The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the developing world the hardest. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the economic outlook has worsened significantly in some emerging market and low-income economies where infections are rising rapidly. Although initially a health crisis, the pandemic has also evolved into a major socioeconomic and environmental one.
Non-Aligned Movement, being the largest collective voice of the developing world, has voiced its concerns regarding the adverse impact of COVID-19 crisis. NAM has called on its Member States to cooperate in strengthening their health systems and to provide protection to the vulnerable population. NAM recognises the vital role of the United Nations system, led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through collective, coordinated action and in accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. The WHO has given due importance to NAM’s position and this can be gauged from the fact that WHO uses the NAM database as one of its reference points for identifying the existing needs of NAM Member states in addressing the pandemic.
On May 4 2020, an online Summit level Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Contact Group in response to COVID-19, under the theme of “United against COVID-19 pandemic” was held. The meeting was attended by 25 Heads of State and Government, 1 Vice-President, 1 Deputy Prime Minister and 11 Ministers of NAM Member States. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of United Nations and Josep Borrell, High Representative, Vice-President of the European Commission also addressed the Meeting through video messages. Guterres remarked that comprising two-thirds of UN Member States, the Non-Aligned Movement has a critical role to play in forging global solidarity. He outlined three immediate priorities: to end the Covid-19 pandemic, to address its socio-economic impacts, and to use the recovery to build back better and leave no one behind.
NAM also took the initiative to convene the Special Session of the UN General Assembly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. NAM perceived the UN General Assembly Special Session on COVID-19 as an opportunity for the international community to strengthen international solidarity, cooperation and multilateralism in the fight against COVID-19 and to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment.
The initiative of NAM to convene a special session got overwhelming support from Member States of the United Nations and on December 3-4, 2020, the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was held at the UN Headquarters in New York. The session discussed the pandemic’s impact as well as the multi-faceted, coordinated response required to address the greatest global health crisis in decades.
One of the keynote speakers was Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, and also the Chair of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement. Aliyev addressed the UN session in capacity of the latter. The NAM Chair praised the activities of the United Nations system in response to the COVID-19 and commended the strong leadership of the Secretary-General, who played a central role in spearheading the United Nations global response to the pandemic, while at the same time ensuring continuity of operations of the UN Secretariat. The NAM Chair said that the it fully supports the WHO and its leadership in their critical role in providing guidance, training, equipment and concrete life-saving services, in order to ensure effective response of the international community to the ever-increasing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NAM Chair also stressed the importance of affordable, unhindered and equitable access by all countries to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment, which should constitute an integral part of a coordinated and effective global response to COVID-19. “It is through a coordinated and concerted global response based on unity, multilateral cooperation, solidarity and respect for human rights that the international community can craft strategies to mitigate effects of COVID-19 and recover from the pandemic, which currently continues to spread”, the NAM Chair Aliyev remarked.
By Dr. Pawan Mathur
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