The special session of the United Nations General Assembly, held on Thursday and Friday, came at a timely moment as “the world is looking to the UN for leadership, to step up and take demonstrable action to address the greatest challenge our world is facing today”, as the Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said at its opening.
With representatives from more than 140 countries participating via video, the special session not only allowed them to survey the wreckage of the COVID-19 pandemic together, but more importantly provided them with a platform to collectively reflect on the best response and forge a path to the future.
With its to-the-point discussions and exchanges, it is good to see that the international community has finally overcome the barriers the US administration has been trying so hard to set up to thwart global cooperation.
Although, as Bozkir said, no one could have imagined this time last year what was to come, they can have some certainty about what is to come.
After so many lives have been lost, about 1.4 million as of Friday according to the World Health Organization, and after many lessons have been drawn, countries are now willing to stand together to wipe out the virus’ footholds around the world, and the UN will try its best to guarantee all people have access to vaccines.
But as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reminded everyone, much of the wreckage has not been caused by the pandemic alone, but is the result of the crisis exposing long-standing fragilities, inequalities and injustices.
As such, neither the responses to the pandemic nor the efforts to revive economies, which should be done simultaneously, should ignore addressing these long-standing problems. Otherwise, neither of the tasks will be easy.
In other words, as the UN chief urged, the pandemic has provided the world an opportunity “for change”, and it is time for a reset.
Although he did not name any specific country, it is clear from the warm response the pro-solidarity special session received from around the world that people are fed up with the selfish unilateralism the United States has painfully peddled. In a session in September, its leader openly smeared the important role of the WHO, and called on countries to follow his administration’s lead, something that has been disastrous at home.
There is no doubt, as President Xi Jinping’s special representative Wang Yi, who is also State Councilor and Foreign Minister, said at the meeting, that countries, particularly the big ones, must work with each other to prioritize public health security, improve the public health security governance system and support the WHO playing a decisive leading role.
He urged countries to “walk hand in hand, determined and undaunted”.
This is indeed the only way to get through this difficult time.