President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged all United Nations (UN) member States to support the proposal for a temporary waiver of certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to allow more countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to produce Covid-19 vaccines.
He was speaking during his participation at the virtual General Debate of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA76) themed ‘Building resilience through hope – to recover from Covid-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations’.
UNGA76 refers to the 76 years of existence of the UN, which was established in 1945 in the aftermath of World War 2.
The overarching issues that were dominant and of relevance to South Africa during UNGA76 included the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, discussions on the UN Secretary-General’s report entitled “Our Common Agenda”, climate change and the upcoming Conference on Climate Change (COP26) to be held in Glasgow in November, reform of the United Nations, peace and security matters, as well as the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“In this interconnected world, no country is safe until every country is safe. We need to prepare now for future pandemics and work with greater determination towards the goal of universal health coverage,” Ramaphosa said.
In the wake of Covid-19, Ramaphosa said that investment towards the achievement of the SDGs, by providing low-income countries with the means of implementation, needed to be increased.
He acknowledged concern that the global community had not sustained the principles of solidarity and cooperation in securing equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
“It is generally agreed that vaccines are the greatest defence that humanity has against the ravages of this pandemic. It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82% of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1% has gone to low-income countries,” he pointed out.
He added that unless addressed as a matter of urgency, the pandemic would last much longer and new mutations of the virus would spread and emerge.
CLIMATE CHANGE & PEACEKEEPING
Ramaphosa urged that COP26 should launch a formal programme of work on the implementation of the Global Goal on Adaptation, which calls on countries to work towards increasing the climate resilience of the global population by 50% by 2030 and by at least 90% by 2050.
“For the forthcoming COP26 in Glasgow to respond adequately to the crisis we face, we need to see greater ambition and progress on mitigation, adaptation and the means of implementation. Climate change is an existential crisis for the entire world, yet poor countries are particularly vulnerable. Although we bear the least responsibility for causing climate change, African countries are among those that carry the greatest cost,” he stressed.
He said South Africa would also continue with efforts to contribute to international peace and security through the membership of the Peacebuilding Commission and continued engagement and involvement in UN peacekeeping.
He highlighted that the rights of Palestinian people to self-determination had been raised in the General Assembly since the existence of UN body.
“We raise it again today, not because we are bound by practice or habit to do so, but because we resolutely believe that there shall be no peace and no justice until the Palestinian people are free from occupation and are able to exercise the rights for which this United Nations stands,” he said.
While also affirming South Africa’s solidarity with the Cuban people and calling for the lifting of the economic embargo that has caused damage to the country’s economic development, Ramaphosa also called for a lifting of the sanctions that are crippling Zimbabwe and its economy.