With COVID‑19 becoming the biggest challenge the global community has faced since the Second World War and the founding of the United Nations 75 years ago, delegates stressed the need to bolster international cooperation in combating its devastating effects, as the Second Committee continued its general debate today.
Noting that efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are falling behind due to COVID‑19, the United Kingdom’s representative said all nations must work together in tackling the coronavirus. Throughout the pandemic, his country has remained a staunch supporter of the international response, which has included contributing to the World Health Organization and United Nations development system.
Peru’s delegate highlighted inequality among countries fighting the pandemic, calling on the international community to consider vaccines and therapeutic treatments as global public goods. The representative of Sierra Leone stressed that international cooperation is needed now more than ever, as the pandemic’s unprecedented breadth exposes many States’ lack of recovery financing. As his country grapples with COVID‑19’s seemingly endless cycles, he called on the United Nations system and international community for urgent economic and humanitarian aid.
Similarly, the representative of Liechtenstein noted that the pandemic has further accentuated profound inequalities and discrimination within societies and among countries, with 71 million people expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020. Health and education systems are stressed to the point of collapse, with estimates suggesting that world trade will drop by more than 30 per cent for 2020.
China´s representative underscored that Governments should work to uphold the multilateral trading system of the World Trade Organization and full functioning of the global supply chain. Development, improved Government structures and safeguarding the international system, with the United Nations as its core, are vital, she said.
In a like manner, Kyrgyzstan’s delegate stressed the need to restore trade disrupted by the pandemic, particularly for developing countries whose economies depend on exports as well as imports of essential goods, including medicines. It is also necessary to remove “forced sanitary barriers” to the free movement of goods by certain States, which should only apply necessary and proportionate limitations.
He also said pandemic recovery measures should be aimed at financing for development and debt relief, particularly for developing nations. Emphasizing the importance of restructuring focused on debt‑swaps for projects in health care, environmental protection and implementation of green economy principles, he said these will release resources to combat the pandemic and boost recovery.
In addition to the pandemic, nations urged the international community to focus on long‑term existing challenges like climate change and principles underpinning the Sustainable Development Goals, which remain key to building back after COVID‑19. “There is no doubt that our insufficient progress on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is catching up with us in the current pandemic,” one delegate said.
Also speaking were the representatives of Mexico, Honduras, Armenia, Thailand, Colombia, India, Republic of Korea, Iceland, Nicaragua, Senegal, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Norway, Pakistan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Eritrea, Algeria, Morocco, Nepal, Iraq, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Gambia.
The Committee will meet again on Thursday, 8 October at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.
The representative of Mexico said the pandemic highlights the need for more cooperation, and the United Nations remains the best option for global solutions. In that regard, his Government launched a draft resolution on vaccine access, which was adopted in April. He noted that now is not the time to fall back on the models of the past, accenting the three developmental dimensions, environmental, economic and social. Member States should opt for direct dialogue towards concrete results, and the international community must ensure that no marginalized groups, from migrants to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, are left behind. He stressed the major issue of lack of Internet connectivity in a global world, underscoring the importance of the Secretary-General’s Road Map for Digital Cooperation, as it is a public good.
The representative of Peru stated the pandemic stands as the major challenge facing the world since the United Nations was founded 75 years ago. The crisis highlights the need for more inclusive societies and demands the eradication of poverty and inequality, and that the international community consider vaccines and therapeutic treatments as global public goods. He welcomed initiatives by the Governments of Canada, Costa Rica and Jamaica, aiming at a more inclusive recovery. The world must focus on middle-income countries to ensure the gains of past decades are locked in. While the urgency of climate action was underscored at the September 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit, the pandemic makes climate financing even more urgent. He noted Peru is one of the world’s 10 most megadiverse countries, accenting the importance of urgent action needed to preserve biodiversity. Managing disaster risk must be a major priority on the international agenda, addressing infrastructure, climate change and mitigation plans.
The representative of Sierra Leone, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the Group of Least Developed Countries and the African Group, said the unprecedented breadth of the pandemic situation has exposed vulnerabilities of many States, especially in financing. The crisis has greatly affected Sierra Leone, triggering great trouble at the macro and microeconomic levels. As the country grapples with the seemingly endless cycles of the pandemic, cooperation is needed more than ever. He called on the United Nations system and international community for urgent economic response and humanitarian aid, especially for least developed countries. Despite the multidimensional challenges of 2020, he noted Sierra Leone is continuing its medium-term national development plan, including spending 21 per cent of the country’s budget on free universal education.
The representative of Honduras said the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in huge global impacts, representing the biggest challenge the international community has faced since the Second World War. Adding that it has claimed heavy social and economic costs, she said Honduras has closed its borders and is suffering from the significant contraction in global output. Honduras has developed a plan focusing on containing the pandemic´s spread, is putting health measures into place and distributing food to the most vulnerable. Many people are experiencing a partial reduction or total lack of income, increasing the poverty level and creating challenges in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The United Kingdom’s representative, noting that the global economy, as well as efforts to reach the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, are falling behind due to COVID-19, stressed that all nations must work together to ameliorate its effects through multilateralism. Throughout the pandemic, his country has remained a staunch supporter of the international response, which has included contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations development system. However, despite the pandemic, the international community must not lose sight of long-term existing challenges like climate change, striving to reduce emissions and promote green and inclusive growth. It is vital that the most vulnerable countries are fully considered, along with conflict and post-conflict nations, in such efforts.
Armenia’s delegate said that while many nations around the world have been struggling with the global socioeconomic crisis caused by COVID-19, some States have decided to take advantage of the global vulnerabilities caused by the pandemic to materialize long-standing threats of using force in clear violation of the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire. He stated that on 27 September, Azerbaijan armed forces, with support of external actors and foreign terrorist fighters, launched a large-scale attack along the entire line of contact with Nagorno-Karabakh, killing dozens of civilians and wounding hundreds. Civilian settlements and critical infrastructure were destroyed causing serious environmental risks, with all calls by the international community to cease hostilities rejected by Azerbaijan. Turning to the coronavirus, he said landlocked developing countries are most sensitive to global shocks and particularly prone to disproportionate setbacks, calling for full implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014–2024.
The representative of Colombia emphasized the clear need for more commitment in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which have become more critical due to the serious development crisis. He noted that climate change has had a disproportionate effect on developing countries, as the time period to reach agreed goals is now less than 10 years away. The international community must rebuild economies and do so sustainably, he added, reducing hazard risk as well as biodiversity loss. It must also strengthen exports, especially those based on non-traditional sectors, engaging in South-South and triangular cooperation.
The representative of India, associating himself with the Group of 77, said the pandemic threatens global progress, highlighting the goals of bringing the world’s economy back on track and protecting the most vulnerable. He noted his Government consistently fosters inclusive initiatives, including having lifted 271 million people out of poverty, with 400 million new bank accounts for the poor, 220 million of them opened by women. The country has installed 110 million toilets in rural areas, and launched the world’s largest health-care programme. Environmental initiatives include a mass campaign to be free of single-use plastic by 2022. However, he said the international community must resist folding together environmental and non-environmental issues. Focusing on clean and green energy, his Government has provided clean cooking fuel to 18 million households. Underscoring cooperation on the pandemic, he said India has extended medical assistance to 150 nations, and is the largest vaccine-producing country in the world.
Liechtenstein’s representative noted that the pandemic has further accentuated profound inequalities and discrimination within societies and among countries, with 71 million people expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020. Health and education systems are stressed to the point of collapse, with estimates suggesting that world trade will drop by more than 30 per cent for 2020. He stated that, clearly, the principles underpinning the Sustainable Development Goals are key to building back after the pandemic. “There is no doubt that our insufficient progress on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is catching up with us in the current pandemic,” he said. Even before the crisis, he noted that human trafficking and slavery generates $150 billion in revenue every year, remaining one of most high-reward, low-risk crimes due to impunity. In addition, global gains in reducing child labour are likely to be reversed for the first time in 20 years. His Government is strongly committed to the cause through using financial means including responsible lending, compliance and regulation. He noted illicit financial flows require separate and distinct analyses to inform the design of effective policy responses.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said the pandemic, which has created a socioeconomic calamity, has shown how the United Nations and multilateralism is needed now more than ever. The United Nations, for example, has adopted a series of COVID-19-related resolutions and held many rounds of discussions on financing for development. The delegation believes stronger macroeconomic policy coordination is needed to prevent the crisis from turning into an enduring global recession. Also needed are coordinated actions to safeguard global value chains and free trade, based on the multilateral trading system of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She also urged Governments to tackle inequalities as economies are rebuilt and be sure recovery plans do not hinder the path to a low-carbon and green economy.
The representative of Iceland said that COVID-19 is not the great equalizer the international community originally thought it would be, as those without adequate safety nets in place suffer disproportionately. Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals, he said Iceland was focusing on the 2030 Agenda in its foreign policy. He encouraged other nations to join his country in promoting equality, including access to reproductive rights, and to pay increased attention to fundamental rights, including those affecting minority groups. As for climate change, he urged countries to work on avoiding the loss of animal habitats, receding seas, climate emissions and biodiversity as well as peace and security. Some of the solutions to the effects of climate change are simple and land-based, like reforestation, he added.
The representative of Kyrgyzstan said pandemic recovery measures should be aimed at financing for development and debt relief for Member States, particularly the developing ones. He called for consideration of external debt restructuring with a focus on the mechanism of debt-swaps for projects in health care, environmental protection and implementation of green economy principles, which will help release additional resources to combat the pandemic and enhance sustainable recovery. It is also crucial to restore trade disrupted by the pandemic, particularly for developing countries whose economies depend not only on exports but also on imports of essential goods including medicines. He noted the importance of removing “forced sanitary barriers” to the free movement of goods by Member States, which should only apply necessary and proportionate limitations. Noting his country pays great attention to fragile mountain ecosystems preservation on national and international levels, he expressed gratitude that the issues of mountainous countries have become an integral part of the 2030 Agenda with relevant initiatives being implemented.
The representative of Nicaragua, associating himself with the Group of 77, said the COVID-19 pandemic is accentuating poverty, inequality, hunger, unemployment and lack of access to health care worldwide. Expressing condolences for those who have been lost, he stressed the importance of multilateralism and global partnership to counter the impacts of the virus. Turning to the issue of poverty, he called on developed countries to deliver on their commitment of financial resources and the transfer of skills and technology to eradicate the phenomenon. For its part, Nicaragua has reduced the percentage of its citizens living in poverty from 43.8 per cent in 2007 to 34.9 per cent in 2017. Further, the country’s commitment to gender parity places its women third in the world in terms of public service. Efforts by developing countries to tackle poverty, however, have been hampered by the imposition of unilateral coercive measures, which hinder the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. He called for an immediate suspension of such measures, as they represent the main obstacle to the right to development and to eradicating poverty and, during this pandemic, constitute “crimes against humanity”.
The representative of Senegal, associating himself with the Group of 77, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cause negative global growth at a rate of -4.9 per cent and a drop in global gross domestic product (GDP) of 5.2 per cent. He stated that, while the world must ensure a more equitable global economy post-pandemic, it is important not to lose sight of the 2030 Agenda — which must serve as a reference point to “build back better” from the COVID-19 crisis. The Secretary-General’s 2020 report on the Sustainable Development Goals demonstrates that their implementation has not been satisfactory; while progress has been made in areas such as health care and sanitation, there has been clear backsliding on others such as food security. The fundamental question, therefore, is how to ensure sustainable socioeconomic recovery after the pandemic to ensure that no one is left behind. To this end, he called on multilateral development banks to proactively support developing economies, considering digital challenges and innovative environmental solutions, as climate finance is an opportunity for these countries to promote green activities and nature-based solutions. On working methods, he pointed out that working remotely is not easy for small delegations and called for a spirit of compromise during this session in light of the Committee’s heavy burden of work.
The representative of Kenya, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, noted that the international community is faced with unprecedented challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate and biodiversity crises and growing social as well as economic inequalities among countries. In strengthening international cooperation to tackle such challenges, she emphasized that science, technology and innovation are critical in achieving sustainable development at all levels. For Kenya, she said domestic resource mobilization remains the main source of income to finance the 2030 Agenda, but noted that the pandemic has greatly undermined the fiscal policies of countries, bringing resource mobilization in some places to a standstill. Focusing then on climate change, she said it continues to be the single most existential threat facing present and future generations. The crisis costs Kenya’s economy approximately 3 per cent of GDP annually, has impoverished millions and is quickly reversing the gains made thus far, especially towards ending hunger and poverty.
The representative of Pakistan, associating himself with the Group of 77, said the pandemic has triggered a crisis that may drive 100 million people into extreme poverty with decades of developmental progress lost. Expressing hope for a vaccine, he stressed that everyone, everywhere must have affordable access to it. He noted that Pakistan has injected 3 per cent of its GDP to protect the economy and keep the poor afloat, and that “smart lockdowns” have controlled the virus. However, developed countries have generated a stimulus of $13 trillion to revive their economies, while developing States cannot find a fraction of the $2.5 trillion required. He therefore called for measures including an extension of the debt-suspension initiative by the Group of 20 for at least another year, including covering small island developing States, restructuring of least developed countries’ debt and financing through concessional sources. Other such measures include debt buy-backs and major action on special drawing rights. Addressing climate change, he noted that Pakistan has a plan to plant 10 billion trees.
The representative of Cuba noted that, five years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the world is not on pace to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Further, the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will reverse much of the progress made so far in health, food security and eradicating poverty and hunger. The pandemic has exacerbated and exposed inequality and differences within and between countries, and between the developed and developing world. It is shameful, she said, that many developed countries have failed to honour their official development assistance (ODA) obligations, and she called for a sustainable solution to the problem of external debt and a strengthening of special and differential treatment for developing countries. No country can unilaterally abdicate its international climate responsibilities or forget its ecological debt to humanity and to future generations. She also condemned the use of unilateral coercive measures, as for 60 years the people of Cuba have resisted the illegal embargo imposed on that country by the United States Government, and pointed out that new measures have been added to this embargo in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis.
China’s representative said developing countries are facing great challenges during COVID-19, and multilateralism can help the world economies build back better without leaving anyone behind. Governments should work to uphold the multilateral trading system of WTO and the full functioning of the global supply chain. Development, improved Government structures and safeguarding the international system, with the United Nations as its core, are all important. The opportunities provided by new technologies should be used to drive sustainable development. China has brought COVID-19 under control and expects to see growth for 2020. China supports the central role of the United Nations and is ready to work with all countries to create a better future for all.
The representative of Morocco, associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said the Second Committee’s theme in 2020 — “Building back better after COVID-19: ensuring a more equitable global economy, inclusive societies and sustainable recovery” — reflected how vulnerable nations could be without global cooperation. His country believes in the power of such multilateralism, which is vital in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, Morocco not only established multiple national tools in tackling socioeconomic results, but provided support to the African Union to assist with the pandemic and resulting economic recession, which has led to food shortages in the region.
The representative of Iraq, associating himself with the Group of 77, stated it is facing complex difficulties, including terrorism and falling oil prices, with the country’s share reduced to 23 per cent after a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in April, which will cause major budgetary constraints in 2020 and going forward. He noted dialogue on energy is very important to Iraq, requiring transparency during all elements of negotiation and preparation. On climate change, the issue of sand and dust storms is still a major concern, given their negative impact on vegetation coverage, air quality and air navigation. Emphasizing the particular challenges faced by Iraq, he stated that his country “has fought tooth and nail against terrorism”.
Also speaking were representatives of Thailand, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Norway, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Brazil, Eritrea, Algeria, Nepal, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Gambia.