COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates multilateral cooperation key to overcoming global challenges, president stresses as General Assembly concludes annual debate.
The COVID‑19 pandemic has been a test, demonstrating that multilateral cooperation is the key to overcoming global challenges, the President of the General Assembly said today at the conclusion of the seventy‑fifth session’s unprecedented general debate, as Member States — largely via pre‑recorded video statements — overwhelmingly stressed the need for collective action to tackle common threats and “vaccine multilateralism” to combat the coronavirus.
Strong support for multilateralism
Assembly President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey) said Member States had voiced their strong support for multilateralism, even though, for the first time in United Nations history, global leaders could not physically attend the general debate due to COVID‑19‑related restrictions at Headquarters. Indeed, the fact that leaders chose to address the General Assembly reflects the role of this world body, he said, with the vast majority confirming that multilateralism is the most effective system to address global threats.
World leaders had echoed the concept of “ever more united nations” throughout the general debate, he said, as they called on him to focus on pandemic‑related actions: early warning systems, dealing effectively with the crisis and access to vaccines. A disease with no respect for borders requires a collective response, he said, adding that: “COVID-19 is a practice test that exhibits our weaknesses; we must build resilience now for whatever comes tomorrow.”
“Now is the time to fully implement the global ceasefire”
Even though COVID‑19 has diverted attention and resources from such pressing challenges as conflicts, hunger and global warming, he said climate change still represents the greatest threat to humanity. Welcoming strong support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said messages heard during the general debate indicated that efforts must continue to reach the agreed upon goals. In terms of security, he said that now is the time to fully implement the global ceasefire.
While the challenges facing the world are enormous, from nuclear disarmament to persistent gender inequality, he said, they can be overcome when the world works together. Pledging to work with Member States to overcome differences and to involve civil society in meetings throughout the session, he said that one thing is clear: “We are stronger together.”
As the Assembly concluded its general debate with the hope that its next session will be held fully in person, Member States continued to call for cooperative approaches to address the COVID‑19 pandemic, stressing that respect for the international rules‑based order is the cornerstone to overcoming current and future crises. Many shared national approaches to stemming the spread of and developing a vaccine for the coronavirus while underlining the importance of multilateralism in fostering a collective response. Some said the pandemic clearly demonstrates a need to reform multilateral systems, including the United Nations.
“The world is changing and if you don’t change, you risk becoming obsolete”
“The world is changing and if you don’t change, you risk becoming obsolete,” Nayib Armando Bukele, President of El Salvador, said, adding that the General Assembly has become so irrelevant, no one even discusses the matter. Expressing a desire to see the Assembly transform so it can survive and become a great tool for mankind, he said the pandemic has shown that the United Nations is lacking the leadership required to truly bring the world together. The Organization must prepare for the next global threat, he cautioned. The world has the tools, “but we must take control of our destiny,” he said, adding that working together will make it possible to shape one of the golden ages of mankind.