U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 9, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you to all three of our briefers today for your fantastic briefings. I thought it was particularly telling, and indeed very important, for three of the highest-level people within the UN system to be speaking with one voice on such an important issue. Thank you so much.
The United States appreciates the opportunity today to continue this dialogue in the Council on the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. Thank you so much.
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 imperiled 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.
Now, over and over, we’ve heard our Chinese colleagues attempt to place the blame on something else, and cast themselves as the heroes. They claim, as they did today, that unilateral sanctions are to blame for human suffering and inadequate government responses to the virus. They will claim that we all need to “look within” instead of criticizing their actions. We have heard these claims far too often in this Council as China attempts to deflect attention from its own actions, whether related to this pandemic, the terrible human rights abuses against minorities in Xinjiang, or repression of democracy in Hong Kong. We can all see right through this, no matter how many times these lies are repeated.
The Chinese Communist Party must answer to the mothers and fathers around the world trying to homeschool their children while working full-time jobs from home. They must answer to those mourning loved ones without the ability to honor them with a funeral. They must answer to those who have postponed weddings, vacations, family reunions, conferences, sports seasons, retirements, or even buying a house. They must answer to those who have lost their jobs or their business.
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.
Now, since we last met nearly one month ago to discuss COVID-19, the United States’ support for global efforts to counter this pandemic has increased even further. 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 contributed a total of $908 million in 44 countries to eight UN agencies – that’s 44% of the total humanitarian response raised to date. We welcome the increased contributions that many have already made and we join Under-Secretary-General Lowcock in encouraging other countries and stakeholders to do the same immediately. We all need to step up.
The United States has also been a strong supporter of the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, while acknowledging the importance of continuing legitimate counter-terrorism operations. Parties to conflict must continue to respect existing cease-fire agreements, or finalize new agreements, so that the conflict-affected communities can access crucial aid and take steps to protect themselves from the virus.
At the same time, we have to recognize how terrorists are trying to leverage this pandemic to recruit and radicalize others, as noted by our briefers today. Their goal is to inspire followers to their cause, while accelerating potential acts of violence. This Council cannot allow that to happen. We must stand together to prevent it.
Mr. President – this period has undoubtedly been trying for virtually every person in the world. From disrupted livelihoods, upended rhythms of daily life, and, of course, the immense sadness of watching loved ones suffer and even die, we’ve all been profoundly impacted by this pandemic. But make no mistake: The Trump Administration will continue to lead on this issue and will work hard to make the world safer and more secure from infectious disease threats for us, for our children, and for future generations.
Thank you, Mr. President.