The theme was installed in the speeches of the heads of state in the General Assembly. But the great powers put sticks in the wheel.
If the United Nations was born from the ashes of World War II, what will emerge from the global crisis of COVID-19?
Many world leaders participating in the virtual General Assembly this week hope it will be a accessible vaccine and affordable for everyone, rich and poor.
But after the United States, China and Russia chose not to participate in a joint effort to develop and distribute it, coupled with the fact that some rich nations closed agreements with pharmaceutical companies to secure millions of possible doses, the United Nations requests are abundant but probably in vain.
“Will people be allowed to die?” Asked Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, who overcame the coronavirus, regarding the uncertainty about the future.
More of 150 countries have joined COVAX, a program in which the richest countries agree to buy possible vaccines and help finance the access of the poorest to the drug.
But the absence Washington, Beijing, and Moscow assume that the response to a health crisis never seen before in the UN’s 75-year history is far from being truly global. Instead, the three powers have made vague promises to share any vaccines they develop, probably after serving their citizens first.
This UN Assembly could serve as a wake-up call, said Gayle Smith, president of the ONE Campaign, an NGO that fights preventable diseases and develops a system for assessing how the most powerful nations contribute to equity in vaccines.
“It is not enough that only some G20 countries realize that vaccine equality is the key to ending this virus and reviving the global economy,” he said.
With several weeks to go until the deadline to join COVAX (which is co-chaired by the UN health agency, the World Health Organization), many heads of state are using the summit as a high-profile forum to woo. , convince and even embarrass some.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo highlighted the illusory nature of borders and wealth: “The virus has taught us that we are all in danger and that there is no special protection for the rich or for a particular class. “
The president of Palau, a Pacific island nation free from COVID-19, Tommy Remengesau Jr., warned against selfishness, noting that “hoarding vaccines will hurt us all.”
And the one from Rwanda, Paul Kagame, appealed to the universal desire to return to normality: “Guarantee equitable access to vaccines, therapies and diagnostics will hasten the end of the pandemic for everyone”.
After just two days of interventions, it was clear that the urgency of finding a vaccine would be on the lips of those close to 200 world leaders who participate. And considering the tough challenges ahead, this is no surprise.
“We have never faced a situation where the 7800 million people in the world needed a vaccine at almost the same time,” said John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this month.
This has also raised difficult questions: Who will get vaccines first? Who is forging private deals to get them? This week’s speeches make it clear that you are issues have a existential meaning.
The search for a vaccine should not be a “purely commercial act,” Iraq said. Nor “a matter of competition,” Turkey said.