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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries 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 Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
Let me start by thanking Germany for chairing this High-Level Open Debate of the UN Security Council on ‘Pandemics and Security’ during these unprecedented, challenging times for us all.
Since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, we have surpassed almost 10 million cases and 500,000 people have died due to the new virus, which has spread very quickly across the globe, putting health systems under extreme pressure everywhere, but especially in countries which had weak systems to begin with.
We acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other outbreaks (such as Ebola), have led to a global concern about the potential threats of infectious diseases spreading across borders. Fast-moving complex emergencies such as COVID-19 require a whole-of-system and whole of society response through coordination, partnerships, and efficient use of our tools.
We are witnessing by the day the direct and secondary consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic interacting with pre-existing humanitarian crises, adding another layer of complexity to already fragile situations, weak governance and health systems, affecting disproportionately the most vulnerable populations, who experience lack of access to basic services and health care, affecting their livelihoods and social protection.
Under these difficult circumstances, the UN peacekeeping operations have a special role to play in the support to the local communities in their handling of the pandemic. We are very supportive of the robust and comprehensive approach taken by the UN to ensure the continued engagement in political processes, that stability is maintained, and civilians are protected while the pandemic is contained. Though it is still early days, we – the EU and the UN – have shared lessons learned on peace operations handling of COVID19 and the interaction with fragile societies. We plan an EU-UN-AU meeting to ensure a more systematic sharing of lessons learned between all concerned parties.
The COVID-19 pandemic is both a public health emergency and a human crisis, which poses a considerable risk to hard-won peacebuilding gains around the world. Unemployment, hunger, hyperinflation, and restriction of movements have led to social unrest and increased violence in a number of fragile or conflict affected countries. The spread of COVID-19 and the consequences of the containment measures had a major impact on people in vulnerable situations. There is deep uncertainty and deprivation linked with growing mental health and psychosocial issues.
There is a strong correlation between preventing violent conflicts and working towards sustainable development poverty reduction, and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms The EU is rallying behind the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to coordinate a UN-wide response and welcomes the comprehensive proposals enshrined in his policy papers addressing the impact of COVID-19. We are putting our full weight behind his appeal for a global ceasefire and his call for ‘building back better’, as reaffirmed by the High Representative Josep Borrell.
Many millions of people across the globe are living in extreme hardship; we expect humanitarian needs under the current circumstances will only continue to grow. The 2020 Global Humanitarian Overview projected this year to be a particularly difficult one, with 168 million people expected to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2020, requiring $ 28.8 billion. Now, 5 months later, an additional $ 6.7 billion is urgently needed due to the deterioration of humanitarian needs linked to COVID-19 and the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance now exceeds 180 million. Global solidarity is of paramount importance if we are to ensure that the basic needs of the most vulnerable do not remain unmet.
The EU and its Member States encourage a collective response to the COVID-19 crisis, whichif adequately addressed, may also bring opportunities for advances in peace processes and for multilateralism. This challenge can create the conditions to engage conflict parties in talks that may provide opportunities for conflict transformation. We have to be ready to seize these opportunities, promoting a sustainable recovery guided by fundamental freedoms and human rights, which accelerates the achievement of the SDGs and the objectives of the Paris Agreement. This is the time to strengthen cooperation to end conflicts.
We support the UN’s central coordinating role in emergencies and welcome the joint UN approach behind the Global Humanitarian Response Plan to ensure the most effective and efficient humanitarian response. We also encourage strong cooperation with other relevant actors, such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and INGOs, local implementing actors and CSOs.
Given the long-term socio-economic impact of this crisis, a strong humanitarian-development-peace nexus in the design and implementation of the response, in line with the UN reform, is indispensable; this should be reflected also in the work of the Executive Boards of the UN Funds & Programmes.
The EU and its Member States have been at the forefront of the global response to the new pandemic. Under the ‘Team Europe’ approach, we have mobilized a package of over 36 billion EUR, combining contributions from the EU, its Member States and financial institutions, for the global COVID-19 response and recovery. This package supports and will continue to support partner countries to address the immediate humanitarian consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the health and socio-economic impact, strengthening health systems and preparedness and response capacity of partners, including for the benefit of populations already affected by conflict and displacement
We are adapting existing programmes to help communities cope with the consequences of the crisis and mitigate its security impacts. For instance, the EU recently launched a EUR 10 million project to maintain and reinforce child protection mechanisms in Sub Saharan Africa during the COVID-19 crisis.
The EU has also set up a temporary Humanitarian Air Bridge to facilitate the delivery of emergency supplies and the transport of humanitarian aid workers for the COVID-19 response to the most critical areas around the world.
The EU also initiated the global COVID-19 pledging marathon in May which raised to date - after the pledging event on 27 June - 15,9 billion Euros so far to accelerate the development and deployment of effective diagnostics, treatments and vaccines for all and to support to tackle the social-economic effects of the crisis.
We call for universal, equitable access and distribution of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, recognizing extensive immunization and treatments against COVID-19 as a global public good.
This year, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. The current state of the world, in which too many lives continue to be uprooted due to conflict, poverty, climate change, natural disasters, as well as COVID-19, is a stark reminder of the continued relevance of the UN.
We fully commend and highly appreciate the UN Secretary General’s leadership and multiple initiatives to address the multi-facetedCOVID-19 pandemic. We reiterate our support to the coordinating and operative role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the global public health response and in its role to ensure compliance with International Health Regulations as well as in supporting the most fragile and vulnerable countries.
While the vast majority of humanitarian needs today can be traced to conflict situations, COVID-19 is exacerbating pre-existing needs. The EU and its Member States reiterate the need to ensure full respect of International Law, including International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and International Refugee Law.
Rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access remains critical, as well as the free flow of critical humanitarian goods and personnel within and across countries, and the safety, security and protection of humanitarian and health workers. The EU and Member States remain at the forefront in advocating for this.
COVID-19 has created not only a global health crisis but has also had a severe impact on the protection of civilians, exacerbating existing inequalities. The pandemic and its socio-economic consequences are having a disproportionate impact on the access to health services of women, children and older persons, and on all persons in vulnerable situations. Continued non-discriminatory access to safe, quality, effective and affordable health care services, including sexual and reproductive health-care services, is particularly important in the context of Covid-19, endeavouring to leave no one behind, in full respect of all human rights.
Women and girls have been more prone to immediate protection risks linked to sexual and gender-based violence or the unequal sharing of responsibilities. Closure of schools during COVID-19 hinders the development of quality education. At the same time, women - who represent the majority of health workers - have been at the forefront of the response and will be the backbone of recovery in communities. Their role needs to be further recognised and promoted.
Protecting the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of health requires access to reliable information. People must be empowered to protect their own health and those of others. In that respect, misleading or false information can put lives in danger. It is therefore crucial to resolutely counter disinformation with transparent, timely and fact-based communication and thus reinforce the resilience of societies while strongly safeguarding freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive and impart information.
We also echo the SG’s call for action on mental health and psychosocial support, to ensure full integration of this component in the COVID-19 response to help people better cope with the crisis.
Building resilience, through participatory processes, social inclusion and community engagement is key to succeed in responding to the pandemic.
Global health and global security go hand-in-hand. Efficient response to outbreaks is possible through proper coordination and leadership, respect of International Health Regulations, comprehensive public health response and inclusiveness.
We can recover from all hazards that create health emergencies and insecurity, but only with a coordinated “UN as one” approach. The EU remains a strong supporter of the system of global governance, with an effective and efficient UN at its core. You can count on our continued support.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.