The United Nation’s former leader has criticised major world powers for failing to unite in combating the coronavirus pandemic.
The UN Security Council has let down the world population by not issuing a single resolution on the Covid-19 outbreak, former secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said.
Unlike during the Ebola crisis the five permanent members – the United States, China, Britain, France and Russia – have “failed” in their leadership, said Mr Ban. “During my time in 2014 when the Ebola pandemic happened it took just one day to declare that it was a serious threat to the maintenance of international peace and security.”
The failing was mainly because of the “political differences” between China and the US.
In March this year the UN chief, Antonio Guterres, called for a ceasefire in global conflicts so the world could focus on the pandemic. But US President Donald Trump objected to a reference in the resolution’s wording to the World Health Organisation, which he claimed promoted disinformation from China. Mr Trump has also continued to call the disease the “Chinese virus” in reference to the epicentre of the outbreak being in Wuhan.
The squabbling and failure in leadership has continued as coronavirus infections have increased dramatically with around 200,000 new cases per day. More than 540,000 people have died and 12 million people have been infected.
When Mr Ban headed the organisation he formed the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response through a Security Council resolution to fight a widespread outbreak in West Africa. Within 10 months the deadly disease had been contained after the UN’s first every emergency health mission supplied cash, logistics and staff to the region.
Mr Ban told the Chatham House webinar that the world now needed “full co-operation and solidarity” from the major powers and “a sense of compassion for other people”.
“Covid-19 is a sombre reminder of our common human bonds and vulnerabilities,” he told the think tank. “We will dishonour the victims unless we respond to the pandemic and our shared threats with a renewed sense of solidarity and collective action.”
Growing racial tensions alongside the spread of fake news was also undermining global stability.
“We all need to be vigilant about the risks posed to peace, democracy and public health by the rising amount of hate speech, fake news amplified by social media in the time of crisis, sometimes as deliberate state propaganda and sometimes as cynical click bait designed to maximise revenue for digital platform providers.”
Remaining vigilant was also important given the rising “isolationism, nationalism, disregard of international law and abandonment of key treaties”, he said, referring to the faltering nuclear deals between Russia and America.
He added that the years from 1920 to 1945 were a reminder of the “terrible consequences of the failures of multilateralism”.
Mr Ban also urged the leading powers to unite against the growing environmental threat, including Britain, which will host the UN’s COP conference on climate change next year.
“There are many issues like climate change, which are an existential threat,” he said. “The countries that have contributed the least to global warming are paying the highest price. They have not done anything wrong. It’s most industrialised countries that have done wrong.”