Panafrican News Agency

AI reports says political leaders and corporate titans put profit and power ahead of people

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - Amnesty International (AI) says political leaders and corporate titans have put profit and power ahead of people, betraying promises for fair recovery from pandemic.

"Wealthy states colluded with corporate giants in 2021 to dupe people with empty slogans and false promises of a fair recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, in what amounts to one of the greatest betrayals of our times," said AI as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world.

The 2021/22 Report made available to PANA Tuesday stated that the state of the World’s Human Rights finds that these states, alongside corporate titans, have in fact driven deeper global inequality.

It details root causes including noxious corporate greed and brutal national selfishness, as well as neglect of health and public infrastructure by governments around the world.

AI report added:  “2021 should have been a year of healing and recuperation. Instead, it became an incubator for deeper inequality and greater instability, a legacy caustic for years to come,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of AI.

“Leader after leader dangled promises to ‘build back better’ to address deep-seated inequalities that exacerbated the impact of the pandemic. Instead, they have performed a tragic fable of betrayal and greed in cahoots with corporate titans. Whilst this has played out around the world, the effects have been most damaging to the most marginalized communities, including those on the front lines of endemic poverty.”

Vaccine successes undercut by self-interested nationalism and corporate greed. The rapid roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines appeared to be a scientific silver bullet, offering hope of an end to the pandemic for all.

However, despite enough production to fully vaccinate the world in 2021, by year’s end less than 4 per cent of those living in low-income countries had been fully vaccinated.

“At the G7, G20 and COP26 summits, grandstanding on a global stage, political and economic leaders paid lip service to policies that could generate a sea change in vaccine access, reverse under-investment in social protection, and tackle the impact of climate change. Heads of Big Pharma and Big Tech spun us lines about corporate responsibility.

"At this watershed movement, the stage was set for recovery, and genuine meaningful change for a more equal world,” said Callamard.

“However, they squandered the opportunity, reverting to type with policies and practice that drove further inequality.

"Members of the Rich Boys Club offered promises publicly that they reneged on privately. Wealthy states such as EU member states, the UK and the USA stockpiled more doses than needed, whilst turning a blind eye as Big Pharma put profits ahead of people, refusing to share their technology to enable wider distribution of vaccines," Callamard said.

In 2021, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna projected eye-watering profits of up to US$54 billion yet supplied less than 2% of their vaccines to low-income countries. Big Pharma were not the only corporate giants to undermine pandemic recovery for profit.

The report said social media companies such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provided fertile ground for Covid-19 misinformation, allowing vaccine hesitancy to flourish.

Some political leaders also acted as super-spreaders of misinformation, breeding distrust and fear for their own political gain.

“Social media companies’ allowed their lucrative algorithms to spread harmful misinformation about the pandemic, prioritizing the sensationalist and the discriminatory over truth,” said Callamard.

“The extent of their profiteering from that misinformation and the impact of that on the lives of millions mean those companies has a serious case to answer.”

She said whilst many countries in the Global South reaped the consequences of collusion between corporate giants and western governments, devastation was compounded by health systems and economic and social support crumbling under the weight of decades of neglect.

“Nowhere was this felt more clearly and cruelly than in Africa, which is why Amnesty International launches its report today from South Africa. With less than 8% of the continent’s population fully vaccinated by the end of 2021, it holds the lowest vaccination rate in the world, beleaguered by insufficient supplies provided to the COVAX facility, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust and through bilateral donations. Populations have been left exposed as roll-out campaigns have faltered or failed in countries with already inadequate healthcare systems."

In South Africa, approximately 750,000 children had dropped out of school by May, over three times the prepandemic number. In Viet Nam women migrant workers were particularly impacted, reporting food insecurity and inability to meet other basic needs,” she said.

According to the report,  in Venezuela, the pandemic worsened a pre-existing humanitarian emergency: 94.5 per cent of the population was living in income poverty and 76.6 per cent in extreme poverty.

“In many countries around the world, already marginalized people paid the highest cost for the deliberate policy choices of a privileged few.

"The right to health and to life were violated on a massive scale, millions were left struggling to make ends meet, many were made homeless, children were left out of education, poverty rose,” said Callamard.

“The global failure to build a global response to the pandemic also sowed the seeds of greater conflict and greater injustice. Rising poverty, food insecurity, and government instrumentalization of the pandemic to repress dissent and protests – all were well planted in 2021, watered by vaccine nationalism and fertilized by greed of the richer countries.”

-0-PANA MSS/RA  29March2022