UN, UNSC yet to hold formal discussions on Covid-19 even as global death toll crosses 21,000

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UN, UNSC yet to hold formal discussions on Covid-19 even as global death toll crosses 21,000


The United Nations and UN Security Council are yet to formally take up the issue of the coronavirus pandemic even as its health organisation, World Health Organisation, takes the lead in strategising and planning the fight against Covid-19.

The 193-member United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the 15-member United Nations Security Council (UNSC) which has not met for over two weeks due to shutdown of the UN headquarters in New York, is divided over holding virtual meetings to discuss the pandemic. Follow LIVE UPDATES on coronavirus outbreak

While the US and China have been bickering over origins of the coronavirus, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Monday that the pandemic was clearly “accelerating”. As of Thursday, the number of deaths due to novel coronavirus have surged to 21,000, with over 4,50,000 declared infections.

China, which is the chair of the UNSC for March, has certainly not been enthusiastic to discuss an issue where the US could corner Beijing over the outbreak. The house is also deeply divided over a proposed declaration.

Reports from New York suggest that the draft proposal, drawn up late last week by Estonia, calls for “full transparency” over the outbreak which leans towards US’ stand that has been critical of lack of transparency by China.

The wording of the draft also expresses “growing concern about the unprecedented extent of the Covid-19 outbreak in the world, which may constitute a threat to international peace and security.”

A UN Security Council declaration requires the support of all 15 members to be adopted and published.

To a question on why there are no security council meetings or informal consultations, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the Secretary-General said during his weekly briefing on Tuesday, I think it is best to contact the presidency of the Security Council to get the exact description of what under what format they’re actually meeting and what outcome you will expect for them. There are, obviously, discussions within members of the Security Council, and I think the Council can best speak for itself.

Earlier this month, when asked if the UNSC discuss Covid-19 outbreak, Zhang Jun, China’s envoy to UN said, “Council members generally feel there is no reason to panic at the moment and plan to monitor the situation….(with) Covid-19 currently not on the organ’s agenda.”

“The virus falls under the umbrella of global public health and security, rather than the Council’s geopolitical scope,” he added.

The UNSC last met on March 12 and before that discussed “peace and security in Africa: countering terrorism and extremism in Africa” and the situation in Afghanistan.

Apart from resistance from China, Russia has also been opposing virtual meetings with voting.

“We are for a physical presence [and) doubt that [voting] could be achieved otherwise,” Russian deputy ambassador to the UN Dmitri Polyanskiy told AFP.

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