UN General Assembly in Rare Unanimity on Covid-19 Response

MANHATTAN (CN) — Of the two rival resolutions to hit the floor of the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, the first global response to the novel coronavirus pandemic unanimously opted for the one emphasizing global cooperation rather than the version with veiled swipes at the United States.

The resolution recognized 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.”

Sponsored by Ghana, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland, the call for multilateralism emphasized the need 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.”

Though the rival Russia-sponsored resolution also recognized the WHO’s leadership in combating the pandemic, the federation — backed by Central African Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela — called for abandoning trade wars, protectionist measures, and unilateral sanctions without U.N. Security Council approval.

That language was widely perceived as barely disguised swipes at the U.S. government, and the resolution was soundly defeated.

The U.N. special rapporteur on racism denounced the Trump administration by name in March for labeling the disease the “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese virus,” and the newly adopted General Assembly resolution does not flinch from stressing that “there is no place for any form of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in the response to the pandemic.”

Like many global institutions, the U.N. General Assembly had to adjust its procedures due to the pandemic that has confined ambassadors to their missions or homes. The new procedures treat silence as consent.

Doing nothing equated support for the resolution titled “Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019.”

A single vote would have defeated the resolution. No naysaying countries broke the chain.

As a result, the 193-member world body sounded a note of “optimism that the unprecedented crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic can be mitigated and successfully reversed through leadership and sustained global cooperation and solidarity.”

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