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World News – December 3, 2020

TrueNewsBlog – TNB

By: Nathaniel Ballantyne

The United Nations General Assembly took nine months to arrange a special two-day session on Covid-19 — which kicked off this morning — leaving nearly everyone scratching their heads and asking, “Why now?”

UNGA President Volkan Bozkir, who pressed for the summit, argued today that “the world is looking to the U.N. for leadership; this is a test for multilateralism.”

If that’s the case, multilateralism is likely to fail that test — if it hasn’t already.

Bozkir’s goal this week is big — to “shake up how things are done” in the global Covid-19 response — but in running a conference that isn’t asking for donations, his means are meager Take the U.N.-backed ACT Accelerator for Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines: It needs another $28 billion in 2021 to meet its stated objective, a mere drop in the world’s stimulus spending ocean. Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg stood alone at today’s session when she offered another $220 million to the accelerator this year, bringing the country’s total contribution so far to just over $500 million.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the only leader of a major country today who directly urged more funding for the accelerator. In a rebuke of Trump’s “vaccine nationalism,” which he pushed at November’s G-20 summit, and a criticism of the current unenforceable system of international health regulations, Merkel said, “It is patently clear that this global and multi-faceted crisis can only be surmounted by global action.” 

COVAX, the popular vaccine access facility that pools government resources to ensure every country gets the vaccine, is also short $5 billion. But there’s no plan to get the cash, and no strategy to pressure Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna — which have supplied the leading vaccine candidates so far — to sign up to COVAX.

The U.N. at least brought vaccine makers to the table this week. “Maybe these brilliant scientists will announce something, I have no idea,” said Brenden Varma, Bozkir’s disarmingly honest spokesperson.

There’s little enthusiasm among national diplomats for this event, and few big ideas. The one novel idea is European Council President Charles Michel’s suggestion for a global pandemic treaty, modeled after the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. His speech, which echoed a push he began at the G-20, cuts across several existing efforts to reform the U.N. system, including ongoing WHO reform talks, an Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response and a committee looking at changes to today’s relatively toothless International Health Regulations. So maybe it’s time to change the subject. 

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has seen enough of this Covid-19 fragmentation. He’s switching his focus in 2021 to climate, in the wake of the commitments from both the Chinese government and President-elect Joe Biden to climate neutrality. The “central objective of the United Nations for 2021 is to build a truly global coalition for carbon neutrality,” Guterres said in a speech Wednesday.

He better move quickly: The United Nations World Meteorological Organization announced today that we’re now roughly 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, meaning the world might smash through the goal of containing the rise to 1.5 degrees, set by the Paris Climate Agreement, as soon as 2024. (Politico).–


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