I thank the Undersecretaries General for their briefings this morning.
We meet as we are facing perhaps the darkest hours of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of deaths have now surpassed 2 million people. And the virus has exacerbated human suffering in conflict areas.
Progress on vaccines gives us hope.
But we need to reach the most vulnerable.
For this purpose, Norway is proud to co-chair the Facilitation Council for the ‘Access to Covid-19 Tools-Accelerator’ together with South Africa.
Securing fair and global access to vaccines, and mitigating the negative consequences of the pandemic, requires an effective, and efficient multilateral system.
In this, the Security Council must also play its part and deliver a united response.
Like many other countries, Norway echoed Secretary-General Guterres’ timely call for a global ceasefire. We encouraged parties to conflict to adhere to the appeal.
However, as we have all seen, the response has not been sufficient.
Where ceasefires were announced, most were unilateral and limited; lacking follow-up mechanisms for coordination, monitoring, and conflict management.
We should apply lessons from this experience as we assist parties moving forward.
One lesson to draw is the importance of encouraging mutual commitments by conflict parties to allow ceasefires to serve their purpose – whether it is vaccine distribution, or steps towards a settlement.
The leadership and coordination by the WHO, OCHA and UNDP were essential to ensure effective and immediate: health, humanitarian and socio-economic responses.
We also commend the Secretary-General for his swift response when Norway proposed to establish the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund in March 2020.
The pandemic has demonstrated the need for strong and efficient UN collaboration at the country level. Reports from the field confirm the importance of the strengthened United Nations Resident Coordinator system – a key element of UN reform.
The pandemic has also highlighted the need for a global health agenda that can improve resilience, prevention, preparedness, and response to health threats.
Multilateral cooperation in these areas is more important than ever.
Despite the lack of implementation of a full global ceasefire, important results have been achieved. Especially UN missions have delivered impressively towards the objectives set out by the Secretary-General in April last year.
Their efforts should continue to: support national authorities, protect UN personnel, mitigate the spread of the virus, and assist in the protection of vulnerable communities while ensuring operational continuity.
Additionally, it remains essential that humanitarian workers get safe, and unhindered, access to those in need- including for vaccination. Norway supports the UN in their efforts to ensure humanitarian access under these challenging circumstances. We particularly stress the key role of local, first-line humanitarian workers.
COVID-19 has exacerbated protection challenges, including combating sexual and gender based violence. Violations against children also persist. And the lack of safe access to education remains a key concern. Norway will continue to prioritise the protection of civilians in response to the pandemic, including the implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration.
COVID has impacted us all, but not evenly. We have seen disproportionate impacts between, countries, between communities, and even genders. We need a gender transformative perspective, and above all: human rights, the rule of law, and gender equality must underpin our global response to COVID-19.
The pandemic has also brought into sharp relief the importance of the women, peace, and security agenda to every aspect of crisis prevention and response. At the community level, women peacebuilders and human rights defenders have found themselves also at the forefront of COVID-19 prevention and response efforts. They remain vital component of pandemic response and recovery, and are key to long term resilience, peace-making and peacebuilding.
The world is facing several crises at once: the global pandemic, climate change and biodiversity loss. They interact and reinforce one another. They exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. And add complexity to situations where communities are already under stress from armed conflict.
Our recovery efforts provide an opportunity to build back better, and greener- and perhaps more peacefully. The many pressures exerted by the pandemic shift conflict dynamics in different ways. Some conflicts will harden; while in others, new windows for coordinated diplomatic efforts may open.
It is our duty as the Security Council to closely watch these shifting dynamics, to coordinate efforts; and facilitate humanitarian access, and peaceful resolution of conflicts when possible.