The COVID-19 pandemic is a multifaceted crisis that requires an integrated, whole-of-government response. As Secretary-General Guterres has noted, the public health crisis has fast become in many instances an economic and social crisis and a protection and human rights crisis rolled into one.
The pandemic has halted economic growth and reversed hard fought gains in terms of poverty reduction, plunging millions of people back below the poverty line. The ongoing crisis is exacerbating inequalities and especially affecting those who already live in vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalised situations in Africa, and around the world. It is increasing grievances and reshaping conflict dynamics, fuelling root causes of conflicts and ultimately destabilising already fragile societies.
Solidarity and close cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic are crucial. At the heart of our response is the conviction that a global crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic requires a multilateral response. To win the battle against this pandemic, vaccines and health security should be accessible to all across the globe. Nobody is safe until everybody is safe. With Team Europe, the European Union and its Member States, has mobilised around €40.5 billion to support the most vulnerable in the fight against the pandemic, address the immediate health emergency and humanitarian needs, strengthen health systems and support the economic recovery and social protection. Rapid, safe and fair access to healthcare and vaccinations for all is just as much an investment in health, as it is an investment in peace and security.
This is why the EU helped set up and invested in the COVAX Facility early on. The EU and its Member States, through Team Europe, is one of the leading donors to the COVAX Facility with over €2.47 billion contributed to date. We believe this is the best vehicle to deliver on international vaccine solidarity. Altogether, COVAX has so far shipped over 53 million doses to 121 countries, which will help protect health care workers as well as the most vulnerable populations. The first deliveries of vaccines went to African countries: Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire; Nigeria, Kenya and DRC; and several others followed. The EU has also pledged €100 million to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in Africa, as spearheaded by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Beyond the immediate health needs, strengthening international preparedness for – and response to – future pandemics is a top priority for the EU. The EU and its Member States are committed to advancing global health security, including by strengthening the World Health Organization (WHO) and working towards an international treaty on pandemics within its framework. To help build resilience and prevent future outbreaks, the EU will expand cooperation on health, by building resilient health systems and reinforcing preparedness and response capacities in Africa. We are exploring ways to support local manufacturing of vaccines, medicines and health products, while taking into account mid-and long-term impacts of the pandemic on peace and stability.
We also need a response that builds resilience as the effects of COVID-19 will be with us for a long time. In line with the call to Build Back Better, the EU is working relentlessly to ensure a green, sustainable, digital and inclusive recovery, through international cooperation and multilateral action that deliver on the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. Explicit attention is paid to peacebuilding and preventive needs. We have to become better at working with early warning, responding to risks before they turn into conflicts through a whole-of-system approach. Social cohesion and inclusive multilateralism will help sustain integrated recovery and build more resilient societies.
COVID-19 has also affected human rights and protection on all continents, leaving behind an increasingly negative – and likely long-term – impact on the enjoyment of human rights, including fundamental freedoms, equality and the principle of non-discrimination. Upholding good governance, dignity and human rights, including the rights of women and girls, older persons, children and persons with disabilities should remain at the heart of the global recovery and our collective efforts, through targeted gender-, age- and disability-sensitive measures. Our actions should put people at the centre and recognise that everyone has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health.
The European Union is Africa’s first security and defence partner, supporting the development of African capabilities and solutions to African problems. The EU takes this opportunity to reiterate the importance of ensuring sustainable and predictable financing for AU peace support operations and African led peace and security initiatives in Africa, including through UN assessed contributions. As requested by the UN Security Council, the AU is now developing an EU-funded compliance framework to ensure that the troops deployed in the framework of AU-led Peace Support Operations will be fully compliant with IHL and international human rights standards and regulations.
From the Sahel to the Horn, from Bangui to Cabo Delgado, the EU is active on all crises across the African continent. 10 CSDP missions are deployed across the continent from Libya to Mali, Niger, Somalia, and the Central African Republic to name a few, engaging 2000 Europeans soldiers, police officers and other civil servants for. These missions provide advice and training to more than 30,000 African military, police and judicial personnel. We work closely alongside the African Union in these key locations supporting efforts to address root causes of conflict and ensure effective delivery on UN Security Council mandates.
Finally, the EU will continue to further international debt relief efforts for African countries, with a view to preventing conflict and help build sustainable peace. The EU will also continue to support the sustainable use of natural resources, new green technologies and local value chains. Particular attention will be paid to ensure an increased level playing field for enterprises and to restart investments, while contributing to the protection of the democratic and civic space, and human rights.
To conclude, the UN Security Council can play an important role in helping the international community to focus on ensuring that the world’s most vulnerable affected by conflict and insecurity, also receive fair and equitable access to vaccines. This includes bringing attention to the devastating effects that the pandemic has on people in fragile settings, and remaining open to consider the role that peace operations can play in this context.