NEW YORK –- Faith in multilateralism and international cooperation between United Nations members are essential to combat and end the effects of COVID-19, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris, told the General Debate on Sept.26 at the virtual 75th Opening Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Prime Minister paid tribute to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his leadership during the difficult period of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“The theme of this debate is rather fitting for such a time like this! We must have faith in multilateralism and international cooperation if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and the stronger, safer future we all want to see,” said Dr. Harris. “Seventy-five years ago at the twilight of the Second World War, the world came together at another inflection point and it pledged:
“We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equality of rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
Seventy-five years later, these objectives are still relevant and laudable. They remain a work in progress,” explained Dr. Harris. “This moment of global reckoning, is a moment in which approximately one million of our brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, neighbours and parents have perished to a punishing pandemic, demands a renewal of purpose and promise.
“That purpose must be fidelity to multilateralism and faith in international cooperation if we are to breathe new life into the United Nations Charter while achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, halting climate change and pivoting to the stronger and safer future we all want to see – guided by the significant lessons of the distant and recent past.
The year 2020 has taught us as a people, nation and indeed an interconnected world that the time for mutual reliance is upon us and that we need each other now more than ever if we are to rebuild and strengthen the socioeconomic foundations laid bare from this two-fanged crisis. The time is now. We must Show up! We must Speak up! We must Share! We must Listen! We must Act and surely, we must Lead!”
Dr. Harris said multilateral action is essential in these unprecedented times.
“The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has gripped the world like we have never seen before,” said Dr. Harris, “it has destabilized economies, overwhelmed many healthcare sectors and caused incalculable pain and suffering on millions of people all over the world.
“We commend the international community that has bound together in global solidarity to defeat the pandemic. I must congratulate the World Health Organization (WHO) for its stewardship of the global response to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We as CARICOM states reaffirm our support for the WHO framework ‘Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A).’ This global collaborative framework provides a solid global response to defeat the pandemic by the rapid development, scale up and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, underpinned by the strengthening of our health systems. Instead of nationalism, we need global cooperation in the fight to defeat COVID-19.”
Dr. Harris commended the all of society approach that worked so very well in the context of St. Kitts and Nevis. He said every stakeholder group has played their role in combating COVID-19 in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“The world needs all Nations, large and small, to work together for mutual success,” said Dr. Harris.
St. Kitts and Nevis and COVID-19 Pandemic
“St. Kitts and Nevis has been successful in containing the spread of the COVID-19 within its borders,” said Dr. Harris. “Our twin-island Federation has been fortunate to record a low infection rate, with zero deaths, and we have an R-value below 1. We have a success story to tell the rest of the world.”
The Prime Minister attributed St. Kitts and Nevis’s success to:
“The implementation of a national response mechanism comprising of the establishment of a national emergency coordination committee, the closure of our borders to non-essential travel, the imposition of restrictions on the physical movement of people within our borders, as well as the promotion of protective wear and a robust public awareness campaign, all of which played an exceptional role in our considerable success.
“COVID-19 reminds us that our fight to eliminate non-communicable diseases must be stepped up. People living with NCDs are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and are amongst the most affected by the disease.
“Climate Change, NCDs and COVID-19 are inter-linked symptoms that something is awry with planet earth.” said Dr. Harris.
“The novel coronavirus disease has disrupted international travel and tourism, global supply chains, industrial and commercial operations and created widespread unemployment everywhere,” explained Dr. Harris. “This unprecedented situation will inevitably stymie our chances of achieving Sustainable Development Goals.
Global Health Partnerships
The Prime Minister renewed his call for Taiwan’s inclusion in this international fraternity of Nations.
“The Republic of China (Taiwan) remains a valuable partner for peace, prosperity and development, with the fullest respect for the rule of international law,” said Dr. Harris. “Taiwan has stayed true to its longstanding traditions and has remained a true partner in the fight against COVID-19.
“We have seen first-hand Taiwan’s exemplary management of the pandemic within its own borders. We have been impressed quite frankly by its willingness to help vulnerable states all around the world.
“Taiwan assisted many states in combating this unprecedented health pandemic by sending more than 51 million surgical masks, as well as other medical equipment, to more than 80 countries,” pointed out Dr. Harris. “In our view, the international community has been deprived of the gift of true partnership offered by the 23.5 million people of Taiwan.
“My hope is that Taiwan can be included in the UN system, particularly the World Health Organization – its meetings, mechanisms and activities, thereby improving the global response and resources available to address transboundary crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The exclusion of Taiwan – its experience, expertise and resources – in my view, leaves a partial vacuum in the global response to COVID-19. The World Health Organization can only benefit from the inclusion of such a worthy member,” said Dr. Harris.
“Equally, the existence of the antiquated embargo against Cuba, in our view, flies against the spirit of global partnerships, which we desire in the future. At this time more than ever, vulnerable Nations must be free to access Cuba’s expertise in health and a myriad of other areas of global concern.”
In conclusion, Dr. Harris said, “This has been a very difficult year for all of us, but it also must be the year we can recommit to the United Nations and its lofty ideals.
“We must, through comprehensive reforms, make the UN system fit for purpose. We will have to look beyond antiquated frameworks and look to new socioeconomic models and rely on global cooperation to build a better world. Global threats to people and the planet are multiplying, and the United Nations in its 75th year must be resilient and innovative to help in this crisis and future crises.”
This has been a very difficult year for all of us, but it also must be the year we can recommit to the United Nations and its lofty ideals,” concluded Dr. Harris. “We must, through comprehensive reforms, make the UN system fit for purpose. We have to look beyond antiquated frameworks and look to new socioeconomic models and rely on global cooperation to build a better world.
“Global threats to people and the planet are multiplying, and the United Nations in its 75th year must be resilient and innovative to help in this crisis and future crises.
“Strengthening global solidarity and cooperation, therefore, must be paramount for the United Nations,” explained Dr. Harris. “The United Nations creates the perfect environment to marry collective action and solidarity with multilateralism.
“We welcome the UN 2020 Future Possibilities Report, which provides a good guide on how governments can make certain changes to their economies now. However, there must be much more dialogue and commitment if we are to experience real change.
The gravity of the pandemic has been laid out in several United Nations resolutions on COVID-19 – and while we take action on them all in the General Assembly Hall, let us remember and commit to what they all about, while remembering at the same time that we all rise on the same tide!