Madam President, Madame High Commissioner, distinguished panellists,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The European Union welcomes this opportunity to take stock of progress made in international cooperation and to identify common challenges and needs in the fight against COVID-19.
COVID-19 affects us all, irrespective of who we are, or where we are. This pandemic has turned into a multi-faceted crisis, affecting non only individuals’ rights, health and straining national medical services but also impacting the social fabric of society, the care for the most vulnerable persons, the functioning of key state institutions and the global economy. This has placed those who are marginalized, discriminated against, and impoverished at even greater risk of exploitation and exclusion. We need to pay special attention to the growing impact of the pandemic on all human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In emergency circumstances, limitations to human rights must be necessary, proportionate, temporary in nature, and non-discriminatory. The pandemic must not be used as a pretext to limit democratic and civic space, the respect of the rule of law and of international commitments, nor to curtail freedom of expression, freedom of the press and access to information online and offline.
The EU is working on all fronts to support efforts to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak. In our European Consensus on Development we have pledged to address global health threats as part of our wider commitment to protecting and promoting the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Therefore, the EU and its Member States, acting together as ‘Team Europe’, have mobilized over 36 billion Euros to take comprehensive and decisive action to tackle the COVID crisis. Our efforts seek to relieve immediate humanitarian and health care needs and also assist countries in strengthening their healthcare, water and sanitation and nutrition systems. At the same time, we assist partner countries in addressing economic and social consequences, so that they can “build back better” and focus on a sustainable, green, digital, just and resilient recovery and respect for all human rights. In this respect, the EU is providing direct budget support to partner countries allowing them to deliver essential services and loan guarantees to boost economic activity and safeguard livelihoods. Team Europe support is responsive to the needs of partners and tailored to local contexts and will make use of the full breadth of different modalities and instruments. True to our commitment to the full implementation of the 2030 agenda, leaving no-one behind, the EU Actions also focus on supporting social protection systems to protect the most vulnerable in society.
Finally, the EU is also working towards ensuring the fast and equitable access to safe, quality, effective and affordable tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus. Barely two weeks ago, the EU commission announced a 400 million Euro contribution to COVAX for working together in purchasing future vaccines to the benefit of low and middle income countries.
It is undeniable that COVID-19 is reversing global progress made towards the SDGs. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called in May for a Global Recovery Initiative that links investment and debt relief to the SDGs and she signaled that Europe is ready to put its expertise and resources, both traditional and innovative, in support of a green and digital transition. We note with concern the impact of COVID-19 on all human rights, including the right to development, whose role is essential for achieving the full realization of Agenda 2030. Let us reiterate that responses to the COVID-19 pandemic must be in full compliance with States’ human rights obligations and commitments. The coronavirus pandemic is a global crisis and can only be solved at global level through a focused and coordinated multilateral response building upon a human rights-based approach. Acting together now, we can emerge stronger tomorrow.
Thank you Madame President.