Countries must unify to defeat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and other challenges, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said on Tuesday, as he called on nations to shun unilateralism to strengthen the United Nations (UN).
“To defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, we must work with seamless unity which demands complete mutual trust and the conviction that we will win or lose together,” President Duterte said in a speech during the 75th Session of the United Nations’ General Assembly.
“We cannot bring back the dead but we can spare the living; and we can build back better, healthier, and more prosperous and just societies.”
“To this end, we rededicate ourselves to multilateralism. The UN remains humanity’s essential Organization. But it is only as effective as we make it.”
To make significant changes, UN members must be bold and must foster the same collective courage that made UN a reality 75 years ago, he told other world leaders.
The UN must be reformed and empowered in order to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, he added.
“Let us strengthen it so it can fully deliver its mandate to maintain peace and security, uphold justice and human rights, and promote freedom and social progress for all.”
Considering COVID-19 as the biggest test the world and the UN faced since World War II, the President said the world is at a crossroads noting how nations address the pandemic will define their future.
While the UN has brought relief and hope to so many countries and peoples around the world, it now finds itself saddled by a virus that has taken many lives and wrecked economies and social order, he added.
Also during his speech, President Duterte extended his condolences to the families of those who perished during the pandemic.
“We salute all frontliners who put their lives on the line even in countries not their own. So also do we honor and recognize the healthcare professionals who selflessly answered the call to combat the COVID-19 pandemic despite its virulence and unknown characteristics,” he said.
Although every nation has its own strategy in fighting the pandemic, there must be global coordinated efforts to pursue a common purpose, he stressed.
The Philippines, he said, values the role that the UN plays in its fight against the pandemic. As a middle-income country whose economic advances has been derailed by the pandemic, the President welcomed the launch of the UN COVID Response and Recovery Fund.
And as the world races to find a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, all nations, rich and poor, must have equal access to inoculation.
“When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy,” he said.
The Philippines and its partners in the ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement have raised their collective voice: to consider COVID-19 vaccine a global public good.
At the same time, the President called for a global health agenda that will give the World Health Organization (WHO) enough policy space and resources.
“We need a WHO that is quick to coordinate and quicker to respond. The Philippines will do its part in the pooling of global resources. Our health workers are among the best,” he said.
Globally, COVID-19 has infected 31.3 million people and also killed 963,828.
In the Philippines, the total caseload is at 291,789 as of Tuesday, with 230,643 recoveries and 5,049 deaths. PND