Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at the UN Security Council Briefing on COVID-19 Pandemic and Vaccines
11 April 2022
The Chinese delegation thanks coordinator Ted Chaiban and Dr. Esperanza Martinez for their briefings. We have listened carefully to Dr. Emmanuel Ojwang’s statement. I would like to take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to the health workers who have been fighting on the front line against COVID-19.
Our world is now in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Armed with nearly all the effective tools needed to fight this pandemic, humanity is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That said, the pandemic is not over yet. New variants of the virus, each spreading faster than its predecessor, keep cropping up. We are nowhere near the point where we can afford to be complacent and let up. Only when each and every country has subdued this common enemy of ours, can the world declare that we have prevailed. I would like to make the following points in connection with some pending issues that warrant our special attention.
First, we must work hard and work together to build immunological barriers. Globally, the WHO’s target of 70% vaccination coverage is far from being achieved. In particular, vaccination rates in countries in conflict are generally below the world average, less than 1% in such countries as the DRC, Yemen, and Mali. Security Council Resolution 2565 calls for increased access and affordability of vaccines in conflict areas. Right now, it is imperative to scale up vaccine assistance and supply to leave no country behind and no one forgotten.
China has provided a total of 2.2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations, and is currently providing an additional 1 billion doses to African countries, 150 million doses to ASEAN countries, and 50 million doses of free vaccines to Central Asian countries. To date, we have contributed 100 million US dollars and 220 million doses of vaccines to COVAX. localizing vaccine manufacturing is important to put developing countries in a better position to respond to the pandemic. China was the first to support IPR waivers for vaccines, and was the first to transfer its vaccine technology to developing countries. China is co-producing vaccines with 20 countries with an annual capacity of 1 billion doses. We support an early decision by the WTO on an IPR waiver for vaccines in active and positive response to the strong appeals from the wide sections of developing countries.
Second, public health systems in developing countries should be strengthened. Developing countries are at a serious disadvantage in the global health system. There are already facing all manners of grave challenges. Many countries have been struggling to provide timely vaccination to all those in need because of war, conflict, lack of transport access, and poor health care infrastructure. Even when sufficient vaccines are available, timely vaccination is still not possible or difficult to achieve. The root cause of the bottlenecks in the last mile of vaccine access is the long-standing problem of inadequate public health systems. In order to better prevent and respond to the next pandemic when it arrives, the international community should look far ahead, and help developing countries strengthen their public health systems in a vigorous effort. In this regard, it is necessary to expand the coverage of medical services, improve public infrastructure such as transport and power supply, and train up more medical professionals and health workers as well as better disseminate public health information to the entire population, especially youth and children. This Council should work with other bodies and take a pragmatic approach and tangible measures to bring hope to the countries in conflict.
Third, we should inject fresh momentum into post-pandemic recovery and socio-economic development. The pandemic is responsible for a slowdown or even recession in many economies, and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda faces even more daunting challenges. The global political and security upheaval of late, the soaring prices of energy, food and other commodities, and a new upsurge in trade protectionism have added to the woes of many developing countries that were already struggling to cope. The more challenging external environment highlights the importance and the urgency of development for developing countries. This is something that the international community must take very seriously. And the UN should act swiftly and take solid and effective measures to both address the current crisis and explore long-term solutions, so the world can see new hope on the horizon. China’s Global Development Initiative, or GDI, aims to address, as the first order of business, poverty eradication, equitable vaccine access, and financing for development, among others, which are of the greatest concern for developing countries, and to help place development at the center of the global macro-policy framework, thus providing a viable path to the accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the post-pandemic recovery. China will host a high-level meeting of the Group of Friends of the GDI in the near future. We welcome extensive participation and active contribution to this event.
Fourth, we must practice true multilateralism. During the two-year long pandemic, over 6 million people lost their precious lives. The lesson is profound and deserve our serious reflection. Nothing is more valuable in this world than human lives. A people-centered approach is the most important tenet that guides all our decisions. At the global level, cooperation in solidarity is the most powerful weapon to defeat the pandemic, and is as effective in tackling other global challenges. Under these unprecedented circumstances, we must work together to build back better with a conviction stronger than ever that we are in a global community with a shared future.
Meanwhile, we must not lose sight of the fact that our world is still confronted with multiple challenges. A scant few countries are still holding on to their Cold-War mentality, drawing lines of distinction based on ideology, provoking renewed bloc confrontation, imposing unilateral sanctions with out scruples, weaponizing economic interdependence, and forcing countries to choose sides. This is plunging the international community into division, and pushing the world into the quick sand of grave risks and uncertainties. These irresponsible actions are harmful to others as they are to themselves, and must be categorically rejected. The need for true multilateralism is even greater in today’s world. In the post-pandemic period, all countries should strengthen their solidarity under the banner of the UN, respect one another, trust and be trustworthy, show goodwill, cooperate for mutual benefit, and work together for a better future.
I thank you, Mr President.