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17 February 2021

Secretary-General Calls Vaccine Equity Biggest Moral Test for Global Community, as Security Council Considers Equitable Availability of Doses

Addressing the equitable distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus in the Security Council today, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres proposed the creation of an emergency task force by the G20 countries to prepare and help implement a global immunization plan.

“The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is generating hope,” he told the 15-member Council’s videoconferencing meeting.  “At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community.”

Today’s meeting was organized to discuss the role of the Security Council, Member States and the United Nations in ensuring that vaccines are made available equitably in places affected by conflict and insecurity.

The Secretary-General pointed out that the coronavirus continues its merciless march across the world — upending lives, destroying economies and undermining the Sustainable Development Goals — while exacerbating all the factors that drive instability and hindering global efforts to implement Security Council resolution 2532 (2020) on conflict prevention and resolution.

Noting that progress on vaccinations has been wildly uneven and unfair, with just 10 countries having administered 75 per cent of all vaccines, he emphasized that more than 130 countries have not received a single dose.  “If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the global South, it will mutate again and again,” he warned.  “This can prolong the pandemic significantly, enabling the virus to come back to plague the global North.”

Recalling the creation of the COVAX facility — the one global tool to procure and deliver vaccines to low- and middle-income countries — he stressed the urgent need for a global vaccination plan to bring together all those with the required power, scientific expertise and production, and financial capacities.

The Group of 20 (G20) is well placed to establish an emergency task force to prepare such a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing, he continued.  Such a task force should include all countries with a capacity to develop vaccines or to produce them if licenses are available, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO), relevant technical organizations and international financial institutions.

He said the task force would have the capacity to mobilize the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors, expressing his readiness to galvanize the entire United Nations system in support of such an effort.  The Group of Seven (G7) meeting later this week can create the momentum to mobilize the necessary financial resources, he added, declaring:  “Together, we can ensure sufficient supply, fair distribution and vaccine confidence.”

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the only way out of the pandemic is to ensure access to vaccines for everyone, including those living under conflict conditions.  COVID-19 has altered responses already compounded by conflict, and basic services must reach all, she said, citing examples of strategies by UNICEF and its partners for doing so.  Using existing vaccination infrastructure, efforts are focused on reaching groups in need, entailing steps to engage with and build trust in communities, and help Governments recruit health workers where they are most needed.  Aiming to procure 2 billion doses before the end of 2021, in addition to 2 billion doses of other vaccines, the strategies also consider conflict situations and aim to serve hard-to-reach groups, she said.  As such, COVAX has set aside vaccine stocks to reach those outside national vaccination programmes, including refugees, she reported.  Calling for the Council’s help, she emphasized that a global ceasefire is needed for the duration of the vaccine delivery period.  “We cannot allow the fight against this one deadly disease to lose ground in the fight against others,” she stressed.  “This historic effort deserves historic support.”

Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said vaccines work against poverty and conflict by giving children the same life chances, when access is equitable.  Sadly, there is a correlation between conflict and underperformance in immunization, he added.  Gavi-supported countries that are not suffering fragility reach 81 per cent of children with a third dose of vaccine on average, while in countries affected by conflict, that drops to 65 per cent.  That is further compounded by challenges to the provision of health care in conflict and fragile settings, where access and infrastructure are disrupted or restricted when most needed, further exacerbating deprivations and inequalities, and driving displacement, he noted.

In response, Gavi’s “Fragility, Emergencies and Refugees” policy provides greater funding of health systems and flexibilities to eligible partners and countries, he continued.  Broadly, the response to the challenge of today builds on Gavi’s work in countries affected by fragility and conflict, as well as its long-standing support for the stockpiles against diseases of epidemic potential, like Ebola and yellow fever, he explained.  They are funded by Gavi and managed by the International Coordination Group on Vaccine Provision.  However, it is not just the vaccine, he cautioned, but also the supply chain system, the bravery and professionalism of the health workforce, and of development and humanitarian actors, which is totally essential.  “Vaccines don’t deliver themselves,” he pointed out.

Explaining that investing in vaccines for COVID-19 and other diseases is a fundamental pillar of global health security, he declared:  “A health budget is a defence budget.”  COVAX and its goal of equitable access is critical to ending the acute phase of the pandemic, and goes hand in hand with access to diagnostics, therapeutics, supply chains and health systems innovations.  The “first resort” in covering all high-risk groups, irrespective of their legal status, is including them in national vaccine plans, he emphasized, asking the Security Council to reinforce that message so that available doses are distributed to ensure truly equitable access, in accordance with humanitarian principles and upholding State obligations towards populations within their territory.

Noting that COVAX has secured 2.3 billion doses in advance commitments and options for 190 economies in 2021, he said at least 1.3 billion doses are reserved but not yet fully paid for with donor funding.  They are meant for 92 lower-income countries eligible for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, which could increase to a further 1.8 billion doses that could be delivered with additional financing, he explained.

He went on to underline the fundamental importance of making vaccines available and the Security Council playing its political role in enabling supplies to move into conflict-affected settings through neutral humanitarian actors, in accordance with international law.  Global health security is key to economic and human security, progress and stability, he emphasized, describing COVID-19 as the biggest stress test of the multilateral system in decades.  “We must get this one right.”

Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the pandemic has laid bare fragile health systems and the need for a collective response.  Expressing regret that the briefing comes just days after a new Ebola outbreak in Guinea, he said the parallels between the two — both in terms of the destructive nature of mistrust and the transformative capacity of creating trust — are profound, he added, explaining that, when communities do not understand health interventions, they will not accept them and are likely to see them as threatening.  That can lead to violence, he cautioned, recalling that it occurred many times during previous Ebola outbreaks and even more during the coronavirus pandemic.  “Mistrust kills,” he said, emphasizing that trust is undermined when science is not only ignored, but derided.  The decision to wear masks becomes controversial and the Internet is filled with absurd rumours, he said, adding that, whereas a crisis is not the ideal time to rebuild trust, it can be done.

He went on to underline the importance of listening to and acting on what communities say.  Citing an example from an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said initial attempts to bury victims were met with hostility.  IFRC reached out to communities and listened, he added, noting that it trained 800 volunteers to gather feedback and adapted strategies for burials and local engagement.  Those steps resulted in a sharp drop in burial refusals, from 80 per cent to 8 per cent by the end of the outbreak.  Similarly, mistrust has consistently undermined COVID-19 response efforts, he said, emphasizing that earning community trust remains crucial, especially in light of the historically high levels of vaccine hesitancy during the current immunization phase.  “As we learned during Ebola, people trust us for our actions, they look at what we do, and they judge us for what we do not do,” he said.  “They see, clearly, the current high levels of vaccine inequity and inequality; they see the unfairness, for example, in the fact that less than 1 per cent of vaccine doses globally have been administered in the 32 countries facing severe or very severe humanitarian crises.”

Fair, equitable vaccine distribution is essential to building trust and for maintaining international peace and preventing violence, he continued.  Just as efforts to ensure that all countries can access vaccines, “we also need to make sure that those vaccines reach the arms of all the people who need them”.  National vaccination efforts must integrate underserved, alienated or isolated communities, including those in areas not under Government control, as well as detainees, internally displaced persons and refugees, he stressed.  Strong involvement in vaccination activities by IFRC and impartial local organizations can help to ensure that these “last mile” communities are not left behind, as can be seen in the countless lives saved in Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Pakistan, he said, adding that unparalleled access into “last mile” communities can just as easily channel COVID-19 inoculations, while maintaining critical routine vaccinations.

The campaign launched in January to help vaccinate 500 million people arose from that reach and from the trust of its membership at the most local level, he continued.  Member States can include national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in all phases of immunization planning and delivery to gain insight into community misconceptions and misgivings.  Attention is also needed to protect health workers, he stressed, recalling the 850 documented incidents of violence against them in 2020.  “We have a collective responsibility to care for those who care for us,” he said, paying tribute to workers and volunteers, while underlining that efforts to protect them must respect international humanitarian law.

In the ensuing discussion, ministers and delegates discussed how to ensure that vaccination programmes do not leave people in conflict and fragile settings behind.  They also explored ways in which to overcome the main barriers to vaccine delivery in such situations, including control over some areas by armed groups, logistical challenges, funding flows and the safety of health workers.  Further, Council members considered ways in which to address misinformation leading to vaccine hesitancy, while drawing lessons from past and ongoing immunization campaigns.

Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom, Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, noting the rightness of bringing the full weight of the Council and the wider United Nations system to bear on ending the pandemic.  At last, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be drawing closer, he said.  COVID-19 isn’t under control anywhere until it’s under control everywhere, he reiterated.  “That means we must secure access to vaccines around the world — including in the hardest-to-reach places — including places of conflict and insecurity.”  Urging the Council to send “a message that the actions and access needed to defeat the pandemic transcend what divides us”, he said local ceasefires are essential to enabling life-saving vaccinations to take place.

Further action is now needed by the Council to call for ceasefires, specifically to enable vaccinations to be carried out in areas affected by conflict, he continued, proposing a new resolution for the Council’s consideration.  Recalling that his country’s hosting of the Global Vaccine Summit in June 2020 to launch the COVAX Facility, he said up to 5 per cent of COVAX doses are reserved as a humanitarian buffer to ensure enough vaccines are available for humanitarian deployments and other emergency situations.  By calling for vaccination ceasefires, and for vaccination plans to include all high-risk populations, including refugees, a new resolution would help get vaccines distributed to the most vulnerable communities on earth.  It would help ensure full access for humanitarian and medical personnel and help protect them, he added, calling for support for the prompt adoption of this resolution.

Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said the number of deaths, the level of economic destruction and the social dislocations associated with COVID-19 continue to expand globally as new variants of the coronavirus threaten to disrupt even the most resilient of societies.  Equitable access to vaccines is of paramount concern because, unless they are made available, affordable and accessible to all, many vulnerable countries and peoples, including those affected by conflict, will suffer unbearably as the pandemic continues to destroy lives and livelihoods.  Greater international cooperation among all countries, international financial institutions and major pharmaceutical companies is required, with the United Nations and its specialized agencies playing a central role, he emphasized.

Reiterating the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) call for a global summit in the context of the WHO Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) Facilitation Council to discuss equitable access and global distribution, he said its members are resolved to share their supplies with each other.  Political will, principled engagement and solidarity among all nations remain crucial to overcoming COVID-19, he stressed.  On the disturbing trend of vaccine nationalism, he warned that hoarding critical medical supplies on the part of some wealthy countries only prolongs the pandemic.  He urged vaccine manufacturers to work with developing countries to expand production capabilities and called for greater financial support for the COVAX facility to bolster the global inoculation campaign.  During the present difficult period, the Security Council must continue to work in unison with other organs of the United Nations to systematically address the various dimensions of the pandemic, he said, adding that a global ceasefire will ensure that vaccines can be distributed safely to those whom conflict has rendered most vulnerable.  Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines must form part of any serious effort to recover sustainably from the pandemic, he reiterated, underlining that immunity can only be achieved when it is collectively composed.

Wang Yi, State Councillor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, described the anti-COVID campaign as a relay race of working together to save lives.  Nations must cooperate, respect science and reject misinformation, with the Security Council leading by example and ensuring the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020), he said, urging the relevant countries to demonstrate a humanitarian spirit and suspend sanctions.  Vaccines are powerful weapons to combat the coronavirus, but several problems must be addressed, including the need to boost production and improve distribution, he said, pointing out that vaccines are now reaching the richest first.

He went on to call for the rejection of vaccine nationalism and for making doses more accessible and affordable, with WHO leading what is becoming the largest vaccination drive in human history.  The needs of developing countries must be prioritized, and United Nations agencies should use their shipping channels and resolve delivery challenges.  Recalling that his country was among the first to join the WHO ACT-Accelerator initiative, he said China is contributing 10 million doses to COVAX, has exported vaccines to 22 countries and is helping others to boost production capacities.  Its efforts are not about achieving geopolitical goals, but about ensuring that its doses become “the people’s vaccine” to effectively overcome the global pandemic.

Pham Binh Minh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, said the global community must work together to ensure that vaccines defeat the virus.  Time is of the essence, and a winning strategy must prevail, he emphasized.  Such a plan must ensure that vaccines are accessible, he said, expressing concern that some countries are stockpiling doses at the expense of poorer countries and calling for greater contributions to COVAX.

Security and stability are also critical to ensuring safe, effective vaccine deliveries, he said, stressing that the Council must strengthen the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020) in that regard.  In addition, the international community must engage in a multilateral effort to address the root causes of conflict and ensure that every country can achieve an inclusive and resilient recovery, he said, adding that the United Nations must be at the centre of such efforts, with regional organizations playing their critical role.

Othman Jerandi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, said that his country aims to help entrench the culture of human solidarity and collective security, paving the way for new international mechanisms capable of strengthening global cooperation to face the unprecedented pandemic.  With more than 2.3 million deaths and nearly 108 million infections, COVID-19 threatens the stability and continuity of States, he said, citing the range of challenges, from economic contraction to huge social impacts caused by high unemployment and widespread poverty.  He predicted that the virus will undoubtedly continue for years to impact most severely the developing countries, conflict zones, refugee camps and communities of the displaced, where the lives of millions are at risk of famine and epidemic.

Citing the emergence of new, rapidly spreading strains and the absence of health facilities, he said Tunisia’s contributions include support for the African medical supplies platform and the African Union fund dedicated to fighting COVID‑19.  He emphasized the vital need to activate international cooperation and solidarity in order to ensure equitable access to vaccines, warning, however, that all such efforts will fall short of the Charter’s noble goals and principles if they remain on paper only.  By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals, “we all promised to leave no one behind”, he recalled, stressing that the first step can only be equal and affordable access to vaccines.

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States, said the production of several safe COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics is not expanding fast enough to meet global needs, including those of the most marginalized populations.  He recalled that, soon after its inauguration, the new Biden Administration signed its first security memorandum on global health, demonstrating its commitment as a global health leader.  Noting the re-emergence of Ebola in West Africa, he emphasized that there is no time to waste.  The United States, as the largest donor to the global health system, is committed to reforming WHO and to creating a better warning and response plan while establishing a more sustainable financing system, he said.

The Biden Administration is preparing to pay $200 million in assessed contribution to WHO in order to fulfil its financial obligations as the United States returns to the agency, he assured Council members.  The pandemic has hurt women and girls the most and gender equality is backsliding, he noted, calling for implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000).  COVID-19 must not be used as an excuse for violating human rights, he emphasized.  Turning to the investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, he stressed that it must be independent and transparent, urging all stakeholders to share all available data and information so that the world can learn as fast and as much as possible in the event of future outbreaks.  President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., made it clear that the United States is a partner in the global fight against COVID-19 and will do its part to ensure the world becomes more prepared and resilient, he pledged.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs of India, emphasized the need to persist with the vaccination drive to slow down the ability of coronavirus to infect new people and mutate further.  Member States must collaborate on genomic surveillance and information‑sharing to track virus mutations and variants, he said, adding that it is also essential to effectively address public resistance to vaccines.  Vaccine-related information must be contextual, empathetic and culturally sensitive, while providing scientific and accurate facts to allay the fears and concerns of the public, he said.  Underscoring the need to improve public health infrastructure and build capacity through effective training programmes in vaccine delivery, he called for an end to vaccine nationalism.

The COVAX facility must be strengthened to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to all countries, he continued.  Further, stressed the need to stop disinformation campaigns and to proactively prepare for the next global pandemic by focusing on improving capacities, developing protocols and building expertise, as well as a knowledge base.  India will vaccinate about 300 million front‑line and health-care workers, the elderly and the vulnerable over the next six months, he said, adding that his country is also a significant source of supply to the COVAX facility, and a bilateral partner.  Starting with its immediate neighbours, 25 nations around the world have already received made-in-India vaccines, with supplies to reach 49 more countries in the coming days.

Eva-Maria Liimets, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, said that enabling full, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance remains crucial for the delivery of vaccines, emphasizing that it is equally important that other immunization programmes do not get side-lined.  Rejecting attempts to use the coronavirus as a pretext for the lifting of restrictive measures, she explained that both European Union and United Nations sanctions hold out the possibility of humanitarian exemptions and do not obstruct the fight against the pandemic.

She pointed out that the regional bloc has been at the forefront of the multilateral response in the field of global and equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments.  Stressing the need to address the so-called “infodemic” that continues to undermine joint global response, she also noted that many everyday functions and operations have moved online.  It is even more pressing to protect essential infrastructure from cyberthreats, she said, adding that, unfortunately, vaccine producers and those involved in distribution have been targeted by cybercriminals.

Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, recalled that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) reiterated the urgent need to implement General Assembly resolution 74/274, which calls for strengthening supply chains to guarantee universal, fair, equitable and timely access to medicines, vaccines and medical supplies for tackling COVID-19.  Although the COVAX mechanism is fundamental to that goal, it is insufficient, he cautioned.

Urging countries to avoid the undue hoarding of vaccines, he deplored the fact that three quarters of the first 128 million doses were administered in only 10 countries representing 60 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), while vaccinations have not yet started in places affected by insecurity and conflict.  Mexico and Argentina have agreed with AztraZeneca on producing and packaging vaccines locally so that they reach different parts of the Latin America and Caribbean region, he said, calling upon the Council to ensure that peace operations can carry out their mandates effectively in the current conditions, and draw lessons from the pandemic.

Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, said three key challenges require targeted action.  First is ensuring equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines, she said, describing the COVAX humanitarian buffer as being vital to reaching people in contested areas or places beyond the reach of national health authorities.  To that end, Norway has contributed $500 million, she said, strongly encouraging more countries to help close the COVAX funding gap.  Secondly, full and unimpeded humanitarian access is essential for vaccines to reach the most vulnerable groups, she continued emphasizing that all parties in situations of armed conflict must fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.  Attacks against medical facilities and personnel are unacceptable, she stressed, pointing out that they largely affect women, who make up 70 per cent of health‑ and social‑care workers.

Noting that her country relies on WHO to lead and coordinate the response to the crisis, she said key humanitarian partners, such as the World Food Programme (WFP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), WHO and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs need flexible funding to respond to the many severe and rapidly changing consequences of COVID-19.  The third challenge is that hostilities must cease in order to allow vaccination to take place in conflict areas, she said.  Norway will continue to support the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, she affirmed.  “From Idlib to Gaza, from Menaka to Tigray, it is our duty as the Security Council to keep a close eye on these shifting dynamics, to coordinate efforts and to facilitate full and unimpeded humanitarian access, as well as peaceful resolution of conflicts,” she emphasized.  “We must call for concerted action across all the pillars and institutions of the United Nations to secure the widest and most equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence of Ireland, said the coronavirus has brought humanity to a crossroads.  “How we travel from here will have far-reaching implications for peace and security, for global equality and for the sustainability of our shared future,” he added.  For all to be safe, all countries must be able to vaccinate their people, he noted, emphasizing that more ambitious plans must scale up the availability of vaccines in conflict-affected zones and finance the necessary delivery modalities.  He went on to insist that parties to conflict draw upon their own humanity to facilitate humanitarian access, uphold ceasefires or pause hostilities.  Globally, the risks for long-term prosperity and stability are obvious, ranging from the 270 million people facing food insecurity to the 20 million girls who will not return to school, he said.

He went on to predict that hunger will trigger forced migration, displacement and recruitment by extremist groups, which, in turn, will drive more conflict and deepen humanitarian needs.  Ireland, fully committed to United Nations efforts to establish a mechanism for equitable vaccine distribution and supply, has increased its support to Gavi by 20 per cent and will invest €50 million in global health during 2021, while supporting the COVAX facility bilaterally and as a member of the European Union.  Highlighting the challenges ahead, he cited misinformation and vaccine hesitancy, and called for strengthening public health ecosystems, especially in conflict settings, and ensuring that developing countries can access appropriate vaccines.  “We approach the fight against COVID-19 in the way we approach many other challenges this Council addresses — by looking for ways to overcome division, [and] pursue common solutions — and find ways to help those in need,” he said.

Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness of France, emphasized the essential need to cease hostilities, saying that safe and unimpeded access is critical during the vaccine rollout, and to galvanize efforts to ensure equitable access to doses.  Support for health multilateralism is crucial, as is providing full support to WHO and the ACT‑Accelerator initiative, he said.  Private sector production partnerships must work to prevent shortages and guarantee the safety of vaccines, he added.  The COVAX facility has secured access to 1.7 billion doses for countries in need, he said, noting the European Union’s €853 million contribution.  Support is also needed to boost health systems in fragile States, he said, pointing out that France works with a number of African nations on relevant initiatives.

Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya, said COVID‑19 is more than a health crisis since as it threatens human security.  The pandemic demands that the Council lead the way in establishing norms and rules to guide mitigation and ensure equitable access to doses, she added, emphasizing that vaccine nationalism perpetuates further marginalization of those already disadvantaged by virtue of their fragile situations.  Indeed, most developing countries face a two-fold challenge to vaccine access:  producers largely working to meet huge orders from better‑resourced countries; and even with vaccines available, the grossly prohibitive cost, especially for countries in conflict or in unstable and fragile situations.  Welcoming the efforts of the COVAX facility, she noted that up to 5 per cent of its supply of doses are reserved as part of a humanitarian buffer destined for missed or neglected populations, such as refugees and asylum seekers.

Calling upon the facility to extend that element to populations in situations of conflict and insecurity, she also stressed the urgent need to scale up local manufacturing through technology transfer and to eliminate barriers related to intellectual property.  With a view to facilitating vaccine delivery in fragile and conflict‑affected regions, the Security Council should renew its demand for a general and immediate cessation of hostilities, under resolution 2532 (2020), incorporate humanitarian carve-outs in its sanction regimes for that purpose, mandate its field operations to facilitate the safe delivery of vaccines and help local authorities in sensitizing communities to the safety of vaccination.  She went on to propose a high-level conference to discuss how countries in conflict and refugee-hosting States can respond to COVID-19 more effectively.

The representative of Niger warned that some countries are employing protectionist practices, using vaccines to advance their hegemonic ambitions, instead of supporting a coordinated, inclusive international response.  To date, it is estimated that countries with only 16 per cent of the world’s population bought 60 per cent of the available supplies, he noted, adding that the resulting “artificial shortage” undermines efforts by many countries, especially those in conflict zones, in response to COVID-19.  Emphasizing the importance of capitalizing on the experience gained by some countries in their fight against Ebola, he said equally important is the awareness campaign undertaken by various Governments with a view to overcoming mistrust in vaccines.  He went on to stress that the involvement of young people, women, the private sector, civil society as well as traditional and religious leaders is essential to the design and development of communication strategies.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that most questions related to equitable universal access to vaccines are considered by other United Nations bodies, primarily WHO, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, emphasizing that today’s generalized discussion on the subject is beyond the competence of the Security Council.  The Russian Federation supports WHO’s central role as a multilateral mechanism to coordinate the global response to health emergencies, he added.  Unfortunately, the worldwide coronavirus outbreak did not spare States in armed conflict, he noted.  Recalling that his country was the first to support the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, he said the Russian Federation has consistently emphasized the need to introduce a humanitarian pause in conflict zones.  However, such measures do not apply to operations against internationally recognized terrorist groups, he stressed, adding that the Council’s response efforts should focus specifically on supporting the activities of peacekeeping missions, the continuity of peace processes and implementation of the universal ceasefire initiative.  He went on to recall that the Council expressed support, in resolution 2532 (2020), for the Secretary‑General’s call for lifting illegal unilateral sanctions that undermine the capabilities of affected States, especially developing countries, to withstand the pandemic and ensure socioeconomic recovery from its consequences.  The Russian Federation’s “green corridors” initiative is free from trade wars and sanctions affecting the delivery of essential goods and medicines to countries in need, he pointed out.  He went on to state that two vaccines have been used in his country and a third awaits registration.  The Russian Federation’s Sputnik-V vaccine has been approved in 27 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Middle East and the Americas, he added.

Taking the floor a second time, briefers stressed the importance of translating words into action and the need to counter misinformation and cynicism, while expressing pleasure at the new level of multilateralism and consensus seen in today’s debate.

For information media. Not an official record.