Combination photo of Russian President Putin, US President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.(Agencies)
Three days after China demitted Presidency of the UN Security Council, 10 non-permanent members led by Dominican Republic have forced the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to agree to a closed-door informal consultation on the Covid-19 pandemic this week. This comes after an attempt by Estonia to have the UNSC discuss the pandemic with more transparency and accountability was blocked by China, Russia and South Africa who argued that the coronavirus spread was not a peace and security issue and hence outside the UNSC’s mandate.
According to diplomatic sources in Washington and Delhi, the demand for informal consultation on the pandemic, made as it impacts the peace and security of the world, was pushed by UNSC President Dominican Republic on Friday. It was backed by Vietnam, Indonesia, Germany, Belgium, Estonia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, South Africa, Niger and Tunisia.
It is understood that UN Secretary General Guterres will first address the UNSC through video conference and then announce the date for informal consultations this week. Guterres is expected to brief the member countries on the status of the pandemic and measures taken to control the killer disease.
There is, however, a huge question on the possible outcome of the discussions on the disease that originated in China’s Wuhan city before it rapidly spread across the world. China is expected to be supported by Russia. The United States, on the other hand, is yet to take a stand. But the Trump administration has of late adopted a softer stand on China, particularly after Beijing supplied 1,000 ventilators for New York.
France and the United Kingdom are likely to be in favour of an outcome at the informal consultations.
As per John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen has infected 1.2 million people across the world and killed 66,542.
The US has reported the maximum number of cases with over 3,12,000 Covid-19 patients and over 8,500 deaths.
Experts believe that the virus will destroy a lot more lives than it will take. Governments across the world have ordered lockdowns to slow the pandemic and minimise the lives that it takes, forcing the global economy into a recession that may take years to get over.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wants a global ceasefire to be announced so that member countries can focus on the fight against the virus and the global misery that will follow. But this may not be accepted by Russia which has stakes in the Syrian civil war and the Libyan strife.
To be sure, little is expected of the informal consultations on Covid-19 at UNSC. But permanent member China, which is riled up at any description of the disease as Wuhan virus, will have to allow itself to be targeted by other UNSC members.
UNSC members also surely expected to raise questions on the role of World Health Organisation that failed to recognise the disease as a pandemic earlier and Beijing’s initial denials when the outbreak took place as early as November 17, 2019