“We the peoples of the United Nations...” reads the immortal opening line of the Charter of the United Nations. It paints a picture of the creation of an organisation from the ashes of WWII. A coming together of nations to overcome adversity.
Now 75 years on, in the face of a global pandemic, we must again live up to our founding principles. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres has underlined, COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced since the formation of the United Nations. One that undoubtedly requires a multilateral response. A virus does not ask permission to travel between countries, or stop to have its passport checked.
This is why our countries Ghana, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland have come together at the United Nations to draft the first resolution on the fight against COVID-19 that was unanimously adopted on Thursday 2 April 2020.
While a resolution on the given crisis of the day is to be expected from the UN, this one represents much more. It is a signal of global solidarity. It is a show of force.
It is the first intergovernmental statement from the UN on COVID-19 but it certainly will not be the last. This resolution is an overdue first step, to convey a message to people around the world that the United Nations is responding to this crisis.
The resolution calls for intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic, especially to help the weakest and most vulnerable.
Beyond the words of the General Assembly, we must now give our full support to the UN’s operational work at the service of the countries and the people most in need of international cooperation. This human crisis has proven to be a monumental national challenge for every government, to re-allocate their resources, and reformulate their priorities. While on the frontline, our health care professionals and other essential workers are risking their lives – literally, to save humanity.
The United Nations system, in particular the World Health Organisation, has a central role to play in mobilising and coordinating the worldwide response to this pandemic and to supporting these national efforts. Not only in the short term, responding to the urgent humanitarian need, but also in dealing with the inevitable long-term economic, social and developmental consequences of this crisis, and in building future resiliency.
The UN with its convening power, and resources on the ground is best placed to bring together not just every country, but also every possible partner, from civil society to the private sector. To overcome this health emergency with a spirt of solidarity, to promote action without stigma or discrimination, and to ensure that no one in our society is left behind.
The challenges we face remain vast. Nevertheless, the resolution adopted this week expresses our optimism. We have put on record our conviction that the unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can be mitigated, and successfully reversed, through leadership and sustained global cooperation. We hope this resolution is one of “we the peoples”, towards a new kind of multilateralism, where the United Nations again rises to face a global challenge with a truly united response.