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Nordic Joint Statement on Pandemics and Security

02.07.2020  18:08
Issued by Ambassador Martin Bille Hermann on the occasion of the High-Level Open Debate of the UN Security Council on Pandemics and Security

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I havethe pleasure to submit this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries,Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden on the timely topic of health andsecurity. 

The COVID-19pandemic poses a threat to the maintenance of international peace and security.The socio-economic fallout of the crisis exacerbates the root causes as well asconsequences of conflict and risks reversing hard-won development andpeacebuilding gains. The expected food crisis caused by the pandemic may also aggravateconflicts. Root causes of conflict also increase the risk of pandemics. Unmitigated climate change and escalatingenvironmental degradation, including biodiversity loss, undermine the verybasis of human wellbeing. Without immediate coordinated action, this willcontinue to lead to pandemics, global crises, displacement and conflict. Themost important thing we can do to prevent such crises is to implement the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030.


Furthermore, vulnerabilitiesto cybersecurity threats have been exploited during the pandemic, with anotable increase in malicious cyber activities, particularly against medicalfacilities. Mis- and disinformation risk enhancing the likelihood of conflict,violence, human rights violations and mass atrocities.

We – the United Nations – must face thecrisis with determination and resolve, in solidarity and through a strongmultilateral response. The Nordic Countries welcome the efforts of the UnitedNations and the Secretary General to address the immediate and long-termconsequences of the crisis, including through the launch of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan and anew Multi-Partner Trust Fund insupport of the UN’s COVID-19 response. We call on all Member States to supportthe important role of the UN system, and the leading role of the World Health Organisation in particular,in mobilising and coordinating the global response to the pandemic, with humanrights at the forefront. This is also aunique moment for assessing the results brought about by the Secretary General’sreform agenda, including the extent to which the reforms have led to a morecoherent UN system on the ground, under the strategic leadership of ResidentCoordinators.

Healthand global security areclosely interlinked. Pandemicsrisk exacerbating ongoing conflicts and sparking new ones, potentially leading to an increase in socialunrest and violence. This, in turn, undermines our ability tofight disease. At the same time, people in conflict-affected statesare particularly vulnerable to pathogens as well as the secondary effects ofthe pandemic. Thereare examples of conflict parties exploiting the uncertainty created by thepandemic to press for a military advantage, and of the pandemic leading to thedisruption of ongoing peace negotiations. For thoseprocesses, where momentum is sustained, there is a risk of further marginalizationand exclusion of  already vulnerablegroups as conversations shift to virtual fora. We know that for peaceprocesses to be successful and sustainable, they need to be inclusive andtransparent. We must therefore take proactive measures to ensure the full,equal and meaningful multi-stakeholder participation, especially ofhistorically marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as women and girls, inpolitical and peace processes.

UN special political missions andpeacekeeping operations play an important role in safeguarding momentum onexisting peace processes and sustaining peace, as well as in the COVID-19response.Peace operations need to be innovative in adapting to the new reality and wesupport the comprehensive efforts that the UN has made in order to ensure thesafety and security of peacekeepers as well to support host nations inpreventing the spread of the virus. At the same time, member state flexibilityand solidarity is essential, if peace operations are to deliver on theirmandate. The crisis also presents an opportunity to review mission mandates inlight of a changing threat landscape. We therefore reiterate our support to theSecretary General’s Action 4 Peacekeeping Agenda, which we believe doesexactly that.

The direct and indirect impact of COVID-19 exposesand exacerbates pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, adverselyaffecting particularly the least protected among us. For populations infragile and conflict affected contexts, coping mechanisms to address and handlepandemics are often reduced, sometimes even non-existent. We must reinforce andstrengthen our resolve and commitment to leaving no-one behind, and indeedreach those who are most vulnerable in the immediate response as well as inbuilding back better and greener from the pandemic. To this end, recoveryplans must be designed and implemented in a conflict sensitive, gender- andclimate responsive manner, and we must ensure the full, equal and meaningfulmulti-stakeholder involvement of particularly women and girls in the design,implementation and evaluation of such plans. The combination of the pandemic,its socio-economic consequences, and exacerbated conflict may lead to anincrease in displacement and migratory movements and consequently place thosealready exposed in an even more vulnerable situation. We need to step upefforts to increase protection in the regions of origin and along migratoryroutes.

COVID-19 disproportionately affects womenand girls everywhere, resulting in a “shadow crisis”, in the words of theSecretary General.Women are the majority of frontline health workers; women and girls bear thebrunt of unpaid care work; women constitute the majority of those working inthe informal sector, with low wages, no social protection and small chances ofbeing reached by governmental support packages; and more girls than boys dropout of school. Many of these girls risk never returning to school when theyreopen, often increasing their exposure to violence and harmful practicessuch as child, early and forced marriages, adolescent pregnancies and female genitalmutilation. The crisis has also led to an increase in sexual and gender-basedviolence and domestic or intimate partner violence as well as reduced access tovital sexual and reproductive health services. Women and girls withdisabilities face even greater risks. 

Member states must address the structuralgender inequalities and discrimination that place women and girls at greaterrisk during crises.This requires member states to conduct systematic gender analyses of crisisresponse, and use sex- and gender disaggregated data. Nordic countries placegreat emphasis on the protection of women and girls and on upholding their rights,as well as the safeguarding of universal health care and unhindered access tosexual and reproductive health care services. 

A stateof emergency like this pandemic requires extraordinary measures. However, such emergency measures must not be used aspretext or justification for weakening universal values of human rights,democracy and rule of law and must be necessary, proportionate, temporary,and non-discriminatory in nature. We are particularly concerned aboutnegative impacts on civil society, human rights defenders, gender equality,women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, and possible abuseof surveillance technology. Westrongly support the Secretary-General’s call to put human rights atcentre-stage in COVID-19 response and recovery. Addressing the crisis inall its dimensions and bolstering resilience require rapid response, goodgovernance, legitimate leadership and a vibrant civil society. 

Viruses and bacteria know no borders. The currentpandemic has demonstrated that the world has not been sufficiently prepared tomeet a health crisis of this nature and magnitude.  Theonly way to ensure global health security is through a global coherent approachto preparedness and response based on solidarity, reinvigorated multilateralismand renewed commitment to the Paris Agreementand the 2030 Agenda, with aparticular focus on strengthening public health functions and institutions andpromoting universal health coverage.

At itscurrent stage, the COVID-19 pandemic is best curtailed by having a safe andeffective vaccine and, once available, by ensuring equitable global access. We therefore welcome and supports initiatives such asthe Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT)Accelerator and the CoronavirusGlobal Response. The International Health Regulations (2005),furthermore, provide a unique legally binding framework for all member statesto prevent, protect against, control and respond to the international spread ofdisease while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic andtrade.

Inclosing, the Nordic Countries would liketo reiterate our strong support for the Secretary General’s global ceasefireappeal and encourage those Member States, who have not already done so, to joinus. We also strongly welcome the Security Council’s unanimous adoption ofresolution S/Res/2532 in support ofthe appeal.