United Nations General Assembly Adopts Resolution Calling For Holistic COVID-19 Response; United States & Israel Vote Against The Bloc
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the seventy-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly, submitted the omnibus COVID-19 resolution that ultimately passed.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted an omnibus resolution urging Member States to mount a coordinated global coronavirus response on 11 September.

The resolution (Document A/74/L.92), submitted by the President of the Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, was almost passed unanimously, with only two countries voting against and two abstaining.

United States & Israel Vote Against the Majority

In a blank break from multilateralism, the United States and Israel voted against the adoption of the resolution – which clearly acknowledged the key leadership of the UN agency the World Health Organization in coordinating the response. Ukraine and Hungary abstained.

The Trump Administration in July had formally announced to the UN and the US Congress that the US intended to withdraw from the WHO by July 2021, following weeks of Trump criticizing the agency for allegedly mishandling the early days of the pandemic and catering to Chinese pressure.

The US representative on Friday repeated claims that China’s Communist Party had concealed the truth about the COVID-19 outbreak, resulting in innumerable needless deaths. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions and inactions, he said, adding that WHO must reform, including by declaring its independence from China’s Communist Party.

China’s representative responded by declaring that the United States’ claims were “well past their sell-by date,” and urged the country to focus on fighting the virus within its borders, and lift unilateral sanctions that may violate international law.

The United States currently has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the world, with more than 6.5 million cumulative cases and nearly 200,000 deaths. Israel saw a sharp spike in new coronavirus cases after lifting restrictions in late June, and now has more than 150,000 cumulative cases.

Resolution Passed After Debate on Key Amendment Discouraging Sanctions

The resolution was passed after 19 Member States submitted a controversial amendment to the resolution that discouraged nations from enacting unilateral sanctions on states that were not in accordance with international law – a thinly veiled reference to the US sanctions against Iran.

The 19 sponsors of the amendment – including Cuba, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Myanmar – amended operative paragraph 20 of the text to:

Strongly urges States to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that impede the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries;”

In contrast, the previous text referred had vaguely referred to the “unjustified obstacles” to the “efficacious” and “fair distribution” of all health products.

Israel says last-minute amendment on sanctions forced it into opposition

While the United States expressed multiple objections to the resolution – ranging from its language affirming sexual and reproductive health rights to the expressions of support for the WHO, Israel said its vote was largely due to the last minute addition of the language on sanctions.

Said an Israeli source at the Geneve Mission to Health Policy Watch: “The original text put forward by the facilitators (Afghanistan and Croatia) was comprehensive and balanced.

“We had serious concerns about a few amendments that were put forward on OP20 of the draft. For us, they threaten the delicate balance of the text that was achieved by the facilitators. It is very unfortunate that a few delegations decided to put these amendments, knowing that by doing so, they prevent the resolution from being adopted by consensus.

“While we support the rest of the resolution, we couldn’t agree with the attempt to use this important document to promote narrow political agendas. I would also note that in the room, many more countries objected these additions.”

The source added that Israel remained “very committed to working together with the international community in the fight against COVID-19. We are also strong believers in the importance of multilateralism in this regard.”

Resolution calls for science-based aproaches and climate sensitive recovery

The all-encompassing resolution called on Member States and the UN to combat the pandemic through a science- and evidence-based, cooperative approach, allocating resources based on public health needs, and partnering with relevant stakeholders to accelerate development of COVID-19 drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines.

It also called on Member States to drive recovery through climate- and environment-sensitive approaches, reflecting growing support and recognition within the UN of the importance of combatting the threat of climate change.

Cuba, in introducing the tough sanctions amendment, said that the original text failed to reflect countries concerns about the impact of such measures on national efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The amendment was adopted by a recorded vote of 84 in favor and 13 against, with 60 abstentions.

Image Credits: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

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