Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 11, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President. The United States is pleased to have voted in favor of resolution A/74/L.57 “United Response against global health threats; combatting COVID-19.” We thank the Government of Saudi Arabia and other core group members for the transparent and effective negotiation process they led, and appreciate their efforts to accommodate our concerns in the text.
The United States is also pleased that this resolution underscores the importance of sharing timely, accurate, and transparent information in the effort to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Transparency is critical for a unified response to this pandemic. Effective mitigation of a public health crisis like COVID-19 requires government and international organization transparency and accountability, the full participation of civil society, protections of personal privacy and security, and access to information.
Transparency, access to information, and the sharing of accurate information about the nature of the threat are vital in stemming the spread of the virus; instead, in some places, governments have chosen to shut down or restrict internet access and access to information. In other places, the right to freedom of expression has been severely restricted. Unfortunately, we are aware of cases of harassment, suppression, and intimidation by governments worldwide intent on using this pandemic as an excuse to deny those in their countries the right to speak freely including to dissent. These actions will make the global community less, not more, safe. In some countries, journalists have faced arrest and detention after reporting on the pandemic or criticizing their government’s response. This is particularly troubling as we understand there is a growing risk that those in detention are especially vulnerable to contagion and possibly death. Countries that respect and protect unalienable human rights are also more effective at combating COVID-19. To this end, the United States regrets that language on the need to protect and promote human rights was not stronger.
The United States has said since this pandemic began that COVID-19 can only be fought with complete transparency and the timely sharing of public health data and information with the international community. If anything, the last several months have underscored the importance of transparency and accountability in addressing the pandemic. Unfortunately, failures both by the PRC and the World Health Organization at the outset of the pandemic have imperiled all of us and caused needless additional suffering and death.
Finally, the United States has submitted its notice of withdrawal from the World Health Organization, effective July 6, 2021, because of its lack of transparency, accountability, independence, and its unwillingness to reform. We insist that the WHO advance the health of people around the world in a transparent, science-based manner which incorporates accountability into the system. We want to save lives and expect that the UN and its agencies will continue to share and further that noble goal. We therefore do not concur with the references to the WHO in the text.