After decades of progress of improving conditions for the most vulnerable among us, COVID-19 pushed millions of people back into poverty in just a few months. Global poverty requires a response from global organizations. And although it is tempting to think of institutions like the World Health Organization and the United Nations as being far removed from the suffering in impoverished areas, in fact, their work improves life for one person, one family, and one community at a time. United Way’s partnership with these bodies supports our fight for the health, education, and economic mobility of those at greatest risk of poverty.
Take, for example, the (largely virtual) annual meeting of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF), occurring July 7-16, 2020. The HLPF is the UN mechanism for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). United Way and other participants will learn about, debate, and accelerate the international community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that puts us back on track to achieve the SDGs.
What does that mean for a poor woman living on less than $2 a day? It means that decisions made by HLPF participants will translate to national, state, and local entities that improve access to food, clean water, healthcare, education, and more opportunities to earn money and access the other resources her family needs.
United Way advocates, at the UN and elsewhere, for strategic volunteer engagement in the pursuit of a holistic, cross-sector, and integrated approach to the SDGs. Why? Because volunteers are on the front lines, closest to the most marginalized and vulnerable. Volunteers and the people they serve must be afforded an opportunity to be included in the development of policies that affect them. We join other volunteer-involving organizations in urging all UN Member States to consult with volunteer groups and to include volunteers and the most marginalized voices on the best approaches for achieving the SDGs.
As we battle both a pandemic and poverty, let’s remember that rebuilding after COVID-19 shouldn’t mean going back to the way things were. By participating in convenings like the HLPF and through volunteers on the ground, United Way will help communities around the world build back better. Join our fight.