Mr President , Madam Deputy Director General,
I have the honor to speak on behalf of the EU and its 27 Member States
Let me start by expressing our appreciation for today’s timely briefing on the UNDS assesssment and the UN’s work to address the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. We pay tribute to the tireless efforts by the Secretary General, the United Nations Deputy Secretary General and the whole leadership team in the UN to help the world stem the pandemic. For all of us, this crisis is unprecented in our lifetime, and TOGETHER we have to rise to the challenge, AS UNITED NATIONS.
The European Union and its Member States understand that we cannot fight COVID-19 on our continent only. We have to work with our partners around the globe, building on our longstanding cooperation in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to confront this challenge. We are all in this together.
Yesterday, the European Commission, the High Representative and Member States set out plans for a robust and targeted Team Europe response to support partner countries’ efforts in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. The EU’s collective action will focus on three areas: (i) addressing the immediate health crisis and resulting humanitarian needs, (ii) strengthening partner countries’ health, water and sanitation systems and their research and preparedness capacities to deal with the pandemic, as well as (iii) – and this will absorb the largest share of the funds - mitigating the socioeconomic impact. To underpin these actions, the EU and its Member States have secured financial support to partner countries amounting to more than EUR 20 billion, including EUR15.6 billion from existing external action resources from the European Commission and the European Investment Bank. More EU Member States are expected to announce additional bilateral contributions. Together with our partners, Team Europe is making sure that these resources are effectively mobilised on the ground and turned into concrete action for fast delivery in dealing with the impact of coronavirus.
The UN is and remains a key partner for implementation of EU support . As first example of our strong commitment, we already allocated EUR 55 million from development and humanitarian budget reserves as contribution to the WHO for global preparedness, prevention and containment of the virus and support to the countries with the weakest health systems. This is also an expression of our trust in the WHO and its leadership.
The UN, the EU and other Member States need to stand up for science and the integrity of global, regional and national institutions. We need to ensure access to facts and counter disinformation.
We must also ensure that trade flows keep functioning, refrain from raising barriers or imposing new barriers, keep markets open and secure global value chains and minimize disruption to the free flow of goods and services. This is not only vital for the supply of medical goods and equipment, but also for consumption and investment goods in the recovery process.
Madam, Deputy Secretary General,
Going beyond the immediate response to the pandemic, we need to look at long-term investments to make us come out of this crisis stronger. We welcome the report by the Secretary General on the Socio-Economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and plans to address the medium and long-term effects of the pandemic, all while directing our best efforts to combatting the pandemic as a priority. In doing so, decisive and innovative multi-lateral cooperation is more needed than ever.
None of the other major crises of the world will have gone away. This includes the major environmental crises: we still need to address climate change, biodiversity loss, the depletion of natural resources. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder that the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement remain crucial to help better equip the world for future systemic shocks. The European Union is determined to do so, notably through The European Green Deal, investing during the recovery in sustainable and innovative solutions.
While containing the spread of the virus requires that we all accept temporary limitations of our freedom of movement, we must not sacrifice our determination to fight for Human Rights and gender equality. Both globally and in some EU countries, a rise in cases of domestic violence has been reported in the first week of the lockdown. We welcome the Secretary General’s strong condemnation of this development. We must pay particular attention to this issue and expand our actions to stop violence against women, as the EU continues to do with the UN through the Spotlight initiative. Furthermore, we must address the crisis’ broader economic impact on women and ensure a gender-responsive answer to the pandemic by the UNDS as whole.
In the 2030 Agenda, we commit to “Leaving No One Behind”. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the most fragile countries, migrants and the most vulnerable people is likely to be dramatic. There is also a risk for growing political tension and potential escalation of conflicts in already vulnerable societies. The EU fully supports the global cease fire as called for by the UN Secretary General as a precondition to tackle the Corona crisis in these settings. At the country level, COVID-19 global response plans should address the local context in a conflict sensitive manner and fully aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. We have to seize the chance in this crisis to re-build more sustainable, inclusive and resilient societies.
Madam Deputy Secretary General,
The present challenge comes at a time, when the UN system has undertaken the biggest reform of its Development System in order to make it fit to deliver the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The EU has been a staunch supporter of the UNDS reform from day one, which we trust will now proof its value through an efficient coordination of UN COVID-19 MPTF action in the field. Understanding how funds and appeals will be channelled and coordinated will be essential for the coherent action across the UN system. The pandemic is nevertheless a stress test of the Resident Coordinator system. This is not the time for competition between agencies, funds and programmes or with International Financial Institutions. All member States and UNDS entities must lend their support the Resident Coordinators as UNDS reform remains fundamentally important in particular in times like these.
I thank you.