UN faults poor global response to Covid-19

UN faults poor global response to Covid-19

Moses Kuwema

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has faulted the poor global response to Covid-19. 

UN stated it is unfortunate that governments across the world did not mount a joint response to the COVID-19 pandemic despite the World Health Organisation providing factual information and scientific guidance that should have been the basis for coordinated global action.

Addressing the Nobel Peace Prize Forum on Friday, Secretary-General Guterres said the pandemic was a crisis like no other, in which the world faced a common enemy.   

Secretary-General Guterres said the response to COVID-19 has been fragmented and chaotic, with countries, regions and even cities competing against each other for essential supplies and front‑line workers.

"We cannot let the same thing happen for access to new COVID‑19 vaccines, which must be a global public good. 

"The social and economic impact of the pandemic is enormous, and growing. No vaccine can undo the damage that has already been done.

"We face the biggest global recession in eight decades. Extreme poverty is rising; the threat of famine looms.  These intergenerational impacts are the result of long‑term fragilities, inequalities and injustices that have been exposed by the pandemic," said Secretary-General Guterres.

Guterres said he was encouraged by the response to his appeal for global ceasefire, in which he countries should focus on fighting the virus.

And Secretary-General Guterres said the UN has advocated for a stimulus package worth at least 10 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), and for debt relief for all countries that need it.  

He said many low- and middle‑income developing countries need immediate support to avert a liquidity crisis as they were being forced to choose between providing basic services for their people, and servicing their debts.

"The initiative we launched with the Governments of Canada and Jamaica has developed policy options for financing the response to COVID‑19 and putting us back on course to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. 

These include increasing the resources available to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), through a new allocation of special drawing rights to the benefit of developing countries, and a voluntary reallocation of unused special drawing rights," said Secretary-General Guterres.

Secretary-General Guterres also hoped the G20 debt initiatives will be broadened so that all vulnerable developing countries are eligible, including all middle‑income countries that need debt relief.

"In the longer‑term, we need a reformed global architecture to enhance debt transparency and sustainability. I am pressing for these policies in all my global engagements, most recently at the G20. 

"The severe limitations of global cooperation and governance extend far beyond the pandemic. 

"The erosion of the nuclear disarmament regime and the lawless frontiers of cyberspace are just two areas that could produce a full‑blown global emergency within the next decade," he said.

He observed that without urgent action, the world may be headed for a catastrophic 3- to 5‑degree temperature rise this century.  

Every year, fires and floods, cyclones and hurricanes break new records, causing the greatest devastation to those who did least to contribute to global heating, and are least equipped to deal with it.

"I see signs of hope in the growing coalition, led by young people, civil society, business, cities and regions, pushing for urgent climate action.  Mindsets are gradually shifting.  

"The European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, Republic of Korea and more than 100 countries have committed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050," he said.

Secretary-General Guterres said the central objective of the United Nations for 2021 is to build a truly global coalition for carbon neutrality.  

"Every country, city, financial institution and company should adopt plans for transitioning to net‑zero emissions  2050. 

"I encourage the main emitters to lead the way by taking decisive decisions now.  Carbon should be given a price; fossil fuel subsidies should end; coal must be phased out.  We must shift the tax burden from income to carbon, from taxpayers to polluters.  The recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic is an opportunity to build this momentum into a movement, and to integrate the goal of carbon neutrality into every economic and fiscal policy and decision," said Secretary-General Guterres.

And Secretary-General Guterres said many African countries that did not exist as independent states 75 years ago when the UN was formed, deserve their rightful place at the global table.

He said the developing world more broadly must have a far stronger voice in global decision‑making and any efforts to improve global governance must take this into account.

"Reforming global governance must be one step towards creating a fairer world that can solve shared problems before they overwhelm us.  We need global governance structures that deliver on critical global public goods, including public health, climate action, sustainable development, and peace," he said. 

"In addition to more inclusive and equal participation in global institutions, we need a global financial architecture that recognizes the need for solidarity in the face of global threats. A more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system will enable developing countries to move up global value chains," said Secretary-General Guterres.

And Secretary-General Guterres said there was need to reduce and end illicit financial flows, money-laundering and tax evasion, including through achieving a global consensus to end tax havens.

He said there was a need to integrate the principles of sustainable development into financial decision‑making.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Guterres said the future of multilateralism lies in mobilizing governments at national and global levels, companies, civil society and individuals.

"Today’s crisis can and must be turned into an opportunity for change.  The Nobel Committee showed the way by awarding its Peace Prize to the World Food Programme (WFP). 

"WFP is the embodiment of an effective global organization.  It operates above the realm of politics, based on humanitarian values – our responsibility to people in need.  The prize recognizes the essential link between feeding the hungry, solidarity with those in need, and world peace," concluded Secretary-General Guterres.