UN General Assembly to decide on rival COVID-19 resolutions

UN General Assembly to decide on rival COVID-19 resolutions

UN General Assembly to decide on rival COVID-19 resolutions

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — How
should the U.N. General Assembly and its 193 member states respond to the
coronavirus pandemic? Members have been sent two rival resolutions for
consideration — and under new voting rules instituted because the global body
isn’t holding meetings, if a single country objects a resolution is defeated.

One resolution, which has
more than 135 co-sponsors, 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.”

The other, sponsored by
Russia with support from Central African Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua and
Venezuela, also recognizes the leading role of WHO in combating the pandemic,
but it calls for abandoning trade wars and implementing protectionist measures,
and not applying unilateral sanctions without U.N. Security Council approval.

General Assembly President
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande sent both resolutions to all member states late Monday
afternoon under a so-called “silence procedure,” saying they had 72 hours until
6 p.m. EDT on Thursday to send an objection, or break silence.

Normally, General Assembly
resolutions are adopted by majority votes or by consensus. But in this case,
because ambassadors are working from their missions or from home as a result of
COVID-19, the new rule calls for silence procedures for all votes.

Under the procedure, if a
country supports a resolution, it does nothing. If it opposes a resolution, it
sends an email breaking silence, which scuttles a resolution’s approval even if
it has overwhelming support.

In this case, both
resolutions could be adopted or defeated, or one could be adopted and the other
defeated.

The resolution calling for
international cooperation is sponsored by Ghana, Indonesia, Liechtenstein,
Norway, Singapore and Switzerland and has over 130 co-sponsors.

It would also reaffirm the
General Assembly’s “commitment to international cooperation and multilateralism
and its strong support for the central role of the United Nations system in the
global response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.”

It would also emphasize the
need to respect human rights and oppose “any form of discrimination, racism and
xenophobia in the response to the pandemic.”

The draft also recognizes
“the unprecedented effects of the pandemic, including the severe disruption to
societies and economies, as well as to global travel and commerce, and the
devastating impact on the livelihood of people,” and that “the poorest and most
vulnerable are the hardest hit.”

Norway’s U.N. Ambassador Mona
Juul told AP: “In this moment of great uncertainty and global anxiety caused by
COVID-19, it is important for the voice of the United Nations General Assembly
– as the universal body of nations – to be heard loud and clear.”

“Our wish is that the
assembly urgently send a strong message of unity, solidarity and international
cooperation,” she said. “People around the world expect no less from the United
Nations.”

The Russian draft resolution
is drafted as a “declaration of solidarity of the United Nations in the face of
the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

It pledges “to take a
comprehensive, science-based approach in elaborating, implementing and
improving measures to slow down the transmission of, reverse and eventually
defeat COVID-19,” following WHO rules and recommendations and supports those
people and countries most affected.

“We are resolved to prevent
financial speculations which hinder access for all to essential health-care
services and quality, safe, effective and affordable essential medicines,
vaccines, personal protection and food items,” the draft says.

“We are resolved to cooperate
in addressing the disruptions to international trade and the market uncertainty
due to the pandemic, mitigating the damage caused to the global economy by the
spread of COVID-19, and promoting economic growth throughout the world,
especially in developing countries,” the draft says.

Fedor Strzhizhovskiy,
spokesman for Russia’s U.N. Mission, said: “We consider the Russian draft
declaration … to be more result-oriented than the alternative draft
declaration that we believe is too general.”

“We were also ready to work on merging the two drafts,” he said. “However, authors of the other initiative declined such a scenario.”

This article in its entirety was originally published on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 by the Associated Press.

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