UN chief laments 'chaotic' COVID-19 response, urges reform

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday said one means of achieving a more effective multilateral response was reforming the composition of and voting rights within the Security Council.

FILE: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres virtually addresses a roundtable on Climate Ambition during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, on 24 September 2020, in New York. Picture: AFP

OSLO - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday urged a more coherent response to global crises, saying a "fragmented and chaotic" coronavirus response gave renewed urgency to his belief the Security Council needs reform.

"Unfortunately, governments have not mounted a joint response to this global threat... the response has been fragmented and chaotic, with countries, regions, and even cities competing against each other for essential supplies and frontline workers," said Guterres.

"We cannot let the same thing happen for access to new COVID-19 vaccines, which must be a global public good."

The UN head said one means of achieving a more effective multilateral response was reforming the composition of and voting rights within the Security Council.

Addressing the Nobel Peace Prize Forum 2020: International Cooperation after COVID-19, Guterres said such a move would address "the inequalities at the foundations of the present global power relations" and benefit emerging nations.

"The nations that came out on top more than seven decades ago have refused to contemplate the necessary reforms. The composition and voting rights in the United Nations Security Council and the boards of the Bretton Woods (financial) system are a case in point," said Guterres, revisiting a theme he addressed in a Nelson Mandela Foundation lecture in July.

"Many African countries did not even exist as independent states 75 years ago. They deserve their rightful place at the global table. The developing world more broadly must have a far stronger voice in global decision-making," Guterres concluded.

The Security Council currently has 15 members. Five of them are permanent - the United States, China, Russia, France, and Britain, who enjoy veto rights and have shown no sign of readiness to cede their privileged status.

Download the EWN app to your iOS or Android device.