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A test of diplomatic maturity

By Ioan Voicu - posted Wednesday, 16 September 2020

In 2019, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on behalf of 193 member states, decided that the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) shall be commemorated in 2020 under the theme "The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism".

The UNGA further decided to convene in New York, on 21 September 2020, a high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN , with the participation of Heads of State and Government.

It was also decided to adopt by consensus at the high-level meeting on 21 September 2020 a concise, substantive, forward-looking and unifying declaration that captures the collective commitment of member states to multilateralism and to the UN and their shared vision for a common future.


Earlier, in 2018,under an agenda item entitled "Global health and foreign policy", the UNGA requested the UN Secretary-General, with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO), to provide a progress report on the matter in 2020.

In 2019, the UNGA decided to convene a high-level meeting on universal health coverage in 2023 in New York in order to identify gaps and solutions to accelerate progress towards the achievement of universal health coverage by 2030.It was also decided that the scope and modalities of this objective should be decided no later than the 75th session of the UNGA in 2020, taking into consideration the outcomes of other existing health-related processes.

At the same time, in 2019, the UNGA requested the UN Secretary-General, in close collaboration with the Director General of the WHO, to address, inter alia, the challenges and opportunities of inclusive approaches to strengthening health systems.

It should be reminded that on 12 December 2019 France, on behalf of the seven members of the Foreign Policy and Global Health Initiative - Brazil, France, Indonesia, Norway, Senegal, South Africa and Thailand introduced the draft resolution entitled "Global health and foreign policy: an inclusive approach to strengthening health systems". Several paragraphs of the draft were approved by vote, while the resolution as a whole was adopted by consensus.

There was no reference to COVID-19 in all diplomatic deliberations about the above 2019 resolution, in spite of the fact that, as announced by BBC, on 1 December 2019 the first onset of symptoms of this virus were observed, according to the Lancet medical journal.

What happened meanwhile ?

For a balanced answer we will refer to the Report of the UN Secretary-General on the work of the Organization, circulated in August 2020, a text of 31 pages in which COVID-19 is mentioned 29 times.The second section of the report quasi --ignored for the time-being by the mainstream media - is entitled The United Nations response to COVID-19 .Its first paragraph says : "The COVID-19 pandemic has swiftly taken hundreds of thousands of lives, infected millions of people, upended economies and disrupted every aspect of modern life. It is more than a health crisis: it is an economic crisis, a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis and a human rights crisis. The global response requires reimagining the structures of societies and how we cooperate for the common good".


What was the first collective reaction of the UN faced with the COVID -19 pandemic ?

The UNGA adopted in April 2020 two resolutions which are self- explanatory by their official titles : "Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)" and "International cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19".

In May 2020, on the proposal of 130 co-sponsors, including Thailand and Australia, as well as the European Union and its members,the WHO adopted a comprehensive resolution.In its first operative paragraph,the World Health Assembly

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About the Author

Dr Ioan Voicu is a Visiting Professor at Assumption University in Bangkok

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