G77 and China Summit
As the world continues to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic, the need for international cooperation for the development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines was emphasised at the 44th Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 and China, held virtually on Thursday.
Delivering the feature address, President Dr. Irfaan Ali, who currently holds the Chairmanship of the G77, pointed out that the world has found itself in an era that highlights the pivotal role of international cooperation through multilateralism in responding to extant global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic which has devastated countries around the world.
“The rebuilding of our economies and the strengthening of our public health systems will depend in large part on our ability to work together towards developing and distributing COVID-19 vaccines as a global public good. It is imperative therefore that the international community enhances its support for institutions that are best equipped to foster this collective effort, particularly the World Health Organisation (WHO),” the Guyanese Head of State noted.
According to President Ali, Guyana, like the rest of the world, has worked assiduously to formulate a response plan to the pandemic. He noted that the pandemic has exacerbated existing structural problems and fostered a further widening of the gap between the North and the South.
To this end, he asserted that in order to rebound stronger and better from COVID-19, it is imperative that the global leaders internalise the lessons of the pandemic and chart a more inclusive, balanced, and sustainable development path.
“This requires, fundamentally, for us to address issues such as development gaps and high indebtedness, and to advocate for greater access to development financing… Our Group has acknowledged the vital importance of multilateralism in finding solutions to the multiple crises which have bedevilled humanity. The efficacy of this mechanism cannot be underemphasized at this time,” the President stressed.
President Ali’s plea for international cooperation comes as there continues to be several trials around the world to develop a cure for COVID-19.
Only recently, it was reported that a vaccine developed by a German company – Pfizer and BioNTech – can prevent over 90 per cent of people from contracting the virus.
This preliminary result was found after the vaccine was tested on over 43,000 persons in six countries, reports had indicated.
Already, the Guyana Government has taken steps to access a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available on the market.
Guyana has been identified as one of the countries eligible for coverage under COVAX, a body of organisations including the World Health Organization (WHO), to ensure there is equal access to vaccines.
President of the 75th United Nations General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, during Thursday’s opening of the G77 Meeting, also sounded calls for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. He highlighted how connected the world has become now more than ever, hence the virus was able to spread to all corners of the planet within mere months.
“Just as we have all been affected, we must also work together to shoulder the burden of recovery, and we know what we must do. We must ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines, improve and strengthen global supply chains, and improve knowledge and capacity-sharing to ensure that we are better prepared for such disasters in future scenarios,” he posited.
Bozkir went onto say that, on many of these fronts, the international community has already spoken together. He said this is demonstrated in the COVAX facility, to which more than 180 member states have signed on.
The UN General Assembly President further pledged to advocate for vaccines for all countries during his tenure. He also charged the Assembly to “build bridges” in order to narrow the disparity among countries, as part of efforts to reform and restore confidence in the international body.
Similarly, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also joined in calling for countries to have equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines. He noted that the international community has already been called upon to take collective action in providing the $35 billion needed for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator, in order to ensure there is equitable access to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
“We need any future vaccine to be a people’s vaccine, a global public good available and affordable to all, especially to those most in need… Recovery from the pandemic, securing climate action and implementing the 2030 Agenda must be one single effort. Social and economic recovery policies, domestic stimulus strategies, and nationally-determined contributions must be coherent and mutually reinforcing,” he stated.
According to the UN SG, he will continue to advocate for these policies with international financial institutions and at the virtual G20 Summit scheduled for next week.
“This has not been a good year for multilateralism and international cooperation. So far, the world has not seen the unity and solidarity needed to tackle the pandemic, beat the climate crisis, end the weakening of nuclear safeguards, and strengthen cooperation around digital technology,” SG Guterres contended.
Guyana assumed chairmanship of the G77 in January 2020 for one year. Only last month, it facilitated a flagship event as its Chairmanship winds down.