I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its 27 Member States.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of NorthMacedonia, 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.
We thank the President of the General Assembly for setting up this informal meeting and also want to thank Lebanon for the initiative on this declaration.
Looking back more than one year since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see that it changed the world with cruel and devastating impacts on individuals, societies and economies. However, due to strong global cooperation and solidarity, we achieved what could not be imagined a year ago: the development and production of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines at an unprecedented pace - giving the world new hope.
Getting sufficient supply and assuring equitable access and distribution of safe and affordable vaccines globally is the actual challenge – also this challenge we can only overcome together.
This declaration is an important step in our fight against COVID-19. It is more than just a piece of paper. It is the manifestation that after one year in this pandemic we still are united on critical questions of COVID. It is an affirmation that multilateral approaches are the right way to tackle this pandemic and that we are united by the urgency of the matter / topic. It is a powerful appeal to continue our fight together and support the existing structures like the ACT-Accelerator and COVAX - politically and financially and to strengthen health systems to deliver successfully and sustainably.
The declaration encompasses several important commitments and ideas. Let me just highlight three of them:
1. A clear commitment to multilateral approaches and the confirmation of COVAX as the key instrument to deliver on equitable and affordable access to vaccines for all and leave no one behind. The creation of the COVAX facility early last year paved the way for assuring equitable access worldwide to COVID-19 vaccines. COVAX is a global achievement and it works! The purchase of large amounts of different vaccines provided a stimulus to producers to invest in research and production. The delivery in the last four weeks to over 60 countries was a logistical masterpiece. All this demonstrates the power of multilateral responses providing transparent solutions and the world with safe and effective - and for the 92 low and middle-income countries under the COVAX AMC also free - vaccines.
2. COVAX will also in future need our all support to deliver. The appeal to all countries to include financial contributions to the ACT-Accelerator in their recovery plans is therefore an important step towards sustaining vaccination as well as making treatment and testing accessible for all in a coordinated manner. Investing in COVAX is an economically sound investment – especially compared to the huge economic losses of a continued pandemic.
3. Looking beyond the vaccines. Vaccination needs more than vaccines. Country preparedness and readiness are important steps in the vaccination process. Strong health systems including the necessary infrastructure and skilled workforce are the cornerstones not only for successful vaccinations but also for ensuring resilient systems and pandemic preparedness in the future and for building back better. Adequate information and addressing misinformation and disinformation are critical to overcome vaccine hesitancy. And we need to maintain routine immunization against other communicable diseases too!
International solidarity has been embedded in the EU’s vaccine strategy from day one. This is why the EU has been leading the multilateral response to fight the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure global and equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments and is a strong supporter of the COVAX Facility. We were amongst the first to help create COVAX and together with our Member States are contributing with 2.2 billion EUR from Team Europe and we develop a joint EU mechanism for sharing vaccine doses with other countries, including developing countries via COVAX.
Being part of the group of initiators, we are delighted to see the overwhelming support of UN Member States that have already lent their support to it. We invite all Member States to join this strong commitment and to intensify cooperation.
Vaccination is not a race between countries but a race against the virus! No region is safe until all parts of the world are safe. Only together – with multilateral approaches, global cooperation and solidarity we have a chance to defeat the virus everywhere.