Wealthy states colluded with corporate giants in 2021 “to dupe people with empty slogans and false promises” of a fair recovery from the pandemic, said Amnesty International in its latest report.
The global human rights organization said states, “alongside corporate titans,” have driven deeper global inequality in the past year “in what amounts to one of the greatest betrayals of our times.”
Amnesty International’s “State of the World’s Human Rights” cites “noxious corporate greed and brutal national selfishness” and “neglect of health and public infrastructure by governments.”
“2021 should have been a year of healing and recuperation,” said Agnès Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International.
“Instead, it became an incubator for deeper inequality and greater instability, a legacy caustic for years to come,” she said.
Callamard said “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,” she said.
“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,” she added.
The Amnesty International report noted that 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 four percent 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,” said Callamard.
She said 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,” she said.
“However, they squandered the opportunity, reverting to type with policies and practice that drove further inequality,” said the human rights activist, adding that “Members of the Rich Boys Club offered promises publicly that they reneged on privately.”
The report tagged wealthy states, such as EU member states, the UK and the United States, of stockpiling 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.”
The report said Big Pharma are not the only corporate giants to undermine pandemic recovery for profit.
“Social media companies such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provided fertile ground for COVID-19 misinformation, allowing vaccine hesitancy to flourish,” said Callamard.
“Some political leaders also acted as super-spreaders of misinformation, breeding distrust and fear for their own political gain,” she said.
“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 have a serious case to answer.”