The violent epidemiological shock of COVID-19, which caught all countries off guard without distinction, will always be remembered as a major event of the twenty-first century. It laid bare the international community’s lack of preparedness at the State, United Nations and other levels. Its impact was without precedent at the political and socioeconomic levels for countries, and systemic and managerial levels for the United Nations and its agencies.

The tectonic waves of this pandemic aroused global reactions, while being sometimes uncoordinated, and jolted the multilateral system. The United Nations response was global, conducted through its principal organs and specialized agencies. They ensured the continuity of their activities and the implementation of their respective mandates by adapting their working methods to the realities of confinement and social distancing. They adopted resolutions to facilitate the coordination of the international response to COVID-19, thus demonstrating their resolute engagement in favour of multilateralism, even at this extraordinary juncture.

For his part, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres demonstrated leadership, acting in the earliest days of the crisis to mobilize the international community to effectively fight the epidemic.

It is in this context that the Secretary-General made several calls, such as for an immediate global ceasefire, to end gender-based and domestic violence, protect children, address climate change, alleviate debt, combat hate speech, and more recently, protect displaced persons. These initiatives raised universal awareness of the importance of strengthening and consolidating efforts to lessen the consequences of this health crisis.

Morocco prides itself on having been in phase with these calls, notably in organizing, on 12 May 2020, a high-level videoconference of representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths on the role of religious leaders in confronting the multiple challenges of COVID-19, including the struggle against hate speech.

The pandemic will inevitably be defeated, while climate change remains the biggest planetary menace of the twenty-first century.

In parallel with these measures, the World Health Organization continued to guide research programmes, define norms and standards, provide technological support and ensure follow-up on the global health situation. The United Nations Development Programme, in support of the new resident coordinator system, instituted an integrated global response strategy based on the “preparation, response and recovery” paradigm. The United Nations funds, agencies and programmes, the Bretton Woods institutions, and regional and subregional organizations all undertook urgent and targeted measures to fight the pandemic.

The recent Global Vaccination Summit, held in London on 4 June 2020, perfectly illustrates the efficiency and pertinence of collective and multilateral action in the fight against this pandemic. Pledges totalling $8.8 billion were made in support of research on a vaccine, which will be made available to all countries.

The health emergency contributed to raising awareness on the environmental emergency in terms of the obligations of States with regard to the 2015 Paris Agreement and the 2019 Climate Action Summit. In this context, the COVID-19 crisis reinforced countries in their initiatives and coalitions for energy transitions and the diversification of energy provision, in investing in renewable energy. The pandemic will inevitably be defeated, while climate change remains the biggest planetary menace of the twenty-first century.

While the health crisis monopolizes the world’s attention, it is also exacerbating pre-existing tensions in conflict zones, despite the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. Certain armed groups have taken advantage of the current situation to seize control of new territories and step up their attacks on civilians, hospitals, schools and economic infrastructure.

The Chair of the Committee on Information, M. Omar Hilale of Morocco, at the opening of the 41st session of the Committee on 29 April 2019. ©UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Faced with this double challenge, United Nations peacekeeping operations provided essential support in the struggle against COVID-19 to the countries in which they are deployed, while continuing to implement their mandates as much as possible. The missions took a series of preventive measures early in the crisis.

In this context, the United Nations, along with its international and private sector institutional partners, was right to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable countries on the African continent, which, despite the strong resilience it demonstrated until now, doesn’t have the health infrastructure that would allow it to confront the pandemic effectively.

Looking to lessons learned in past health emergencies, notably the Ebola crisis, which affected Africa in 2014, Morocco sent millions of masks and medical supplies to many African countries. In addition, His Majesty King Mohammed VI proposed an operational cooperation framework between African States, which was supported by many of his counterparts.

Disinformation has been another toxic facet of the pandemic. The Secretary-General sounded the alarm on this “misinfo-demic spreading”, comparing the dangers of disinformation with those of the coronavirus itself.

Conscious of this danger, Morocco, in its capacity as President of the Committee on Information of the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly, firmly supported the action taken by the United Nations Department of Global Communications, which has redoubled its efforts during the crisis. The creation of the “Verified” label perfectly illustrates the importance of United Nations action in terms of the dissemination of reliable information.

Some analysts are already dreaming about an overhaul of the international architecture. Others are declaring the Bretton Woods institutions obsolete and point to the advent of a new, post-COVID international order. 

This pandemic is as much a catastrophe as it is an opportunity. It represents a magnifying glass highlighting the dysfunctions of international relations and at the same time the centrality of the United Nations.

Some analysts are already dreaming about an overhaul of the international architecture. Others are declaring the Bretton Woods institutions obsolete and point to the advent of a new, post-COVID international order. Indeed, the pandemic and its multidimensional consequences resolutely call for a legitimate and existential questioning of world governance. Those predicting deglobalization, however, will certainly be disappointed. The current geopolitical “blast” will continue for some time, and today’s multipolar world will still be in place tomorrow.

While the United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary, it would be unjust to reduce it to the Security Council’s paralysis. The Organization’s accomplishments under its three pillars—development, peace and security and human rights—are incontestable. Their impact on the daily life of the world’s citizens is, without a doubt, meaningful and concrete.

The celebration of the 75th anniversary will be an opportunity to reinforce our collective commitment to the values and principles of multilateralism, and to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to act with unity and solidarity. This will likewise be an occasion to engage in a serious reflection with the aim of adopting a long-term vision. To this end, the multilateral system, despite its weaknesses, remains our only option, and the United Nations our best hope for addressing humanity’s present and future challenges.


14 July 2020

The  UN Chronicle is not an official record. The views expressed by individual authors, as well as the boundaries and names shown and the designations used in maps or articles, do not necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.