Remarks by Ambassador Heusgen during the Security Council VTC Meeting on COVID-19, April 9, 2020

10.04.2020 - Speech

Check Against Delivery

This is the biggest challenge that civilization has faced since the Second World War. Even today, when you look at the figures, we are officially closing in on one hundred thousand deaths. New figures show that there are almost half a billion people now moving into poverty, adding to those who already live in dire circumstances.

This certainly has effects on peace and security, and on the issues that we deal with here in the Security Council. We see that preexisting crises are aggravated. There is a potential for new crises. The Secretary-General outlined this: we may face fights for resources, we may have terrorists who take advantage of this pandemic and we have a humanitarian crisis that will be aggravated.

Thank you very much, Secretary General, for your initiatives. The General Assembly has reacted and adopted a very important resolution.

But, we have to admit: from the Security Council up until now, there was deafening silence. On COVID-19 and on the Secretary General's initiative, we said nothing. When the Dominican Republic accepted this debate on the agenda, it took another nine days until we finally met. Germany would have preferred to have this as an open discussion so that people can follow and see that the Security Council deals with this issue. I can only reiterate what you said in your intervention: the engagement of the Security Council is critical. So we are here behind closed doors, but at least we are here.

The last time the world faced a crisis, which was not of the same dimension, but also a very tough crisis, was the financial crisis in 2008 and the following years. I remind you that at that time, the G20 on their leaders level was established and the G20, where there was both the leadership and the power, had a united response to this crisis. And here we do not have it. We do not have leadership and power coming together.

We understand all the efforts that the P5 undertook during the last few weeks to come to a conclusion or resolution between them or to have a summit. But we have to admit, it was not possible so far. So it was, again, on the initiative of the elected members that we have this debate. The elected members, those countries that were voted into the UN Security Council, we stood together and we forced the meeting today so that the Security Council would actually deal with this issue.

We should put our power together, these 15 countries, and support the leadership of the Secretary General. We expect as an outcome of the meeting today press elements where we express our support for the Secretary General's call for humanitarian ceasefire. We should work on a resolution and the E10 are ready for this. We want to support you. Germany, among other countries, has clearly put its support behind the initiative of the Secretary General.

There is only one fight today, and this is the battle against COVID-19.

We believe that the Security Council should from now on make it clear that we are back in business. We have to address the specific effects of COVID-19 on peace and security, on conflicts and on humanitarian crises. In concrete terms, I echo what Marc just said with regard to peace operations: we need to see to it that they adapt to the changing conflict dynamics. They must remain operational, protect their own personnel, but also protect local populations. Germany, along with Belgium and all EU countries, has given the Secretary-General the assurance that we will maintain our contribution to peace operations.

Number two, conflict prevention. We see that the pandemic is already having an effect on fragile countries. We run into the danger that countries that are fragile break into conflict. Therefore we have to take a preventive approach and we have to do it systematically. We believe, Secretary General, that your mediation support unit is very important for acting early and Germany fully supports it.

Third, humanitarian assistance is required. We have to prevent. We have to contain. We have to cope with the disease. We have to also see that election support is given. And I want to pick up what the Secretary-General and previous speakers said, we have to look at those who disproportionately suffer under this crisis. In many places women and children are again the ones who are suffering most under this crisis. The elderly are especially often the victims of this pandemic, and they have to be looked after along with persons with disabilities.

We need to have access for humanitarian aid and humanitarian aid workers. On this initiative on the global humanitarian response plan: Germany supports the Secretary General.

Let me make a few last points. The cynics around the world abuse the pandemic to violate what we stand for, what is written in the United Nations Charter and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have many cases where now, under the guise of fighting COVID-19, we have disrespect for human rights. We have massive silencing of critics of governments. We have the silencing of journalists. We have, again, under the guise of fighting COVID-19 countries that try to threaten the rule of law and democracy. And finally we have a massive censoring of the Internet. So there are a lot tasks ahead of us.

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