Explanation of Vote on the Omnibus Resolution: Comprehensive and Coordinated Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jason Mack
Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 11, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to the co-coordinators for their efforts to achieve agreement on this resolution.

The United States appreciates the cooperation and collaboration of the international community in the global effort to combat COVID-19. As we strive to make progress to defeat COVID-19, it is important that we focus our efforts and jointly address this virus.

I would like to begin today by expressing our condolences for the illnesses, deaths, and other adverse consequences – including those affecting healthcare and humanitarian personnel – resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our never-ending gratitude goes out to all health care workers, to all UN staff, to all essential personnel who continue to put themselves in harm’s way every day to make us all safer.

The United States has been and remains the largest bilateral donor of global health assistance. Over just the past few weeks, we have increased our funding for the development of vaccines and therapeutics, global preparedness efforts, and overseas economic, health, and humanitarian aid from $12 billion to more than $20.5 billion. Our steadfast and heartfelt support for such efforts encompasses all facets of the pandemic response, including second- and third-order effects. And we are working directly with those on the ground to combat this virus, including governments, multilateral organizations, faith-based organizations, NGOs, the private sector, research institutions, and many other organizations.

Additionally, we have supported the Secretary General’s call to resource the UN response. As of August 14, the United States has funded a total of $908 million in 44 countries to eight UN agencies – that equates to 44% of the total humanitarian response raised to date. We welcome the increased contributions that many have already made and we encourage other countries and stakeholders to do the same immediately. We all need to step up.

Since this pandemic began, the Trump Administration has been very clear that transparency and the timely sharing of public health data and information are essential to fighting it effectively. Unfortunately, however, failures at the outset of the pandemic by the People’s Republic of China, where COVID-19 originated and was first diagnosed, have imperilled all of us and caused needless additional suffering and death. In the early days of the virus, the Chinese Communist Party hid the truth about the outbreak from the world and prevented researchers from accessing vital information – innumerable deaths that could have been prevented were the result. We must hold those responsible accountable for their actions, and inaction, early in this pandemic, and ensure that future pandemics are reported in a transparent manner early, instead of being hidden from the world.

Unfortunately, we might never know for certain how much of the pain and suffering caused by COVID-19 could have been avoided if the Chinese Communist Party had behaved like a responsible government and immediately warned the rest of the world of the virus that they uncovered in Wuhan.

Not only did they fail the world, but the World Health Organization’s failures in the early days of the pandemic also contributed to needless suffering and the worsening of this pandemic. The WHO needs to reform, including by demonstrating its independence from the Chinese Communist Party. That lack of independence, transparency, and accountability is why President Trump made the decision for the United States to withdraw from the WHO. We will continue to call for its reform, and we will seek alternative, transparent partners in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. It is incumbent on each of us to collectively commit to the timely sharing of public health data and information with the international community. Doing so is paramount to our ability to overcome this crisis together, and to building our resiliency to future pandemics.

For those reasons, the United States does not concur with the references to the World Health Organization (WHO) in perambulatory paragraphs 11, 12, 13, 15 and operating paragraph 1.

The United States welcomes strong health-specific language in the text including language on therapeutics and antimicrobial resistance. We also welcome language on countering disinformation and calling for an independent evaluation of the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.

The United States also welcomes the human rights references in this text, including a stand-alone paragraph on human rights and fundamental freedoms and several references to civil society and other stakeholders throughout the text. Promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is critical to ensuring that all people are fully included in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

The United States welcomes the strong stand-alone paragraph on persons with disabilities and particularly welcomes the reference to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on them, as well as their inclusion in policy and decision-making at all levels and in all aspects of COVID-19 response and recovery. We also welcome the listing of members of marginalized groups in the text but regret that the full listing was not included.

Despite these positive elements, we cannot support a resolution that is missing key issues. It is regrettable that the final text did not contain even one mention of human rights defenders, which was in the zero draft. We cannot in good faith adopt a resolution on COVID-19 response and recovery without recognizing those civil society and human rights defenders at the forefront of these efforts. We do not accept some delegations’ ongoing assertion that this phrase is a redline, particularly as we use this phrase throughout UN documents and we have a consensual declaration on human rights defenders.

We appreciate the addition of a reference to UNSCR 1325. We still think, however, that this text could have benefited from a stand-alone paragraph on women, peace and security, especially as we near the 20th anniversary of the critical agenda and the critical role women and girls play in COVID-19 response and recovery. We also reject the assertion that this topic does not belong in the General Assembly or that it is a redline for delegations, particularly as those same delegations are members of the Security Council and voted to create the agenda twenty years ago.

We also cannot allow the resolution to be hijacked by several themes that are not pertinent to the discussion, and for this reason, we voted against this resolution.

The United States defends human dignity and supports access to high-quality health care for women and girls across the lifespan. We appreciate the co-coordinators’ recognition of our redline position on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and Sexual Reproductive Health and Reproductive Rights (SRHR) and the removal of one SRH reference in the PPs.

We do not accept references to “sexual and reproductive health,” “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” or other language that suggests or explicitly states that access to legal abortion is necessarily included in the more general terms “health services” or “health care services” in particular contexts concerning women. The United States believes in legal protections for the unborn, and rejects any interpretation of international human rights to require any State Party to provide safe, legal, and effective access to abortion. As President Trump has stated, “Americans will never tire of defending innocent life.” Each nation has the sovereign right to implement related programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies. There is no international right to abortion, nor is there any duty on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion. Further, consistent with the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and their reports, we do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our global health assistance. We also do not recognize references to non-UN negotiated conferences, summits or their respective outcome documents. We believe that the General Assembly should only include references to conferences and summits that were clearly mandated through UN modalities resolutions, such as this year’s Beijing+25, and other ones, such as the Nairobi summit, have no direct or indirect place in any UN resolutions.

With respect to language in OP47, we would like to thank the co-coordinators and in particular our colleagues from the UK, EU and AOSIS for a constructive discussion and small group negotiation on this paragraph. Regarding the substance of the text, we consider it outside of the scope of what this resolution on COVID-19 is intended to address. We further note that the United States submitted formal notification of its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement to the United Nations on November 4, 2019. The withdrawal will take effect one year from the delivery of the notification. Therefore, references to the Paris Agreement and climate change are without prejudice to U.S. positions.

On OP34, the United States agrees with the need to improve global supply chain connectivity and security in addressing COVID-19, which includes numerous interconnected processes. However, we do not see a clear link between global sustainable transportation and COVID-19 as phrased in the paragraph. We made our concerns about this paragraph clear at the beginning of negotiations.

The United States cannot support the new OP20 language. The text in OP20 of this resolution inappropriately challenges the sovereign right of States to determine their economic relations and to protect legitimate national interests, including taking certain related actions in response to national security concerns.

It also attempts to undermine the international community’s ability to respond to acts that are offensive to international norms. Economic sanctions are a legitimate means to achieve foreign policy, security, and other national and international objectives, and the United States is not alone in that view or in that practice.

I wish to point out that all U.S. sanctions include humanitarian exemptions. It has already been well proven that suffering and death is due to the bombing of civilians, including doctors and hospitals, suppressing the flow of information about the pandemic, and abuses of human rights by authoritarian, non-democratic regimes against their own people.

Thank you, Mr. President.