When it was founded 75 years ago, the United Nations never imagined that it would face its biggest challenge yet in 2020 with Covid-19, and as we go into the new year, the consequences and impacts of this global health crisis would be felt for decades to come
The crisis has changed people’s lives in every corner of the planet and is still raging in several countries, including the United States, which is top of the list in terms of number of cases. Paradoxically, the UN headquarters are located in New York.
The city faced a difficult situation during the first few months of the year, with a rapid increase in infections, a high death rate, and struggling hospitals unable to cope with the number of patients.
The United Nations headquarters in New York was quick to take measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and closed its doors at the end of March, while its agencies, organisations and workers turned to working from home and online platforms.
To date, most of the encounters and meetings are held virtually, and the very few events that are held face-to-face follow strict health protocols.
Now, the response to the health crisis is at the centre of the UN’s work, while the multilateral organisation had to transform its own working dynamics in order to stay functional in the difficult conditions imposed by the pandemic.
At the start of December, the United Nations General Assembly dedicated a special session to debating the global response to Covid-19. The president of the assembly, Volkan Bozkir, said that the UN should lead the recovery efforts in relation to the pandemic, and that the entire world is facing the biggest recession since the Great Depression.
He also called for fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, collaborative work to protect the most vulnerable countries, increased investments in social services and universal health coverage. The truth is that Covid-19 affects everyone, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, the elderly, women and girls.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided data and recommendations, but “not everyone followed them and many ignored the instructions” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Guterres has urged people to consider vaccines and other treatments against Covid-19 as a global common good, and make them affordable for everyone.
Guterres warned that the consequences and impacts of this health crisis will be felt for decades to come, and called on UN member states to tackle the pandemic as a matter of urgency in order to “survive and build a better future together.”
One of the most frequently made requests by the assembly is to ensure that treatments and a future vaccine against Covid-19 are affordable for all. Similarly important is to put an end to sanctions and unilateral coercive measures, such as the United States blockade against Cuba, which hinder the response to the pandemic and impede social development.
However, while many nations around the world asked for more solidarity to deal with the new coronavirus, US President Donald Trump made it clear in his speech that he will always put “America first”, while persisting in his attacks against the WHO and politicising Covid-19 by calling it the “Chinese virus”. (PL)