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

EU Statement – United Nations General Assembly: Town Hall Meeting on COVID-19 Omnibus Resolution

New York, 21/05/2020 - 18:05, UNIQUE ID: 200521_8
Statements on behalf of the EU

21 May 2020, New York - Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States at the 74th United Nations General Assembly Town Hall meeting on the COVID-19 Omnibus resolution

Mr President, dear co-coordinators, distinguished colleagues,


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 the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.


Thank you for this opportunity and for the elements paper circulated.


  1. Dear colleagues, the immense challenges presented by Covid-19 call for unity and solidarity of the international community. With this in mind, I would like to express our strong support to the co-coordinators approach, which is both ambitious and pragmatic. The ‘Omnibus resolution’ is a suitable approach, but it requires all MS to work in a spirit of cooperation and for this we need an inclusive, transparent and structured negotiation process.


  1. In order to maximise chances of success, the text should be reasonably short and general, yet try to be action-oriented, aiming to express our joint commitment to address this crisis and its multi-faceted consequences through international cooperation and multilateral responses.


  1. The resolution should cover the various areas directly affected by Covid-19 but not duplicate or interfere with existing, separate UN processes, including upcoming committee work where specific elements can be addressed in more detail. It is important to build on existing processes, such as for example the FFD outcome, work in the Humanitarian Segment or UNDS reform.


  1. We support the proposed structure, centred on people and the notion of ‘protection’, which we believe should apply to ’all people and all human rights’. The various sections adequately reflect the different aspects and timeframes of our shared endeavour, although the delimitation between some of them, especially 3 and 4 (‘Recovering together’ and ‘Rebuilding better’) may need to be further clarified.


  1. Let me now share a few general comments on the elements paper. We will provide more detailed suggestions during the negotiation process.


Multilateralism and solidarity


  1. The resolution should stress the necessity of a collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic through effective multilateralism, with the UN playing a central role in responding to this crisis and its consequences and preparing for future pandemics. It should support the Secretary-General’s leadership, including the multiple initiatives he has taken to address all aspects of this crisis.


  1. Given the dramatic impact of the Covid-19 on peace and security in fragile countries and regions, the resolution should support the SG’s call for a global ceasefire, also in light of the inaction of the Security Council so far.


  1. The resolution should also advocate a human rights-based approach, respectful of international law, including Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, and in line with the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.


Jointly protecting


  1. The resolution should highlight the importance of strengthened multilateral cooperation, and the key role the WHO has to play in this context. The language we managed to agree in Geneva and in recent GA resolutions, such as the resolution on Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019, can be helpful in this regard[1]. As you know, the European Union has taken an initiative to ensure the collaborative development and universal deployment of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines against this disease, which in the interest of all countries should be a global public good.


  1. We should underline the vital importance of the humanitarian effort, including through the Humanitarian Global Response Plan, and we stress the need for rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and call for the free flow of humanitarian goods and personnel within and to other countries, as well as for the protection of humanitarian and health workers.


  1. Special attention to the most vulnerable, wherever and whoever they are, is crucial. Let us also consider that vulnerable groups should not only be seen as victims; emphasis should be given to their participation and inclusion.


  1. Covid-19 risks reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty and exacerbating already high levels of inequality within and between countries. Fighting inequality deserves a prominent spot in the resolution, with a particular attention to gender inequality.


Recovering together


  1. We support strong emphasis on realizing gender equality, empowering all women and girls and realising all their human rights, including access to health services as part of the recovery and response efforts. The vital contribution of women to the protection, recovery and rebuilding efforts should also be underlined.


  1. The humanitarian-development-peace nexus should become the working method for the response to the pandemic. There is a strong negative correlation between violent conflicts and sustainable development and poverty reduction, and COVID-19 will further increase fragility of certain countries and the number of fragile situations, as well as aggravate current humanitarian crises. The UN should lead a coordinated and collaborative approach on the ground, based on the comparative advantage of all relevant humanitarian, development and security actors, to address needs, reduce risks and vulnerability, and increase the resilience of people, communities, and states in the long term.


  1. The resolution should have wording on increasing health preparedness, recommending that the COVID response be used to strengthen multi-sectoral national health emergency preparedness – including mental health. The one-health approach is essential in this regard.


Rebuilding better


  1. The resolution should identify the key elements of a sustainable recovery that accelerates the achievement of the SDGs and the objectives of the Paris Agreement. For the EU, the effort to ‘build back better’ means building  greener and bluer economies through a socio-economic recovery which is climate-sensitive and environment friendly. The EU is strongly committed to this goal through its Green Deal and we stand ready to work with all partners on this endeavour.


  1. It is essential to stress the need of countering intolerance, hate speech and the dangerous spread of misinformation – and thus to support the recent initiative by the SG. In this context the freedom of the press and the protection of journalists are not only vital to detect and counter disinformation, but pivotal in facilitating the debate on how societies can become safer, more prosperous and more sustainable.


  1. We need to support digital preparedness and  universal, affordable access to digital technologies which have shown to be instrumental for ensuring business and social continuity as well as inter-personal interaction. Here we need a rights-based approach, encompassing all human rights and freedoms - including the right to privacy, while ensuring data protection - and promoting democratic governance and the rule of law.


Partnerships, commitments and the way forward


  1. We support the reference to the UN reform agenda, which the EU supports in its entirety, as it should help the UN better address the current challenges. On development aspects, the resolution should state the importance of a coherent UNDS, which, through the RCs and UNCTs, supports the MS efforts to fight the pandemic and overcome its socio-economic consequences. The EU and its Member States also attach great importance to the sustainable financing of the UN.


  1. Finally, we call for the full participation of civil society, both in terms of process and substance (CSOs should be consulted and their role reflected in the resolution, including human rights defenders). The role of international financial institutions and the private sector is also essential and we therefore suggest mentioning them.


Mr President, dear co-coordinators, we look forward to fruitful consultations. Be assured of the full support of the European Union and its Member States as you take this important work forward. Thank you.


[1] 'Recognizing further the central role of the UN system in catalysing and coordinating the global response to control and contain the spread of COVID-19, and acknowledging in this regard the crucial role played by the World Health Organization'.