COVID-19: Guterres warns against “vaccinationalism”

On 22 September, the UN Secretary-General told the UN General Assembly that the world “faces (its) own 1945 moment,” and declared that populism and nationalism have failed in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his annual report on the work of the Organisation which kicks-off the General Debate of world leaders, the Secretary-General, António Guterres, said that the current pandemic is a crisis unlike any we have ever seen.

“COVID-19 is not only a wake-up call, it is a dress rehearsal for the world of challenges to come.”

For the first time in the United Nations 75-year history, the leaders of states and governments and ministers were not present to participate in the annual debate. Instead, their speeches have been pre-recorded.

“In a world turned upside down, this General Assembly Hall is among the strangest sights of all. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our annual meeting beyond recognition. But it has made it more important than ever,” Mr Guterres said.

He compared the situation now to 1945, the year of the UN was founded.

“Those who built the United Nations 75 years ago had lived through a pandemic, a global depression, genocide and world war. They knew the cost of discord and the value of unity. They fashioned a visionary response, embodied in our founding Charter, with people at the centre.”

Calling for global solidarity, he said that “populism and nationalism have failed…and have often made things manifestly worse.”

Mr Guterres warned against what he called “vaccinationalism”.

“Some countries are reportedly making side deals exclusively for their own populations. Such “vaccinationalism” is not only unfair, it is self-defeating. None of us is safe until all of us are safe.”

Mr Guterres painted a bleak picture of the world and stated that COVID-19 has laid bare the world’s fragilities with rising inequalities, climate catastrophe, widening societal divisions and rampant corruption.

“The pandemic has exploited these injustices, preyed on the most vulnerable and wiped away the progress of decades.  For the first time in 30 years, poverty is rising.  Human development indicators are declining. We are careening off track in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

In his speech, the Secretary-General reminded the General Assembly that he had called for a global ceasefire as the pandemic took hold.

“Today, I appeal for a new push by the international community to make this a reality by the end of this year. We have exactly 100 days. There is only one winner of conflict during a pandemic: the virus itself.”

The General Debate started today with Brazil addressing the General Assembly followed by the host country, the United States

Follow the General Debate here:

Latest news