Bangkok hosted from 26 to 29 April 2021 the most important United Nations event of the year in the field of multilateral diplomacy as practiced at the regional level.
As reported, but without the benefit of large publicity, the biggest United Nations (UN) regional commission - the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) - composed of 62 members and associate members had its annual virtual session under the very difficult conditions generated by the pandemic COVID-19.
A cogent theme
The session took place under the theme "Building back better from crises through regional cooperation in Asia and the Pacific".
The tone of deliberations was given by the president of the session (Kazakhstan) who inter alia asserted:" Recovering from this crisis will need truly innovative solutions and urgent collective efforts that no country can do alone. It will require a whole-of-society, whole-of-government and whole-of-the-world approach, strong political will, and bold leadership, driven by compassion and solidarity."
The value of solidarity is universal, as clearly expressed in the UN Millennium Declaration of 8 September 2000.
Only 52 Asian and Pacific countries attended the 77th session of ESCAP. In the final resolution of the session ESCAP called for a "whole-of-society" response to COVID-19 and encouraged coordinated action across the region to mitigate the economic and social devastation brought on by the pandemic.
In more specific terms, in this comprehensive resolution (16 operative paragraphs), in one of the very first operative paragraphs the ESCAP "Emphasizes the key leadership role of the World Health Organization and the fundamental role of the United Nations system in catalysing and coordinating the comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic for the international community, ensuring universal and equitable distribution of vaccines and their accessibility and affordability, particularly in developing countries and least developed countries, and the role of extensive immunization as a global public good."
This UN regional body, the only one in which all five permanent members of the Security Council are full members, also reaffirmed its commitment to multilateralism in response to global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a spirit of solidarity
In their statements, in a spirit of solidarity, many delegates, from a total of over 500, underlined the importance of ensuring universal and equitable access to vaccines, investing in social protection systems that promote access to essential services and decent jobs, particularly to meet the health and social care needs of the most vulnerable populations, and promoting the continued flow of essential goods and services.
Many speakers helped ESCAP shape the narrative of forging regional alliances and solidarity. It is in this context that Australia declared :" Meetings such as this 77th session of the ESCAP Commission are now more important than ever, to build our common agenda towards inclusive and sustainable development in our region. As we know, the impacts of crises have a greater effect on those who are already disadvantaged, particularly women and girls, people with disabilities and other marginalised and vulnerable groups".
The US delegation stated inter alia that "Faced with a global health crisis of unprecedented proportions, the people of the United States are proud to support the international COVAX vaccine facility. We have already contributed an initial two billion dollars and committed to provide an additional two-billion-dollar contribution through 2022. We urge current donors to fulfill their pledges and call on others to contribute to address the COVID-19 vaccine funding shortfall".
Guided by solidarity, China announced that "We are working on providing vaccines to 80 developing countries with urgent needs, exporting vaccines to more than 40 countries, and donating vaccines to UN peacekeepers. We have announced our decision to supply 10 million doses of vaccines to WHO's COVAX facility".
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