDE’s webpage on its Covid-19 engagements,