'Vaccinating entire planet against COVID19'

Maria Fernanda Espinosa

New York, Feb 8: The world’s rich countries must commit to “doing whatever it takes” to vaccinate the entire planet against COVID-19, including easing intellectual property rules to allow the manufacture of vaccines in developing countries, according to the former president of the UN General Assembly.

In an op-ed titled “We need bold global leadership to build back better,” president of the 73rd Session of the General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa underscored that serious reforms are needed to fix the multilateral system to help build back better from the pandemic and address bigger challenges ahead.

She said that “international cooperation is a constant struggle against short-term interests and narrow distributional claims. Serious reforms are needed to fix the multilateral system” that president Franklin Roosevelt helped to build 75 years ago.

“We also need some quick wins that can ease people’s anxieties in the face of a global pandemic and begin repairing the trust that system will need if it is to address the even bigger challenges ahead,” Espinosa, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and of Defence of Ecuador, said in the op-ed.

A decade after the 2009 financial crisis, Espinosa said that against the backdrop of a global health pandemic, climate catastrophe looms larger and economic divisions, within and across countries, have widened further.

“In response to the COVID-19 shock, talk has turned to building back better. But as we gear up for the climate summit in Glasgow at the end of this year, has the international community learnt the lessons from 2009?” she asked.

The Ecuadorian scholar, diplomat and politician noted that if the pandemic is seen as a “test run of our ability” to overcome differences and work together on global challenges, then there is clearly much work to be done.

Espinosa listed a few “quick wins” that are available that would set the world on the right path.

“First, rich countries must commit to ‘doing whatever it takes’ to vaccinate the entire planet including easing intellectual property rules at the WTO (World Trade Organization) to allow manufacture of the vaccines in developing countries,” she said.

Further, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings in April should agree to a large allocation of special drawing rights – in excess of a trillion dollars – with the details worked out over the summer ready for roll-out in October.

Finally, she underlined that creditor countries should allow developing countries to transfer debt service payments to their health Budgets for the duration of the pandemic and offer a plan for extending debt relief to the countries in greatest economic distress.

“Similar measures have been implemented in the past. And putting them in place in time for the opening of the Glasgow Climate Conference would provide the sense of solidarity needed and which so sadly alluded negotiators in Copenhagen. The world simply does not have the luxury of getting it wrong again,” she said, referring to the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen that was “torpedoed” by diplomatic wrangling.

The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November. It will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

While “centrifugal forces” have been in the ascendancy over the last decade, Espinosa said there are signs of change. – PTI