United Nations still to discuss coronavirus crisis formally

United Nations is still to discuss the coronavirus crisis, a number of diplomatic sources have confirmed. Both the 15 member United Nations Security Council (UNSC and 193 strong United Nations General Assembly (UNGA haven’t taken the matter up formally.

The epidemic that began in China has killed over 18,000 people globally and infected over 4 lakh according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

The world body, based out of New York, has moved its operations virtually and is meeting through video conference now due to the COVID-19 crisis.

It is interesting to know that Chair for UNSC for the month of March is China. The monthly chair of the UNSC decides what is on the agenda and guides the body. Earlier this month, when asked if UNSC will discuss COVID, 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 body is also divided over a resolution on the crisis with China particularly having issues with the phrasing of the documents on COVID-19.

United Nations’ health body–World Health Organisation (WHO has itself come under much criticism in the delay to declare it a pandemic. The pandemic has accelerated fast and according to WHO’s own estimates, it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first one lakh cases, 11 days for the second, four days for the third and just three days for the next one lakh cases.

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

The Estonian Mission to the UN was preparing a Security Council statement on Covid-19 but sources told, it had to put in on hold as not all Council members agreed to do a statement.

But sources were omistic that “as things progress quite fast, let’s wait and see how we will go from here.”

Meanwhile, the President of the General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande has presented a proposal on how General assembly can take essential decisions related to the organisation in the current situation.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General said, “He submitted a draft decision that would enable the General Assembly to adopt essential decisions under a silence procedure. If a plenary meeting of the General Assembly is not practicable due to the pandemic, the proposal would authorize the President of the GA to circulate, after consultation with the General Committee, draft decisions of the Assembly to all Member States under a silence procedure of at least 72 hours. If the silence is not broken, the decision shall be considered adopted.”

Meanwhile, G20 has moved fast with G20 video meet all set to happen on Thursday. This is for the first time G20 leaders will be meeting via video conference. The group that emerged after the 2008 global financial crisis is a major political-economic forum to discuss global issues and crisis in last one decade.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has written to G20 leaders urging them to take concerted and decisive action on the current global health crisis. Calling for a “war-time” plan, Guterres urged G20 leaders to step forward with a “strong response package” to address the various threats posed by COVID.

UN will on Wednesday launch the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, which will provide assistance to people in the vulnerable countries.