New York

12 May 2020

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at online launch of the Group of Friends of Solidarity for Global Health Security [as prepared for delivery]

I thank the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea for organizing this important launch meeting.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis of historic magnitude.
Our response requires unprecedented global solidarity. 
I therefore commend Canada, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Sierra Leone and the State of Qatar for establishing this Group of Friends of Solidarity for Global Health Security.
This comes at a time when we need, more than ever, to strengthen institutions in our multilateral system.
We know that comprehensive, coordinated public health measures are effective in slowing transmission. 
The good news is that there has been a great deal of success among some countries in slowing the virus and saving lives.  
These country experiences show how stopping chains of transmission is feasible and must remain the top priority for all.
Until there is a vaccine, the comprehensive package of measures that have been taken is our most effective set of tools. We welcome the Access to COVID-19 Tools (or ACT) Accelerator and subsequent funding received, but more support is needed.
But we also know that even countries that have taken such steps are still in jeopardy, as many now experience a resurgence of cases.  According to the World Health Organization, early studies show that a relatively low percentage of the population has antibodies to COVID-19, which means most of the population is still susceptible to the virus. 
In an interconnected world, we are only as strong as the weakest health system. 
We can see again the clear relationship between global health security and strong and resilient health systems with universal health coverage. In order to curb an outbreak, at a time when the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and left many financially insecure, the entire population must be able to access necessary testing, treatment and care.
But we are also keenly aware that strong COVID-19 containment and mitigation measures have come at a serious socio-economic cost to millions of people.
The United Nations has mobilized fully to ease these impacts, to support countries in their responses and to plan for recovery. 
The Secretary-General has appealed for a global ceasefire and for mutual respect in the face of COVID-19 related stigma and hate speech. 
We have also recognized the need for rapid analysis of the many dimensions of the crisis.  
This is why the Secretary-General has issued a series of helpful policy briefs and consistent calls for global solidarity and support to the developing world in the battle against the pandemic.
Our first report documented the immediate socio-economic consequences of COVID-19, and was followed by a global framework to guide our country teams in their support of government action.  This framework complements the UN health response, led by WHO, as well as the humanitarian response plan.
We have also highlighted the disproportionate impacts on women and children, including a horrifying rise in domestic violence and the approximately 1.6 billion children and young people who are out of school. 
We have provided guidance on how to address the increasingly urgent human rights dimensions of COVID-19, and how to fight hate speech and misinformation. 
We have also spotlighted the particular vulnerability of older persons and the consequences of COVID-19 for persons with disabilities. 
Tomorrow, we will issue a brief on the profound consequences COVID-19 will also have on mental health and its different dimensions – including health workers, children and youth.
Across these briefs and across the response in general, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remains central to guiding countries towards a resilient recovery and a more sustainable long-term path.
As many countries are now managing different COVID-19 phases and transitions, it is vital to have a coordinated global response. No country can overcome this pandemic alone, and the sharing of reliable information, data and experiences will be vital.
This inaugural meeting of the Group of Friends of Solidarity for Global Health Security is an important step in that direction.
Thank you again for your leadership and for initiative. You can count on our support.