PRIME MINISTER Dr Ralph Gonsalves has encouraged the global community to take a collective new path at the cross-roads in which the world finds itself during this COVID-19 era.
In his address to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the weekend,Gonsalves shared his thoughts on a number of topics including climate change, vaccine nationalism, the trends of global communication leading to anti-vax misinformation and political quarrels.
“We are convened at this 76th Session of the United Nations’ General Assembly at a time of severe health, socio-economic, political, climatic, and security challenges, globally, though unevenly, not in equal measure,” he opened his address on Saturday, September 25, referring to the “tailspin” in which the pandemic has thrown the world.
“A major shift has occurred in the global condition; a parallelogram of unruly and complex forces has been unleashed; a new paradigm has emerged; outmoded approaches are becoming, or have become, irrelevant; fresh initiatives and directions are required; and transformational leadership is needed, now more than ever,” he advised.
He spoke about the global community working together to defeat COVID-19 and return to normalcy, opening the economies, and calling upon the “metaphoric lions and lionesses” to converse meaningfully and resolve their differences “in the interest of all”.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put the global community at the critical, proverbial cross-roads. What is to be done?” he asked.
“First, let us recognise, and internalise, the novel, historic juncture at which we are, and accept generally, the sage poetic advice that two roads diverge in the woods; and we ought to take the one least travelled by; and that will make all the difference,” the Prime Minister said, adding that it is the only choice humanity has.
“In tackling the pandemic itself, the old ways have tended to predominate, even as the sunlit rays of a possible new path have emerged. Thus, for example, globally, we have witnessed unacceptable vaccine nationalism; the politicisation of the roll-out of the vaccines; and the roll-out of vaccines for the rich first and the poor afterwards,” albeit mitigated by efforts of global institutions such as the World Health Organisation, the COVAX facility, and the World Bank.
“It is true, too, though relatively late in the day, that some rich countries in the North Atlantic (USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom) have delivered or agreed to deliver, freely, from their surpluses, vaccines to some less developed countries; we are very grateful,” he said, adding, “Still, though, some of these countries may be so slow in their promised deliveries that they may end up, embarrassingly, with expired doses of the vaccines running into several millions.”
India was one of the countries which came to the assistance of SVG by providing Covishield AstraZeneca vaccines, but Gonsalves informed that at least one country is failing to recognise it.
The order of the old ways pre-COVID, he submitted, has been shown in the actions of global communications.
“These entities, enveloped in mega profits and profiteering, own and control the various Internet platforms, with little or no public regulation, and have ignored or abandoned any real sense of responsibility for the anti-vax misinformation and disinformation which occupy cyberspace. As a consequence, real people die in their multitudes across the world. Surely, this irresponsibility must stop!” he maintained.
He posited that certain long standing political quarrels should end, citing the refusal of Israel and “its International backers” to accept an Independent Palestine, “the economic blockade” of Cuba by the United States of America (USA), and “unjust”, “harsh” economic sanctions against Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The Prime Minister spoke out against the “old- fashioned” and “hegemonic responses” that translate to the exclusion of Taiwan from the United Nations and its agencies.
“Surely, the world will benefit from Taiwan’s inclusion in global bodes such as the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and INTERPOL,” he argued.
Gonsalves highlighted the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, noting that human and economic costs are staggering. However, adding that the “sacred principles of non-intervention and non-interference ought not to be blind, perpetually or at all, to unacceptable and egregious excesses against humanity.”
The Prime Minister then turned to speak about the “looming ecological disaster” that is climate change.
“Science, the real world, and the Paris Accord have pointed to alternative pathways for humanity but the political will and requisite resources from the major emitters to address the grave challenge of climate change have not gone much beyond pious mouthings and marginal tinkering,” he contended.
He expressed hope and fear in the same breath as regards the Conference of Parties (COP) in Glasgow set for November 2021.
In the Caribbean’s particular case, the Prime Minister listed other financial issues that he said needed global attention.
He focused on the reform of the UN Security Council, noting, “it is evident to all reasonable persons that the stranglehold of “the Permanent Five” on the Security Council ought to be appropriately loosened or broken in these times which are so different than in 1945.”
SVG has been sitting as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the past two years, during which time it had an integral role in establishing “an institutional nexus known as the A3 plus One (the three non-permanent members from Africa plus St. Vincent and the Grenadines), as a distinctive voice for Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America,” Gonsalves pointed out.
The Prime Minister concluded, “The lessons of today mirror many of those lodged in the tiring, and oft-times tired, struggles of yesteryear.”
“The pervasive inequalities that defined the pre-COVID political and socio-economic order must not become tomorrow’s nightmarish reality. Instead, in this COVID era, we must reorganise ourselves, locally, regionally, nationally and globally, in a quest to provide peace, security, and development to all countries and peoples, in novel ways and with fresh initiatives.”
He ended his statement by reiterating that: “We are at historic cross-roads of a special kind. We must rise, collectively, to address sensibly, the requisite fresh imperatives in these, our most challenging, times.”