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Overcoming COVID-19 to rebuild a better future


Jean Lebel

President, IDRC

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a year like no other. We face a health crisis, but also crises of economy, food security, education, housing, and other forms that will have long-lasting effects unless we generate timely, contextualized, and robust evidence to support sustainable, effective, and innovative solutions reaching everyone.

IDRC is a committed partner in this effort, responding to the pandemic through CA$54.6 million in COVID-19 programming.  

The power of science and research to overcome COVID-19

Never before in our lifetime has quality research, sound evidence, and effective policymaking been so critical to the immediate and long-term health of the global community.

The pandemic knows no borders and a strong response is needed in every country. The COVID-19 pandemic has put global inequalities into sharp focus as we see vulnerable and marginalized populations worldwide at particular risk from the pandemic’s direct and indirect effects.

It is critical that local researchers engage in COVID-19 research to develop fit-for-purpose solutions that address both the pandemic and the broader social and economic effects.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been working closely with grantees and partners to generate research and evidence and to leverage the capacity of our worldwide network of researchers and policymakers to develop contextualized and effective pandemic responses. We remain deeply committed to this work and to our grantees and partners

IDRC’s response to COVID-19

IDRC is supporting research that responds to urgent local needs, strengthens local capacities, and focuses on the most vulnerable populations, with an eye toward building more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable societies, economies, and environments.

COVID-19 threatens to erase decades of progress, including towards gender equality. IDRC’s response includes a three-year, CA$25 million rapid-response initiative funding research in 42 countries to understand the social and economic impacts of the pandemic, advance gender equality, improve existing responses, and generate better policy options for recovery.

One project, led by the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) network, is conducting a global study on COVID-19 and the informal economy across 12 cities in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Early results show that unless governments act, women in the informal sector face a long road to recovery. Lockdowns have led to sudden and substantial drops in earnings for many workers, eroding any assets they may have accumulated, with grave consequences for them and their families. The research is pointing to a need for financing and policies that restore livelihoods with better terms for women in informal employment.

Findings produced by another research partner for the rapid-response initiative, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), point to the limited means in many low-income countries to support economic and social responses. While G20 governments are spending an average of about US$3,900 per person on COVID-19 response packages, the average in sub-Saharan Africa is only about US$52 per person. This wide disparity underscores the importance of locally relevant evidence to advise on the best use of limited resources.

IDRC recently launched a new strategy, Strategy 2030, that guides our response to these and other pressing global challenges through investing in high-quality research and innovation, an expanded focus on sharing knowledge, and a commitment to mobilize global alliances to support more sustainable and inclusive societies in the developing world.

Collaboration is at the core of our new strategy and of our COVID-19 response. Collaboration with partners, with researchers, with policymakers, and other stakeholders to build an innovative, agile research response. As with every area of research we support, IDRC is a long-term partner on COVID-19 research, committed to achieving a better future for everyone.

Jean Lebel
President of IDRC