PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the international system like never before, but alongside unfortunate examples of inequality, there has been ample evidence of the spirit of global solidarity and fairness, exemplifying the best values of the United Nations. One such case is the COVAX mechanism, despite its limitations, as without it, Africa’s vaccine deficit would be even more severe. “But, we can and must do more to speed up vaccine distribution in Africa; doing so benefits the entire world,” he continued, welcoming such positive steps from various partners and companies towards building local vaccine manufacturing capacity. The world must now harness this positive momentum to build long-term pandemic resilience where it is needed most. Citing examples of this, he pointed to the cooperation of the Group of 7 and Group of 20 to issue new special drawing rights. A further voluntary reallocation of new special drawing rights to countries that need them most will help to create the fiscal space required for a faster and more equitable pandemic recovery.
However, the world is seriously off track with the Sustainable Development Goals, he said. While nations were behind schedule with the Goals even before the pandemic hit, there is now increased attention on figuring out how to refocus efforts and catch up. This sense of urgency must be converted into durable political commitments to achieve the Goals, putting climate change mitigation at the centre of efforts. The severity of weather-related disasters is increasing year-by-year, and the world cannot afford an inconclusive or divisive result at the forthcoming COP26. At the same time, he emphasized the importance of citizen-centred governance and accountability, which guarantees well-being, material progress, security, stability and confidence in the future. The extremist ideologies that drive terrorism and genocide must be named, identified early and dismantled, without ambiguity or hesitation. “On that, we cannot afford to play politics,” he said, expressing a strong endorsement of the Secretary-General’s Report on Our Common Agenda.
The Secretary-General is right to warn of a possible breakdown in the multilateral system in the face of the pandemic, worsening conflict, the climate emergency and chronic poverty, he said. This would have disastrous consequences for all, and the risk should be taken seriously. The Secretary-General’s action plan merits States’ full support, particularly the need for a global vaccination plan, a renewal of trust between Governments and citizens, more focus on the needs of youth and a rejuvenated commitment to fact-based reasoning and science. “Whether we are able to convene physically for the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly in 2022, or for the Secretary-General’s proposed Summit of the Future, depends on the actions we all take in the coming months,” he said. “With determination and focus, it can be achieved.”
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