President Rodrigo Duterte has challenged the United Nations to undergo self-assessment and reform as the international body finds itself straddled with its “biggest test since World War II” – the humanitarian and socio-economic backlash of the COVID-19 pandemic – on its 75th anniversary.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly through a taped message early Wednesday dawn – the first time since he took office in 2016 – Duterte said the UN and the world at large are at a crossroads now.
He noted how COVID-19 has “brought about an unfamiliar global landscape and unleashed a crisis without precedent.”
“While the United Nations has brought relief and hope to so many countries and peoples around the world, it now finds itself straddled by a virus that has taken many lives and wrecked economies and social order. We are at a crossroads – how we address COVID-19 will define our future,” the President said.
“We will need to ask hard and fundamental questions about the vision and mission that the United Nations conceptualized 75 years ago. We need to ask ourselves whether or not we have remained true and faithful to the United Nations’ principles and ideals.”
The President said while the UN remains “humanity’s essential organization,” it is only as effective as member-states make it.
“To make significant changes, we need to be bold. We need the same collective courage that finally made the United Nations a reality 75 years ago. We need to act on long-standing recommendations to improve the Security Council’s composition and working methods; to strengthen the role of the General Assembly; and to streamline the processes and the operations of the UN.”
"Indeed, to be ready for the new global normal, it cannot be business as usual for the UN. Let us empower UN – reform it – to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” he said.
Duterte said for the Philippines, this would mean “putting all of the peoples of our united nations at the core of this response.”
“While each nation has its own strategy in fighting the pandemic, what the world needs are coordinated international plans and efforts to pursue a common purpose. COVID-19 knows no border. It knows no nationality. It knows no race. It knows no gender. It knows no age. It knows no creed,” he said.
While the President welcomed the launch of the UN COVID Response and Recovery Fund, he underscored the need to ensure equal access to a safe and effective vaccine.
“Ensuring universal access to anti COVID-19 technologies and products is pivotal in the global pandemic recovery…When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy.”
“The Philippines joins our partners in the ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement in raising our collective voice: the COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Let us be clear on this,” he said.
He also urged the UNGA to ensure that the World Health Organization has enough resources and policy space to address the pandemic more quickly and more efficiently.
“We need a WHO that is quick to coordinate and quicker to respond. The Philippines will do its part in the pooling of global resources. Our health workers are among the best,” Duterte added.