The UN and COVID-19

Seventy-five years after world leaders united to promote global peace and progress through cooperation, representatives from the international community stood in the United Nations General Assembly Hall on Monday to reaffirm their commitment to this promise.
To mark the occasion, Secretary General (SG) António Guterres underscored the enduring power of the UN Charter, the founding document, and the importance of multilateralism. He said: “At its birth, the United Nations was a symbol of global unity.  Today, it is the epicentre”, adding “our mission is more important than ever”.
Guterres has, indeed, echoed what several Heads of State, including our own President Irfaan Ali, had said; that is, it is only through working together that the world can fulfil ambitions such as fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing conflict, promoting sustainable development, upholding human rights, and protecting the planet.
With the COVID-19 pandemic creating havoc in most parts of the world, international cooperation and solidarity has never been more crucial. It is a time when the UN and other development partners must lead the way in helping the world’s poorest recover from the devastating social and economic effects the virus has had on people all over.
During his address to the historic and unprecedented 75th session, SG Guterres had made a passionate appeal for global solidarity to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. He labelled the pandemic as “not only a wake-up call” but “a dress rehearsal” for challenges to come. Urging the UN’s 193 Member States to move forward in humility and unity in the face of the disease, the Secretary General underscored the need for solidarity at this moment, particularly as countries least capable to address COVID-19 have received far too little assistance.
For Guterres, the pandemic has exposed fragilities and inequalities across the globe. It has generated “an epochal health crisis”, the biggest economic and job losses since the Great Depression, and dangerous new threats to human rights, among other challenges.
He, therefore, urged that recovering from COVID-19 must lead to a better future for all, anchored by inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies. He emphasised the need for what he labelled a New Social Contract, at the national level, and a New Global Deal, applicable internationally. This new social contract, according to the SG, has several components, such as ending exclusion, discrimination and racism, and establishing Universal Health Coverage and even a possible Universal Basic Income.
It also entails having fairer tax systems, providing education for all, harnessing digital technology, and ensuring human rights as well as opportunities for women and girls.
Guyana has also been exposed to the fragilities occasioned from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and is also benefiting from the UN’s support in suppressing the virus and mitigating the socio-economic effects that have crippled countries far more economically advanced than ours.
We are also now in a better position to fight against the pandemic and receive funding with a legitimately- elected Government, that is embracing the New Social Contract outlined by Guterres, in place.
So far, in excess of 4000 Guyanese have been infected with the virus, with 119 losing their lives trying to fight it off.
Efforts are currently being made to build capacity locally to treat with the expected rise in numbers, as well as decrease the time it takes before the results for COVID-19 tests can be returned.
As we continue the herculean task to fight this ever-changing pandemic, we must be cognisant of the important role that the UN is playing to ensure some semblance of equanimity in a globalised world where inequality is prevalent.
Guyana joins with the rest of the world in saluting the UN for the tremendous progress it has made in various areas; whether it is in improving health and well-being of persons, peace building, ending hunger, building and strengthening democracy or economic and social development.