Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the China‑Africa Summit on solidarity against COVID-19, in New York today:
As COVID-19 spreads around the world and across the continent, Africa has responded swiftly. As of now, reported cases are lower than feared. Yet, much hangs in the balance.
The pandemic is a grave threat to Africa’s progress. It could aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease. Millions more could be pushed into extreme poverty.
Already, demand for Africa’s commodities and tourism are declining and remittances are down. I am particularly concerned about the impact of the pandemic on women entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized business enterprises, especially in rural areas.
These are the backbone of job creation in Africa and their liquidity is key if they are to survive. It is essential that Africa receives the solidarity and support it needs.
So, I welcome the initiative of China, South Africa and Senegal in organizing this summit on China-Africa solidarity in fighting COVID-19 and its consequences. I am sure that the outcomes of the Summit will lead to even stronger China-Africa cooperation.
In responding to COVID-19 and all our current global challenges — from climate change to lawlessness in cyberspace — we require unity and solidarity. That is the core of multilateralism. We must insist that no country is safe and healthy until all countries are safe and healthy.
Unity can ensure that treatment and testing are universally available, and that first responders and essential workers have adequate protection. And solidarity can develop and distribute a vaccine that is seen as a global public good — affordable and available to all — a people’s vaccine, as both African leaders and President Xi Jinping have been asking for.
I commend what African countries have done already, together with the African Union. Most have moved rapidly to deepen regional coordination, deploy health workers, expand testing and contract tracing and enforce physical distancing measures.
For our part, United Nations agencies, particularly the World Health Organization (WHO), our country teams, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian workers, are providing support. United Nations solidarity flights have delivered millions of test kits, respirators and other supplies, reaching almost the entire continent.
And we have been calling for international action to strengthen Africa’s health systems, maintain food supplies and production, avoid a financial crisis, support education, protect jobs, keep households and businesses afloat and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings.
China’s solidarity with Africa is a vital part of this effort. I have also been calling for a global response package amounting to at least 10 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).
For Africa, that means more than $200 billion as additional support from the international community. Notwithstanding their limited fiscal space, African countries have already responded to the crisis with $44 billion in stimulus spending.
I welcome the debt relief initiatives by the “Group of 20” (G20). But, they are not enough. The G20 debt moratorium only covers bilateral official debt and the least developed countries. Debt relief must be extended to all developing and middle-income countries that request forbearance because they have no access to financial markets, and it must also involve private creditors.
China, as a member of the G20, can play a key role in this endeavour, and I welcome the announcement by the Chinese Government of bilateral debt relief for African countries.
Solidarity is also needed for building back better. Returning to the systems that created the fragility of our current world is out of the question. As we recover, we must prioritize the investments that can lead to an effective transition to net‑zero greenhouse‑gas emissions.
During recent weeks, I have been arguing strongly that all our efforts must go towards building more equal, inclusive, resilient and sustainable economies and societies. We have the blueprint — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Africa’s Agenda 2063, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Together, these agreements are our guide to a more inclusive, prosperous, healthy and peaceful world.
So, let us take inspiration from this Summit to reinforce our bonds of common cooperation for the greater good of all humankind.