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Amid US-China tensions, security Council battles for first COVID-19 resolution

The draft being put to a vote doesn't mention either the WHO, a UN health agency, or transparency. But it does take note of a resolution adopted April 2 by the 193-member UN General Assembly which "calls for intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic, including by exchanging information, scientific knowledge and best practices and by applying the relevant guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization".

PTI | United Nations | Updated: 01-07-2020 08:50 IST | Created: 01-07-2020 06:22 IST
Amid US-China tensions, security Council battles for first COVID-19 resolution
Image Credit: Pixabay

The UN Security Council is trying again to reach agreement on its first resolution on COVID-19 since the coronavirus started circling the global in February, after a lengthy dispute between the US and China over mentioning the World Health Organization. A revised draft resolution by France and China was submitted for a vote on Tuesday and the result is expected to be announced on Wednesday.

The draft resolution backs Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' March 23 call for global cease-fires to tackle the pandemic, and demands an "immediate cessation of hostilities" in all conflicts on its agenda including Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Congo. It calls on all warring parties "to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days" to enable the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.

The draft resolution states that these measures do not apply to military operations against the Islamic State and al-Qaida extremist groups and their affiliates. Guterres told a press conference last Thursday that his appeal for a global ceasefire has been endorsed by nearly 180 countries, more than 20 armed groups, religious leaders and millions of members of civil society.

"The difficulty is to implement it," he said. The secretary-general said he and UN envoys are working together "to establish effective cease-fires and doing everything possible to overcome the legacy of long-lasting conflicts with deep mistrust among the parties and spoilers with a vested interest in disruption".

Repeated attempts to adopt a Security Council resolution have been stymied over a reference to the World Health Organization. President Donald Trump suspended funding to WHO in early April, accusing the UN health agency of failing to stop the virus from spreading when it first surfaced in China. He said it "must be held accountable", and accused WHO of parroting Beijing.

China strongly supports WHO and insisted that its role in calling for global action on COVID-19 be included in any resolution, diplomats said, while the US insisted on a reference to "transparency" on COVID-19 and no mention of the WHO. The draft being put to a vote doesn't mention either the WHO, a UN health agency, or transparency.

But it does take note of a resolution adopted April 2 by the 193-member UN General Assembly which "calls for intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic, including by exchanging information, scientific knowledge and best practices and by applying the relevant guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization". That resolution recognizes "the unprecedented effects" of the pandemic and calls for "intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat" the new coronavirus.

The General Assembly adopted another resolution on April 20 urging global action to rapidly scale up development, manufacturing and access to medicine, vaccines and medical equipment to confront the pandemic. While General Assembly resolutions reflect the opinion of governments around the world, they are not legally binding. By contrast, Security Council resolutions are legally binding.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday that a council resolution is very important. "The Security Council has primacy in the UN over issues of peace and security," he said. "A strong unified statement from that body supporting the secretary general's call for a global cease-fire, I think, would go a long way in, hopefully, making a call for a cease-fire a reality."


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