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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

U.N. Guterres' Plea for Cooperation in COVID-19 Crisis

Updated: May 4, 2020

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, at the U.N. in New York in September 2019 (By Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Associated Press


If I die, a healthy economy would not rouse me.

It would not revive me. It would not awaken me.

Money would mean nothing to me, because I would be dead.

So, when government leaders announce dates for re-entry into a world riddled with novel coronavirus, their economic reasons leave me cold.

And when the leaders, themselves, inspire a lack of trust and respect, their advice is not worth a penny.

I long for global leadership and a return not to normal, but to a better world.

“There is a dysfunctionality in today’s world,” said Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General in a BBC interview on April 30. “There is . . . a disconnect between leadership and power. We see remarkable examples of leadership, but they are not usually associated with power. And where we see power, we sometimes do not see the necessary leadership. . . . What we have not yet been able to do is to combine the power and leadership in a way that moves the whole of the international community to solve our dramatic problem and to do it effectively.

“I hope this will be overcome sooner rather than later,” said Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal.

The 15-member United Nations Security Council has spent more than a month trying to negotiate a resolution that would emphasize the urgent need for enhanced cooperation among all countries in the COVID-19 crisis as well as calls for a humanitarian truce in conflicts around the world, according to Reuters.

Why so long? Because of the difficulty in diplomatically characterizing the World Health Organization. The Security Council’s five permanent members are China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump has halted funding for the World Health Organization while his government reviews the agency’s handling of the pandemic. Trump accuses WHO of being “China-centric”, which the agency denies.

Meanwhile, the United States did not take part in a WHO initiative on April 23 when world leaders pledged to accelerate cooperation on a novel coronavirus vaccine and to share research, treatments and medicines across the globe.

Instead, an ad-hoc grouping of 20 world leaders and global health figures, including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the French president Emmanuel Macron, and the American philanthropist Bill Gates, attended the virtual meeting, according to The Guardian.

Guterres said that the United States and China are “two absolutely vital countries”.

“The contribution of China and the United States both to fight COVID-19 (and) to all other aspects in the development of international relations is, in my opinion, absolutely essential, and I hope that it will become possible in the future.”

The BBC interviewer said there is a saying of governments not to waste a crisis. He asked whether the coronavirus pandemic was a wake-up call for climate change. Guterres responded:

“We have an opportunity to do things differently. We have an obligation to organize the recovery in a way that is much more friendly to the green economy and the green society, not to spend the money for recovery to support fossil fuels or in bailing out the most pollutant industries, doing everything possible to create green jobs, doing everything possible to ensure that when we recover, the economy will be a more sustainable and inclusive one.”

COVID-19 has underscored the fragility of today’s world, said Guterres.

“We are very fragile, and we need to overcome it by working together.”

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