UN chief calls for 'large-scale' coronavirus response of 10 percent of global GDP

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this week called for a “large-scale” international response to the global coronavirus crisis, consisting of 10 percent of global GDP -- and promising that the U.N. is “fully mobilized” to support such an effort.

“What is needed is a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 percent of global GDP,” he said in remarks at the launch of a report on the socioeconomic impacts of the virus.

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He called for fiscal and monetary policies that would support households, give health and unemployment insurance, social protection and support to businesses. He noted that a number of developed countries can implement such policies by themselves and are doing so already. The U.S. last week passed a $2 trillion stimulus package containing a number of such measures to support households and businesses through the crisis.

But Guterres said that countries in the developing world will need help, and pointed to the possibility of international bodies being the facilitator of such efforts.

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“But we must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the International Monetary Fund, namely through the issuance of special drawing rights, and the other international financial institutions to rapidly inject resources into the countries that need them,” he said.

He also suggested swaps among banks to bring liquidity to developing economies, as well as debt alleviation and interest waivers.

“The United Nations system is fully mobilized, providing guidance for global efforts, supporting country responses and placing our supply chains at the world’s disposal,” he said before announcing the creation of a "new multi-partner Trust Fund for COVID-19 Response and Recovery to support low- and middle-income countries to respond to the emergency and recover from the socio-economic shock."

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After the crisis is over, Guterres said, the recovery should lead to "a different economy."

"Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges we face," he said.

The call to action comes after Guterres announced a $2 billion global response package last week. The package will be coordinated by the body’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). National governments will be urged to commit to the plan, while keeping up their existing funding to a plethora of U.N. projects and funds.

“Properly funded, it will save lives and arm humanitarian agencies and NGOs with laboratory supplies for testing and with better equipment to treat the sick while protecting healthcare workers,” Guterres said. “The plan includes additional measures to support communities who open their homes and towns to refugees and displaced persons.”

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But critics have cast doubt on the plans, wondering whether the U.N.’s own record on waste and accountability make it the right vehicle for such an expensive global response.

“Can an unaccountable bureaucracy be trusted with billions of dollars in extra cash? Absolutely not,” Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute told Fox News on Saturday. “The Secretary General has more than enough money available to meet his needs, he just needs to shift it around. The U.N. Human Rights Council has become an expensive joke. Why is the U.N. funding the World Tourism Organization at a time when almost all governments are calling for people to stay home?”

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“The list of U.N. waste is long and now is the perfect time for the Secretary General to tell his staff the money needs to go where it can help people, for example, UNHCR rather than simply hold his hand out to other governments,” he said.

Others said that more information was needed about what Guterres is proposing.

"If he is proposing giving these resources to the U.N. system, it would represent a massive expansion of resources to organizations that have a troubling history of mismanagement and inefficiency," Brett Schaefer, a leading expert on the U.N. at The Heritage Foundation, told Fox News. "In 2018, global GDP was $85 trillion. Total revenue for the U.N. system in 2018 was $56 billion. Moreover, we have seen the World Health Organization badly mishandle the response to COVID-19 by trusting information from China. Why that experience would give governments confidence to give such resources to the UN is a mystery."

The U.N. caused more controversy this week when China joined a panel on the Human Rights Counil, a panel on the controversial U.N. Human Rights Council, where it will help vet candidates for important posts -- despite its decades-long record of systematic human rights abuse that the U.S. has said fueled the coronavirus pandemic.