Covid-19 threat to peace, stability, says UN Chief

Foreign Desk Report

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called the coronavirus pandemic the “fight of a generation” and a threat to world peace and security when he addressed the Security Council’s first meeting on the deadly infection, which has swept the globe.
The 15-member Council, which deliberated via a closed video-conference issued a brief press statement expressing “support for all efforts of the secretary-general concerning the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to conflict-affected countries and recalled the need for unity and solidarity with all those affected.”
Guterres, who called for a cease-fire for all global conflicts on March 23, said the crisis has “hindered international, regional and national conflict resolution efforts, exactly when they are needed most.”
The pandemic has so far infected some 1.5 million people – killing 90,000 – in more than 200 countries and territories, according to media reports. The Council’s session, presided over by Dominican Republic, was held “in connection with the impact of COVID-19 on the issues that fall under the Security Council’s mandate.”
“The pandemic also poses a significant threat to the maintenance of international peace and security – potentially leading to an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to fight the disease,” Guterres told the council. “The engagement of the Security Council will be critical to mitigate the peace and security implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, a signal of unity and resolve from the Council would count for a lot at this anxious time,” he said.
Diplomats have largely blamed Security Council inaction over the pandemic on the differences between United States and China.
China’s position has been that dealing with the coronavirus crisis was not within the Security Council’s mandate, while the U.S. has insisted that any Council action refer to the origins of the virus. The new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Briefing the Council, the secretary-general cited risks to global security from the pandemic: militants seeing an opportunity to strike, potentially with a biological attack, the erosion of trust in public institutions, economic instability, political tensions from postponing elections, uncertainty sparking further division and turmoil in some countries, and COVID-19 “triggering or exacerbating various human rights challenges.”
He reiterated that the United Nations faces “its gravest test” since the organization was founded 75 years ago from the pandemic .
Apart from the differences between the US and China, another reason for the delay in holding the meeting was French President Emmanuel Macron and President Donald Trump’s agreement to organize a video conference of leaders of the five permanent council members, also including China, Russia and Britain.
France wanted that summit before a council meeting, but it couldn’t be arranged, the diplomats said.