Topic Overview DEVE

Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Committee on Development (DEVE)

Our best shot: with vaccines providing the most promising route out of the pandemic and the threat of new vaccine-resistant variants looming with every new infection, what can the EU do to ensure even access and distribution across the globe?

Chairperson: Lucía Sancho (ES)

Introduction and relevance to the topic

The current coronavirus pandemic has caused more than 700.000 deaths in the EU, as of October 2021, and there have been around 237 million confirmed cases worldwide. Although there are several mass vaccination programmes, half of the population globally still has not received their vaccine dose, and 50 countries did not achieve  the World Health Organisation (WHO) target (having 10% of their population fully vaccinated by the end of September). 

According to the WHO, the first mass vaccination programme started in December 2020. At the moment, 13 different vaccines have been approved by the WHO, e.g. AstraZeneca, Moderna, Janssen and Sonopharm. Scientists believe vaccination to be the most efficient long-term solution to the virus. Even though the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of the virus, it lessens the symptoms or severity of disease. 

However, some of these vaccines may not protect for as long as they should, due to the many variants of the virus. Moreover, the access and distribution of vaccines among different countries is not equal as there is a large gap between the vaccinated population in Western European countries, Africa, Eastern Europe as well as several Asian areas.

The more possibilities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates, creating more variants. Most of these mutations do not have a huge impact on the abilities of the virus. However, some Covid-19 variants have evolved into more contagious and severe viruses. Scientists now focus on a potential new threat: people who have had COVID-19 may remain susceptible to reinfection, and proven vaccines may, at some point, need an update. Due to this, global access and distribution of vaccines must be achieved as soon as possible, or else the virus will continue spreading, provoking deaths and creating dangerous variants.

Key conflicts

More than 50 countries have missed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target for 10% of their population to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of September. Many of these are low-income countries dealing with health infrastructure issues or suffering from conflict or civil unrest. The others have been affected by natural disasters, making the vaccine distribution process even more difficult. Some of these countries also fail to distribute the vaccine among their citizens before it expires. For instance, 24 countries, almost all of them in Africa, report using less than a third of their vaccines due to this issue. 15 of those report using less than a fourth. The reasons might be the insufficient international help to cover the logistic cost of mass vaccination and the recent news about extremely rare but potentially deadly side effects of some of the vaccines. Although research has not directly attributed any death to any of the Covid-19 vaccines, fake news has become a great barrier to global immunization and has led to anti-vaccination groups. Even in developed countries, such as the US, 33% of the population do not want the vaccine due to the misinformation that is being spread concerning its side effects.  

In addition, there are several difficulties when it comes to the vaccine administration. All the vaccines carry different handling requirements, storage protocols and guidelines for thawing and timing doses. Healthcare workers need instruction about the distribution and  storage of each vaccine. Many countries simply can not afford this training. With the increasing variants and mutations of COVID-19, healthcare workers will need up-to-date training for every new vaccine. 

Furthermore, during the pandemic, each state, tribe and territory has developed its own process for distributing the vaccine to the citizens in their jurisdiction. Non-governmental organisations do not have the power to coordinate the distribution of the vaccines once they have arrived in the country. Although organisations such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared relevant guidance, it is up to each state to decide whether to accept it or not.  Even inside of the European Union, vaccination policy is a competence of national authorities meaning the EU can only assist and recommend actions. Also, compulsory vaccination is an interference with the human right of bodily integrity, which is a part of the right to private life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as in the European Convention on Human Rights, meaning that global vaccination can only be achieved if all governments and citizens agree to it. 

Lastly, even with a proper scheduling system, planning appointments for vaccination is complicated to manage, keeping in mind that vaccine shipments might not arrive or are inconsistent in some areas of the globe. Also, there is a lack of transparency about Covid-19 vaccines, which leads to corrupt networks or even stolen or diverted vaccines. These situations increase the hardships with consistent and safe distribution. 

Key actors

The World Health Organization (WHO) is an agency founded in 1948 that promotes health by keeping the world safe and serving vulnerable countries. It directs and coordinates responses to health emergencies and currently works along 194 Member States.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is an international organisation whose mission is to save and protect lives by promoting proportionate and sustainable use of vaccines. It has helped vaccinate more than 888 million children in low-income countries and has prevented around 15 million possible deaths.

The European Commission (EC) ​​helps to adjust the EU’s overall strategy, suggests new EU laws and policies, controls their implementation and handles the EU budget. It also plays a significant role in supporting international development and delivering aid.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is a global partnership that started in 2017 and aims to develop vaccines in order to enable equitable access to vaccines of infectious diseases and prevent future epidemics.

The Emergency Support Instrument (ESI) is a crisis support fund that helps Member States respond to the coronavirus pandemic by addressing needs in a strategic and coordinated manner at European level. The Emergency Support Instrument is based on the principle of solidarity and pools efforts and resources to quickly address shared strategic needs. The instrument helps mitigate the immediate consequences of the pandemic and anticipate the needs related to the recovery.

Measures in place

Although it is certain that there is no fair access and distribution of the vaccines around the globe, several strategies and  mechanisms have been created to solve the problem. For instance, the European Commission has created the EU Vaccines Strategy in which it secures equitable and affordable access to vaccines to all Member States. It takes a common EU approach, cooperating with individual vaccine producers to buy vaccines, and financing comes from the budget of the Emergency Support Instrument.

As for global cooperation, the European Union has contributed 1 billion euros for the COVAX Facility. Also, the Commission set up an EU vaccine sharing mechanism which allows 27 Member States to share EU purchased doses with third countries. Furthermore, on 21 May 2021 at the G20 Global Health Summit, the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen announced a new initiative called Team Europe. This initiative’s purpose is to help create an enabling environment for local manufacturing in Africa and tackle barriers on both supply and demand sides. It will be backed by 1 billion euros from the EU budget and other European development finance institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Moreover, there are many global collaborations to accelerate the development and access to COVID-19 vaccines. Two of these are The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and  the Task Force. The Task Force is a joint initiative from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group, World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO) aiming to accelerate access to COVID-19 vaccines by offering finance and trade solutions for low- and middle- income countries. They also met with the CEOs of leading vaccine manufacturing companies to discuss and express concerns about not reaching their target of vaccinating at least 40% of the global population by the end of 2021. They suggested distributing doses to low- and lower middle-income countries, demonstrating transparency on vaccine supply, eliminating export restrictions and prohibitions as well as regulating streamlining and harmonisation. Finally, there are other organisations and mechanisms such as the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that play a significant role in equal vaccine distribution.

Questions to think about

  • How can new variants of the COVID-19 virus be prevented in order to avoid the need of redistribution of new vaccines in the future?
  • How can it be ensured that low-income countries use their vaccines before they expire?
  • How can the EU increase equal access to vaccines outside of the European Union?
  • How can healthcare workers in low- and lower middle-income countries receive the necessary training in order to efficiently store and distribute the vaccines?
  • How can the EU  ensure that there is enough transparency regarding the distribution and access to vaccines in all countries?

Links for further research

Introductory Clauses

The European Youth Parliament,

  1. Acknowledging the fact that more than 50 countries have missed the Global Health Organization’s target for vaccination,
  2. Underlining the fact that 24 countries report not using in their vaccines before they expire,
  3. Noting with concern the high prices of the vaccines and the logistic cost of mass vaccination programs, 
  4. Taking into consideration that vaccination policy is a competence of national authorities,
  5. Pointing out that healthcare workers need instruction about handling requirements, storage protocols and guidelines for thawing and timing doses for every different vaccine,
  6. Deeply concerned by the widely spread fake news concerning side effects of coronavirus vaccine and the anti-vaccination groups,
  7. Aware of the lack of transparency and the increasing corruption regarding vaccines,
  8. Regretting the current inconsistent distribution of vaccines around the globe,
  9. Expressing it’s satisfaction that the European Commission has created a(n):
    1. EU Vaccine Strategy ensuring access to vaccines to all Member States,
    2. Vaccine sharing mechanism allowing Member States to share EU purchased doses to third countries,
    3. Initiative  called “Team Europe” enabling local manufacturing of the vaccines in Africa;

Topic Overview ECON

Topic Overviews Amsterdam 2021

Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON)

Home is where the slum landlord is: with urban property prices on the increase, some citizens are left unable to access housing, therefore unable to fully enjoy the socioeconomic opportunities offered by European cities. What measures can governments take in ensuring all citizens access affordable housing in urban areas?

Chairperson: Carla Sava (RO)

Introduction and relevance of the topic

Decent housing is universally viewed as a basic human need, being associated with safety, high levels of productivity and wellbeing and great opportunities. However, nowadays it’s increasingly difficult to have a roof under our head, as many European countries are confronting soaring housing prices. Between 2007 and 2019, housing prices increased by 19% across the European Union (EU), conversely wages are not keeping pace

This trend of high prices can be explained from various perspectives. In many large European cities, housing and renting prices have been pushed up by low interest rates, land shortages, an increased consumers’ confidence to enter the real estate market and construction that cannot keep pace with demand

This approach to see housing as a commodity and not a fundamental right have left some European citizens behind in the long run. For almost two years now, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted social protection systems, affecting  people who were already unable to access proper housing: the poorest, the homeless, those in insecure employment and young people .

Additionally, the economic consequences of the pandemic led to the young generation being unable to find a home in an exclusionary and dysfunctional housing market. Living in a major city to study or work is a burden for students, who are competing in this market segment with families and tourists. Small housing units are not a solution either: the average rent for a one-bed apartment can be more than 100% of the income of a young person, as is the case in Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Helsinki
The concept of housing affordability has become a central point of discussion across Europe. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has outlined the importance of a secure and comfortable home for our state of health and mind. Yet for some of us having an adequate house is a pipe dream. Therefore, every effort needs to be made to build on effective and inclusive regulation of the housing market.

Key actors

The European Central Bank (ECB) is the central bank of the Eurozone. Its main roles consists of monitoring price trends and assessing risks to price stability, including in the housing market. It also sets negative interest rates at which it lends to commercial banks, controlling inflation and thus raising demand for houses.

Being the executive branch of the EU, the European Commission (EC) proposes laws and policies, monitors their implementation and manages the EU budget. The European Federation of Public, Cooperative & Social Housing Providers is a valuable example of an EU network that focuses on facilitating access to decent housing for all.

The Member States’s governments remedy market failures, including direct public expenditure, and regulation of rent prices. Tenancy law is the responsibility of each MS, which implements national policies based on models of social protection. In particular, cities are at the heart of the Urban Agenda for the European Union, being affected by the housing crisis directly.`

A significant role in this field is played by the private housing sector. In the midst of a housing bubble, the EU real estate market is not a niche investment anymore due to low interest rates. Thus, additional demand in the property sector is created and prices are pushed even higher.

Lastly, the homeless, those at risk of poverty and young people are the focus of this problem. They are monitored and helped by local NGOs and social protection projects. Such a notable organisation is FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless), the only European NGO focusing exclusively on the homeless and the barriers they face including in the housing sector. 

Key conflicts

The right to housing vs disproportionate income levels

International law recognises everyone’s right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing ever since the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although 27 MS have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where the right to housing is stipulated, around 82 million citizens are overburdened by housing costs, spending more than 40% of their disposable income on housing. With an estimated 96.5 million Europeans at risk of poverty or social exclusion, and poor households spending the same or even higher amount on housing than non-poor households, the universal right to live in acceptable housing conditions is greatly challenged.

The COVID-19 Pandemic vs overcrowding housing

Overcrowding and living in close proximity to others during the pandemic is among the highest risk factors for the spread of the virus. Conversely, in Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Poland, over 35% of the population are living in overcrowded accommodation. Young people experiencing poverty are also more likely to face overcrowding in housing than any other category. 

Therefore, people experience physical and mental health problems such as depression and sleep disorders related to a lack of space in their homes, especially during lockdowns. The existing housing overcrowding situation makes it harder to self-isolate and protect from COVID-19 and  contributes to higher infection and death rates.

Housing inequalities and segregation effects on low-income individuals

The primary factor that influences the choice of living remains the socio-economic one. High-income and low-income individuals have different housing opportunities that contribute to increasing economic and social segregation in many European cities. There is a tendency of high-income individuals living near other rich households and poor individuals segregating themselves in less in-demand neighbourhoods. 

This „freedom of choice” is not a real choice, resulting in low-income citizens experiencing ”residential alienation” and  socio-economic segregation effects. For example, medical services are more plentiful in high-income neighbourhoods. Youngsters in poor households have lower levels of educational attainment, higher levels of bad behaviour, and unsatisfactory prospects for the future

Measures in place

The New Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European cities provides a policy framework for integrating and ensuring the implementation of sustainable urban development strategies in Europe’s cities. The document is strongly aligned with the EU Cohesion Policy 2021-2027

The Urban Agenda for the EU is an integrated and coordinated approach to deal with the urban dimension of the EU. In 2016, through the Pact of Amsterdam, EU Ministers Responsible for Urban Matters agreed on this agenda to improve the quality of life in urban areas. Partnerships are established between MS, cities, the EC, NGOs and businesses, with two such partnerships having been launched on housing and urban poverty so far.

Housing Europe is the European Federation of Public, Cooperative and Social Housing. This network of over 43,000 local housing organisations has provided access to decent housing for all communities in 25 countries. One notable project in collaboration with the EC is the Affordable housing initiative (AHI) which aims to pilot 100 lighthouse renovation districts to create liveable and affordable homes.

The European Social Charter is a Council of Europe treaty that guarantees fundamental social and economic rights including the right to housing, social protection and welfare as a counterpart to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Although limited competences in the housing sector, the EU makes use of „soft power” measures such as recommendations and guidelines dedicated to MS governments. EU policy initiatives aiming to improve access to affordable housing include Principle 19 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, Country Specific Recommendations as well as the projects funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

Questions to think about

  • Are there any examples of European countries with functioning and accessible housing systems? If so, what may be the key element for these systems? If not, what do you think is missing for them to function?
  • How can the EU dilemma between its limited competences and real concerns regarding housing policy be solved? 
  • Do you think that social housing systems across Europe are efficient and adequate enough in order to be considered a solution for the homeless and those at risk of poverty?
  • How do you think young people without employment prerequisites can  be considered as solvent as older and more financially-stable individuals to compete in the housing market?

Links for further research

Introductory clauses

The European Youth Parliament, 

  1. Alarmed by the fact that housing prices increased by 19% across the European Union (EU) in the past decade,
  2. Bearing in mind that the low interest rates set by the European Central Bank (ECB) create additional demand in the property sector,
  3. Acknowledging that 27 Member States have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights where the right to adequate housing is stipulated, 
  4. Nothing with regret that the Member State’s response to the EU’s housing crisis is unsatisfactory,
  5. Further noting with deep concern that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the EU housing systems, affecting:
    1. the homeless population and low-income citizens,
    2. people in insecure employment;
    3. young people,
  6. Gravely concerned by the increasing economic and social segregation between high-income and low-income households across the EU, in the form of:
    1. unequal access to medical services and the labour market,
    2. negative effects on young people’s educational attainment and career prospects;
  7. Fully alarmed that 96.5 million Europeans are at risk of poverty or social exclusion are either homeless or overburdened by housing costs,,
  8. Deploring that 17% of the EU population live in overcrowded accommodation, hindering the need to self-isolate and protect from COVID-19 and contributing to higher infection and death rates during the pandemic,
  9. Expressing its satisfaction with the implementation of the Urban Agenda for the EU