Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as delivered, to the Security Council open meeting: “Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in contexts affected by conflict and insecurity”, today:
I thank the United Kingdom for organizing this meeting and for reinforcing my call for a global ceasefire to ease suffering, create space for diplomacy and enable humanitarian access — including for the delivery of vaccines worldwide.
COVID-19 continues its merciless march across the world — upending lives, destroying economies and undermining the Sustainable Development Goals. The pandemic is exacerbating all the factors that drive instability — hindering our efforts to implement Security Council resolution 2532 (2020) for the cessation of hostilities, conflict prevention and resolution.
Defeating COVID-19, now that we have begun to have the scientific capacity to do so, is more important than ever. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is generating hope. At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community. We must ensure that everybody, everywhere, can be vaccinated as soon as possible.
Yet, progress on vaccinations has been wildly uneven and unfair. Just 10 countries have administered 75 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, more than 130 countries have not received a single dose. Those affected by conflict and insecurity are at particular risk of being left behind.
When pandemic strikes, we are only safe if everyone is safe. If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the Global South, or parts of it, it will mutate again and again. New variants could become more transmissible, more deadly and, potentially, threaten the effectiveness of current vaccines and diagnostics. This can prolong the pandemic significantly, enabling the virus to come back to plague the Global North. It will also delay the world economic recovery.
We have come together to create the COVAX facility — the one global tool to procure and deliver vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. COVAX requires to be fully funded. But we must do even more. Our efforts need to be comprehensive and well-coordinated everywhere. The world urgently needs a global vaccination plan to bring together all those with the required power, scientific expertise and production and financial capacities.
I believe the G20 is well placed to establish an emergency task force to prepare such a global vaccination plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. This task force should include all countries in which there is a capacity to develop vaccines or to produce them if licenses are available, together with the WHO [World Health Organization], Gavi, and other relevant technical organizations and the international financial institutions. The task force would have the capacity to mobilize the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors.
I am ready to galvanize the full United Nations System in support of this effort. The G7 meeting later this week can help create the momentum to mobilize the necessary financial resources. Together, we can ensure sufficient supply, fair distribution and vaccine confidence.
We can defeat this disease. We can get our economies running again. I am convinced it is possible. Let’s make it happen, together.