Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message for the launch of the policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on South-East Asia, in New York today:
As in other parts of the world, the health, economic and political impact of COVID-19 has been significant across South-East Asia — hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.
The pandemic has highlighted deep inequalities, shortfalls in governance and the imperative for a sustainable development pathway. And it has revealed new challenges, including to peace and security.
Containment measures have spared South-East Asia the degree of suffering and upheaval seen elsewhere. Governments acted swiftly to battle the pandemic and avoid its worst effects. And regional cooperation has been robust across multiple sectors.
Throughout the crisis, the United Nations has been supporting response and recovery efforts. We are providing medical supplies, supporting social protection programmes, assisting returning migrants and addressing the surge in violence against women and children. Looking ahead, four areas will be critical in the region’s plans for recovery.
First, tackling inequality in income, health care and social protection — in short-term stimulus measures, as well as long-term policy changes. Second, bridging the digital divide — to ensure that people and communities are not left behind in our ever-more-connected world. Third, greening the economy — to create the jobs of the future and to decarbonize economies still too dependent on coal and other industries of the past. Fourth, upholding human rights, protecting civic space and promoting transparency, which are all intrinsic to an effective response.
Central to these efforts is the need to advance gender equality, address upsurges in gender-based violence, and target women in all aspects of economic recovery and stimulus plans. This will mitigate the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on women, and is also one of the surest avenues to sustainable, rapid and inclusive recovery for all.
The current situation is leading to recession and social tensions. Already, hate speech has increased and political processes have stalled, leaving several long-running conflicts to stagnate and fester. All Governments in the subregion have supported my appeal for a global ceasefire — and I count on all countries in South-East Asia to translate that commitment into meaningful change on the ground.
The region has much work to do — but has formidable capacities at its disposal. The United Nations is strongly committed to our partnership with the countries of South-East Asia, and we will continue to support efforts to get the region on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a peaceful future for all. Thank you.