Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement – United Nations General Assembly: Townhall Meeting on the GA response to the COVID-19 crisis

New York, 27/04/2020 - 20:59, UNIQUE ID: 200427_23
Statements on behalf of the EU

27 April 2020, New York - General Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by H.E. Mr. Olof Skoog, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations on the occasion of the Townhall Meeting on the General Assembly response to the COVID-19 crisis

President of the General Assembly, Distinguished co-coordinators, 

I am glad to see you all in good health today!

Ramadan Mubarak.

The statement I am about to deliver is on behalf of the EU and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia align themselves with this statement.

We welcome this opportunity to openly exchange on this important subject.

Thank you to the PGA and to our co-coordinators for setting up this townhall event. We cannot meet, and we miss you all, but the unique global conversation that only the GA can offer, is more needed than ever. Fully back your call for unity of purpose today.

Particularly in these challenging times it is of utmost importance to uphold the values and recall the key role of the UN in addressing global challenges. It is at times like this that we need to support multilateralism with meaningful actions.

Let me congratulate H.E Mrs. Adela Raz, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN and H.E Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Permanent Representative of Croatia to the UN, for their appointment as co-coordinators for the General Assembly on COVID-19 related initiatives. We will constructively support them in their important task. We are also committed to working with Ambassador Courtney Rattrey on the voting procedures.

The coronavirus pandemic reminds us how interconnected we are and how crucial multilateral cooperation is. To win the battle against a virus that knows no borders, there is no other option than to join efforts to find global solutions

Multilateralism is the only effective way to face a threat with which no country can cope on its own and which affects us all. The 75th anniversary of the United Nations is an opportunity to reaffirm loud and clear that international cooperation, based on transparency and mutual accountability, is the only way forward.

Let me use this opportunity to recognise the leadership of the Secretary-General in promoting a coordinated, global response to the pandemic and to express our appreciation for the work of the United Nations in tackling the crisis - with the World Health Organisation playing a critical role. We support the three-pronged approach laid out by the Secretary-General with focus on emergency / humanitarian action, health systems and the socio-economic response.

We are fully behind and want to express our support to all UN staff around the world who are, once again, really standing at the front line of yet another challenge.

So let's make sure that our pledge to multilateralism is more than just rhetoric. The EU and its member states attach great importance to the sustainable and adequate financing of the UN and its specialized agencies. Our member states pay their dues on time and in full and we call upon all member states to do the same.

There is no doubt that the world that will emerge from this crisis will look very different from the one we knew, but we can shape that depending also on how we respond to the crisis. What we need is an action-oriented approach as our success will not be measured by the number of resolutions we pass, but by the concrete actions that were taken as a result of the resolutions that we passed.

Identifying today, which aspects of COVID-19’s current and future challenges need to be addressed and how they need to be addressed is an important first step.

For us the specific role of the General Assembly is twofold:

1. Ensuring that there is a coordinated and cross-cutting response to the crisis;

2. Maintaining course on the long-term goals of the 2030 Agenda – as the COVID-19 crisis teaches us to accelerate and even more vigorously implement it and provides new opportunities.


Point 1. Coordinated and cross-cutting response

a)  We must support the Secretary-General in his efforts to ensure that the UN system and the international community respond in a coordinated manner to the challenge. The EU has clearly committed to working with the United Nations in this respect. Only if we are united and coherent in our approach, we can tackle the challenges we are facing.

b) Our immediate focus should be on a collective, effective and efficient response under the leadership of the UN, putting people at the centre, addressing the needs and the protection of the most vulnerable, tackling inequalities, the increasing food insecurity and upholding all human rights for all people.

c) We are fully behind the call for global ceasefire and unhampered humanitarian access in full compliance with humanitarian principles and International Humanitarian Law. We need to collectively work to guarantee the safety of humanitarian workers and to eliminate any impediment on the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including by applying humanitarian exceptions to sanction and counterterrorism regimes.

A strong joint humanitarian-development-peace nexus, in line with the UN reform, is also required in the design and implementation of the response.

d)  Our role is also to recall, that emergency measures need to be compatible with the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms including the principles of non-discrimination and gender equality.

e) Whilst we try to contain the spread of the virus, we need to minimise disruptions to the global transport and trade system, and avoid export restrictions or bottlenecks in the supply chain, especially on food and medicines.

f)   Policy and decision making must be science-based in order to restore trust in public authorities. In this respect we should support the Secretary General in his efforts to tackle disinformation around the virus and ensure that the UN communicates more robustly about the UN actions in response to the crisis - also in view of combating misinformation and hate speech.

g)   On the methods of work: we could imagine that some procedural guidelines and suggestions would be helpful to ensure that the General Assembly responds in a comprehensive and coordinated way to COVID-related challenges. We want to underline that transparencyinclusiveness and meaningful engagement with civil society and the private sector are of crucial importance. We also see a need to streamline work in the second committee and beyond to assure that the UN agenda reflects coherently the new reality.


Point 2: This is also time for maintaining course on the long-term goals – turning the crisis into an opportunity

The crisis revealed once again the unsustainable inequalities, both between countries, inside societies and between men and women.

But the crisis also reaffirmed the importance of the social and human factors, our commitment to leaving no one behind. Citizens worldwide have to face difficult choices to safeguard collective health. Safeguarding the health of all people has taken on a new dimension – putting people in the centre of our policy making.

In line with the 2030 Agenda we have to strike a balance between economic, social and environmental considerations. We can now get a new understanding how human health and planetary health are intertwined and how existing inequalities are making us more vulnerable. This can give new momentum in the socio-economic recovery for the social as well as for the climate / environment / biodiversity agenda because people are ready for new, more sustainable, more equal models of life and to building more inclusive and resilient societies. They see the need for it. Women will be the hardest hit by this pandemic but they will also be the backbone of recovery in communities. Every policy response that recognizes this will be the more impactful. Therefore the GA needs to urge the global policy to hold the course towards the 2030 Agenda and the goals of the Paris Agreement, where regrettably implementation has already been lagging behind before COVID-19.

It is also the occasion to envisage global security as human security and rethink how it plays out it in the fora dedicated to the maintenance of international peace and security.

To highlight some concrete aspects:

  • Emergency measures as well as short and long-term socio-economic recovery packages should lay the basis for longer term "build back better" strategies that promote investment in “new, sustainable, inclusive, competitive and resilient economies”.
  • The crisis has also shown how women carry societies, including as backbones in the health and education sector. They are also more vulnerable as the increase in gender-based violence has demonstrated. This concern as well as addressing inequalities in and between countries must be a fundamental part in "building-back-better" strategies
  • Tackling the current pandemics and preparing for future epidemics must go hand in handWe welcome the joint call for action by WHO and global health organisations to develop fast, universal and equitable access to safe, quality, effective and affordable diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines against coronavirus. We have stepped up our financial support to the WHO and the EU is joining forces to kick-start a pledging effort starting on 4 May to generate €7.5 billion[1].

We need to approach the challenges we face in a holistic way. We must be guided by the “one health” principle. Human, animal and environmental health are one and should be tackled as one. We must look at the links between health pollution, zoonotic diseases and the erosion of biodiversity to better prevent future epidemics. We also need to acknowledge that the battle against the virus is also a battle to ensure mental health.

  • Considering global security, the GA can turn the COVID-19 crisis and its security impact into an opportunity to revitalise the peace and security agenda notably in terms of conflict preventionpeacebuilding and strengthening of peacekeeping

EU support: We are all in this together. And no one is safe until all are safe. This is a very powerful insight. Despite the severe social and economic toll caused by COVID-19 in EU countries, the EU and its member states have rallied to the Secretary General’s call and decided to contribute significantly to the global fight against the pandemic. The “Team Europe” package to support partner countries in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences combines resources from the EU, its Member States and financial institutions and to-date reaches more than 20 billion Euros. And EU Member States are stepping up to the plate in supporting the various calls by the Secretary General financially in addition to seeing the need in investing in UN a:encies funds and programmes.

The European Union and its Member States recognize the growing burden of debt service payments and the need for immediate liquidity to tackle the challenges posed by the COVID-19. We fully support the debt service suspension initiative agreed by the G20 and the Paris Club and we call private creditors to participate in comparable terms. We welcome the World Bank and IMF Call to Action and remain fully committed to further explore existing mechanisms to expand targeted debt relief for the most vulnerable countries in a transparent and sustainable way. 

Finally: the way in which the global community will respond to this global crisis will determine the future of multilateralism. Our success will not only be measured by our immediate response - future generations will hold us accountable on how we recovered better. Let us use this opportunity to make sure that we shape a better version of the world tomorrow. Let us use this crisis as a wake-up call to make sure that we shape a better version of the world tomorrow!



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