World leaders call pandemic ‘greatest test of solidarity in generations’

In a joint appeal, six world leaders called for more multilateral cooperation as a recipe to overcome global challenges and steer the world towards recovery.

In a joint commentary, published in several languages and countries, they said there was an “opportunity to rebuild consensus for an international order based on multilateralism and the rule of law through efficient cooperation, solidarity and coordination.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Senegalese President Macky Sall, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel all signed off on the letter. It was published midnight Wednesday Central European Time, or late Tuesday in some of the world.

The leaders said that over the last few decades two major crises — the coronavirus pandemic more recently and climate change more generally — had impeded societies and common policy frameworks, “casting doubt on our capacity to overcome shocks, address their root causes, and secure a better future for generations to come.”

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They added that at the same time, both problems served as a reminder of how interdependent the world was and how intertwined its problems could be.

Only as strong as weakest health system

Calling the COVID-19 crisis “the greatest test of global solidarity in generations,” the leaders urged for a strong and harmonized international retaliation to the pandemic that increases the scope for access to tests, treatments and vaccines.

“It has reminded us of an obvious fact: in the face of a pandemic, our health safety chain is only as strong as the weakest health system. COVID-19 anywhere is a threat to people and economies everywhere,” the statement said.

In their bid to promote cooperation, the leaders extended their support to the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global platform launched by the World Health Organization and G20 partners last year.

“In the longer term, we also need an independent and comprehensive evaluation of our response to draw all the lessons of this pandemic and better prepare for the next one. The WHO has a central role to play in this process,” the appeal read.

Appeal for next steps on climate

Talking about climate change, the leaders said it was necessary to step up efforts to make economies around the world more sustainable, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November.

“By early 2021, countries accounting for more than 65% of global greenhouse-gas emissions are likely to have made ambitious commitments to carbon neutrality.” the statement said.

“All national governments, businesses, cities, and financial institutions should now join the global coalition for reducing CO2 emissions to net zero according to the Paris climate agreement – and start implementing concrete plans and policies.”

Ensuring global recovery reaches everybody

The statement said that the pandemic has led to the world’s worst economic upheaval since World War II and that it was a prime priority to restore a strong and stable global economy.

They argued for bolstering the World Trade Organization and tapping the potential of international trade to hasten economic recuperation.

“As we help our economies overcome the worst recession since 1945, it remains our core priority to ensure rules-based free trade as an important engine of inclusive, sustainable growth,” they said.

The leaders said that while globalization and international cooperation had helped billions out of poverty, nearly half the global population was still toiling to meet basic needs. They also noted that the pandemic directly put at risk the considerable gains combating poverty in recent years, as well as other societal advances like improved school access for children and girls in particular.

The joint statement called for enhanced support to developing countries, notably Africa, by building on and going beyond existing global partnerships to ensure that global recovery reaches everybody.

They also said that while new technologies had been an important asset for progress and inclusion, there was a need to build on the existing capabilities and to involve stakeholders toward regulating the internet in order to ensure a safe, free, and open digital environment for all.

“To meet these challenges, multilateralism is not just another diplomatic technique. It shapes a world order and is a very specific way of organizing international relations based on cooperation, the rule of law, collective action, and shared principles.” the statement said. “Rather than pitting civilizations and values against one another, we must build a more inclusive multilateralism, respecting our differences as much as our common values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The letter made no specific mention of the US, or the recent change of occupancy in the White House. But global and particularly European appeals for redoubled multilateralsim have abounded since Joe Biden took office.

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