President Cyril Ramaphosa has once again told world leaders that vaccines are the greatest defence that humanity has against the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is, therefore, a great concern that the global community has not sustained the principles of solidarity and cooperation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” he said on Thursday.
President Ramaphosa delivered a brief address during the General Debate of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA76).
The UNGA76, which is currently underway, is taking place under the theme: “Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations”.
The President has since described it as an indictment on humanity that more than 82% of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1% has gone to low-income countries.
“Unless we address this as a matter of urgency, the pandemic will last much longer and new mutations of the virus will spread and emerge.”
The First Citizen took the opportunity to reaffirm South Africa’s call for fair and equitable distribution of vaccines.
He urged all Member States to support the proposal for a temporary waiver of certain Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreements to allow more countries, particularly poorer nations, to produce COVID-19 vaccines.
“In this interconnected world, no country is safe until every country is safe,” he stressed.
“We need to prepare now for future pandemics and work with greater determination towards the goal of universal health coverage.”
Special Drawing Rights
While President Ramaphosa said he welcomed the International Monetary Fund’s approval for an allocation of $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights, the largest such disbursement in history, he said it was still insufficient to meet the extent of the need.
“South Africa, therefore, reiterates its call for 25% of the total allocation, amounting to around $165 billion, to be made available to the African continent.”
Shifting his focus to climate change, he said although poor countries bear the least responsibility for causing climate change, African countries are among those that carry the greatest cost.
“Climate change is an existential crisis for the entire world, yet poor countries are particularly vulnerable.”
He believed that the upcoming 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP) should adequately respond to the crisis.
“The pandemic has been a stark reminder of our mutual dependency, and that instability in one region of the world inevitably impacts its neighbours,” he added.
Meanwhile, he reiterated South Africa’s efforts to contribute to international peace and security through its membership of the Peacebuilding Commission and involvement in UN peacekeeping.
He put the spotlight on the Palestinian people, who said they had a right to self-determination.
“We believe that there shall be no peace and no justice until the Palestinian people are free from occupation and can exercise the rights for which this United Nations stands.”
The President repeated the country’s position that the people of Western Sahara also have the right to self-determination in line with the relevant African Union decisions and UN Security Council resolutions.
He also affirmed solidarity with the Cuban people and called for a lifting of the sanctions that are crippling Zimbabwe and crippling its economy. – SAnews
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