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Canada National Statement United Nations Security Council Open VTC on Pandemics and Security

2 July 2020

Mister President,

Canada thanks Germany for convening this High-Level Open VTC on Pandemics and Security.

The Security Council has addressed health crises before, responding to HIV/AIDS and to Ebola in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The COVID-19 pandemic is a multi-faceted threat that has significant international peace and security consequences with sweeping implications for the Security Council.

Canada welcomes the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2532, which supports the Secretary-General's call for an immediate global ceasefire amid COVID-19. The Security Council must ensure that this critical and long-awaited resolution is fully implemented.

Canada also deeply values the leadership and coordination role of the World Health Organization in the COVID-19 response. The rules-based international system is essential to help us accomplish together what no country could accomplish alone. In responding to COVID-19, Canada’s remains fully committed to multilateralism and multi-sectoral global health-security cooperation to ensure our collective health, prosperity, and security.

Mr. President,

While the COVID-19 pandemic has focused global attention on the devastating impacts of infectious diseases, global health security threats are not new. Just last week the Democratic Republic of Congo emerged from a nearly two-year battle with Ebola. In recent years, other nations and regions have been battered by outbreaks of other devastating diseases. Taken together, these outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics reveal two undeniable truths.

First, more work is needed to build capacity to prevent, detect and respond to all manner of infectious disease threats, whether natural, accidental or deliberate in origin. In addressing this Council on 9 April, Secretary General Guterres outlined a range of security threats spawned by the pandemic, including heightened bioterrorism risks. In this context, for nearly two decades, Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program (WTRP) has been delivering concrete programming to help build health-security capacity as part of our contribution to the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. While much work remains to be done, capacity-building delivered by Canada’s WTRP is supporting the global response to COVID-19, including biological laboratories in Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean and an infectious disease early warning system in the ASEAN region.

Second, the Security Council must focus more attention on global health security. Today’s Open VTC is a welcome first step. The Council should consider holding additional briefings on the implications of global health security challenges on international peace and security. Canada recently joined the Republic of Korea, Denmark, Qatar, and Sierra Leone to launch the Group of Friends of Solidarity for Global Health Security. The co-Chairs of the Group, which consists of 41 members from all regions, stand ready to support the Security Council’s comprehensive consideration of global health security moving forward.

Mr. President,

COVID-19 is affecting the lives and livelihoods of people everywhere, and will have implications for the work of the Security Council for years to come.

The pandemic is a crisis with deeply human impacts. COVID-19 is affecting women and children who already experience poverty, exclusion and marginalization more acutely, and are disproportionately impacted during armed conflict and in humanitarian emergencies. LGBTQI persons, people with disabilities, indigenous persons, and other minority groups are also disproportionately impacted, and face the risk of increased stigmatization, scapegoating, and marginalization.

For this reason, the Security Council must focus on the protection of the most vulnerable to ensure that civilians do not face compounding challenges due to COVID-19. The promotion and protection of human rights must also be at the core of the response to the pandemic. Initiatives which support the rights, wellbeing, health and specific needs of women and girls, LGBTQI persons, indigenous persons, and all vulnerable communities must continue to receive adequate attention and funding.

COVID-19 is also exacerbating existing humanitarian emergencies. Canada is working with our partners to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable and the countries most affected. This includes support to health infrastructure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including in conflict settings and detention centres. Canada salutes the bravery of all health and humanitarian personnel who, at personal risk, continue to deliver life-saving assistance to those in need. Canada strongly condemns all attacks directed against medical and humanitarian personnel and their facilities.

Hard-won peacebuilding gains in fragile and conflict-affected states are also at risk. Canada is leveraging its role as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission to focus on the risks that the pandemic poses for peacebuilding. There is strong consensus on the importance of coherent, cross-pillar, conflict-sensitive responses. This is essential to ensure that countries emerging from conflict do not relapse into instability and violence.

As the pandemic may contribute to increased instability in fragile and conflict-affected states, the role of UN peace operations is absolutely vital. Canada appreciates the extraordinary service and sacrifice of the civilian and uniformed personnel deployed to UN peace operations during the pandemic. We encourage all Member States to ensure the timely and full payment of assessed contributions, and to facilitate the movement of UN personnel and material across international borders.

We must also focus on the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic, which will exacerbate inequalities, reverse development gains, and fuel the root causes of conflict and instability. Following the unprecedented May 28 High-level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond, Canada will continue to advance concrete solutions to the development emergency caused by COVID-19. Decisive action is needed to ensure no one is left behind, and that all countries recover and build back better.

Mr. President,

Canada is committed to a robust and gender-responsive global effort to stop COVID-19 and address its devastating and multi-faceted impacts on people around the world.

This includes regularly hosting a Foreign Affairs Ministerial Coordination Group on COVID-19 to coordinate global efforts, co-leading with the United Kingdom a Development Ministers’ Contact Group to ensure coherence and impact of international assistance, and working together with international partners to maintain open supply chains and support global economic recovery.

Canada will continue to drive multilateral collaboration to reduce the peace and security risks of COVID-19 and other health security challenges to all, guided by considerations of equity and support to the most vulnerable.

Thank you. 

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