World leaders at the United Nations will come together virtually on Monday to mark its 75th anniversary, as the deadly coronavirus pandemic challenges the effectiveness and solidarity of the 193-member world body.
As Covid-19, which erupted in China late last year, began to spread around the world, forcing millions of people to take shelter at home and deal with a devastating economic and as well as an emotional blow, countries turned inward, and diplomats say the United Nations struggled to assert itself.
The U.N. Secretary-general Antonio Guterres told Reuters that the pandemic had exposed the world’s worst possible fragilities. He plans to say to the world leaders on Monday that they need to work together when there is a surplus of multilateral challenges and a deficit of solutions. The 15 member security council took months to back a call by Guterres for a global ceasefire-to allow countries to focus on fighting Covid-19 due to bickering between China and the United States.
The 193 member General Assembly only adopted an omnibus resolution on a “comprehensive and coordinated response” to the pandemic earlier this month, and it was not consensus. The United States and Israel voted no.
A $10.3 billion U.N. appeal to fund fighting the pandemic in vulnerable and low-income countries is only a quarter funded. Guterres now has taken the lead in pushing to make sure any vaccine for the coronavirus is made available to everyone globally.
A senior European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the General Assembly should have acted months ago, but “we were all hampered by, and hit, by the Covid-19.”