Statement Delivered by Minister Coveney at UNSC Debate on Implementation of Resolution 2532
Statement17 February 2021
Mr President, I’d like to congratulate first of all the United Kingdom on its presidency of the Council, and also to you Dominic, for convening this important debate.
I’d like to thank Secretary-General Guterres and the briefers for their input and your contribution, Dominic, in your opening remarks, which I think have very much framed our deliberations today.
The Security Council in Resolution 2532 endorsed Secretary General Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire and durable humanitarian pause to help us tackle Covid and reach those most in need and I strongly echo those calls today.
Covid-19 has brought humanity to a crossroads, in many ways.
How we travel from here will have far-reaching implications for peace and security, for global equality and for the sustainability of our shared future.
In the effort to beat this virus, I’m reminded of an Irish proverb which says “there is no strength without unity”. Perhaps we should update that in the context of the pandemic to ‘none of us is safe until all of us are safe’, which I think has been repeated by speaker after speaker today.
For us all to be safe, all countries must be able to vaccinate their own people.
And all populations must be included in national vaccination rollouts, including refugees and internally displaced persons.
We need to be more ambitious in scaling-up the availability of vaccines in conflict-affected zones, and in financing the necessary delivery modalities, while avoiding diverting funds from existing crises.
Parties to conflicts must draw on their own principles of humanity - as well as their obligations under International Humanitarian Law - to facilitate humanitarian access, uphold ceasefires and implement pauses in fighting to enable medical humanitarian teams to undertake their vital functions, including safely delivering Covid-19 vaccinations to those who need it most.
Whether in Yemen, in Syria, in the Central African Republic or Ethiopia, Covid-19 has exacerbated the devastation that conflict wreaks on civilian life.
Globally, the risks for long-term prosperity and stability are obvious, from the 270 million facing food insecurity today to the 20 million girls who will not return to education.
Hunger will also act as a push factor for forced migration, displacement, and of recruitment by extremist groups, driving on conflict in many forms and deepening humanitarian need.
Ireland is fully committed to efforts by the UN system to establish a fair, a transparent, and efficient mechanism for equitable Covid-19 vaccine distribution and supply.
In this regard, Ireland has increased our core support forGAVI significantly this year.
Ireland attaches high priority to global health, in which we plan to invest over €50m in 2021 alone.
We are also supporting the COVAX Facility bilaterally, and as a member of the European Union, which to date has contributed €860 million to the Facility so far.
COVAX, with its humanitarian buffer, is a crucial aspect of the multilateral response against a global threat, and has the potential to embody multilateral solidarity at its best. However, more resources are needed to enable COVAX to fulfil its mandate, including the financing of delivery mechanisms for NGO partners who are best-placed to reach the most vulnerable populations in conflict contexts.
When it comes to vaccinations, we aren’t starting from zero and we can learn valuable lessons from previous vaccination campaigns in fragile contexts, building on the vast experience of national governments and stakeholders, including the WHO, GAVI, the Global Fund, UNICEF and many others.
We must tackle misinformation and disinformation, by providing clear and evidence-based information on the benefits of immunization to the public.
We must also address the challenge of vaccine hesitancy, taking a sensitive approach that is rooted in community leadership and engagement.
There are other challenges that will need to be addressed as we move forward.
The most important of these is the need to strengthen wider public health ecosystems, especially in conflict settings where the challenges are well known. This is why Ireland has put investment into healthcare systems at the heart of its development cooperation programme for more than two decades, working with partner governments, particularly in Africa, to strengthen domestic health care capacity and build robust health systems.
Healthcare workers are at the heart of the healthcare systems. Sufficient healthcare professionals - trained and enabled to prevent virus transmission, carry out case detection and provide early-response care - will be needed to ensure successful vaccine rollout.
There are also important vaccine logistical requirements to attend to: such as cold chain requirements, access to power, and database management capabilities, to ensure appropriate follow up.
Ensuring that developing countries can access vaccines appropriate for their contexts, especially for fragile contexts, will also be key.
So only by ensuring these necessary conditions are in place, can we ensure that vaccination in conflict settings can be successful.
Failure to manage this effectively, in many ways is unthinkable. It runs the risk of further loss of life, exacerbating localized conflicts, wasting precious vaccine resources, and placing strain on the humanitarian system, which may hinder its ability to provide other, urgent, lifesaving support.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities of all of our societies to unforeseen threats and challenges.
It has shown how a collective international response that mobilises the best of humanity – in science, research, and assistance – can point to a much brighter future.
We approach the fight against Covid in the way we approach many other challenges that this Council addresses - by looking for ways to overcome division, pursue common solutions, and find ways to help those most in need.
We will of course remain strongly supportive of all efforts by this Council to provide global leadership on this issue and others.
Thank you Mr President.