UNSC meeting on COVID-19: Member states disagree over UNSC role in Coronavirus Pandemic
China’s UN Ambassador urged the UNSC to reject any act of stigmatization after the US labeled COVID-19 as ‘Chinese Virus’.
The United Nations Security Council met for the first time to discuss COVID-19 pandemic on April 9, 2020. The virtual meeting, hosted by the current chair Dominican Republic, took place after nine of the council’s ten non-permanent members requested for a meeting to discuss the current crisis.
Speaking at the closed-door meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated that the pandemic also poses a significant threat to international peace and security and it could potentially lead to an increase in social unrest and violence, which will largely undermine the global efforts to combat the virus.
China asks UNSC to reject stigmatization
China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun urged UNSC to reject any acts of stigmatization and politicization. This follows statements by US President Donald Trump, who had labeled the coronavirus the "Chinese virus" last month saying that China should have acted faster to warn the world.
The Chinese Ambassador reiterated the need to have solidarity, cooperation, mutual support and assistance at this time to over this global challenge instead of scapegoating.
US President Donald Trump has been repeatedly insisting on referring to the virus's Chinese origin during any discussion, which has not gone down well with China.
Is COVID-19 not a UNSC matter?
• The UN Security Council is responsible for maintaining international peace and security. However, its member states disagreed on whether the COVID-19 pandemic comes under the UNSC mandate or not.
• While Germany described the pandemic as an "international peace and security issue," several other nations such as China, Russia and South Africa stated that health matters were not part of the Security Council's brief.
• China, which was the chair of the UNSC in March 2020, had blocked all discussion on COVID-19 pandemic stating that it didn’t come under the mandate of the body.
• The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during his briefing at the virtual meeting said that the pandemic, which has infected over 1.5 million people and killed nearly 90,000 in more than 200 countries across the globe, poses a great threat to the maintenance of international peace and security, increasing chances of social unrest and violence.
• Guterres stated that the engagement of the UNSC will be significant to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on international peace and security. He said that a signal of unity and strong resolve from the council could make a difference.
Several diplomats have blamed the US and China for UNSC’s inaction on the global pandemic. China looks to have been reluctant in getting the council involved in the CIVID-19 outbreak stating that it does not come within its mandate. The United States, on the other hand, has been insisting on focusing on the origin of the virus. The first case of the novel coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan, a Chinese City, in December 2019.
The UNSC has addressed public health issues in the past, as it had adopted resolutions in 2000 and 2011 on HIV/AIDS and the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014 when it had declared the virus outbreak as a threat to international peace and security.