Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Pandemics and Security (via VTC)

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 12, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President. And we very much appreciate you, Minister Marsudi, for holding the meeting this morning. We also appreciate Indonesia for continuing the Security Council’s discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic. And thank you to Secretary-General Guterres and Former Secretary-General Ban for your briefings today. It is difficult to put into words the deep and profound sorrow we feel over the deaths, illnesses, and other terrible consequences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including those affecting healthcare and humanitarian personnel that put their lives on the line every day. They have given to a cause far greater than themselves, and our hearts and prayers go out to their families and communities during this difficult time.

(Remarks continued by George Ward, Political Advisor)

We adopted Resolution 2532 a little over a month ago, supporting the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire to secure a respite for countries and regions that, weakened by violence and conflict, are especially vulnerable to the virus. We should now reflect on how the pandemic has affected particularly sensitive areas.

I’ll start by saying we were pleased that several armed groups declared ceasefires to heed the Secretary-General’s call even before the Security Council adopted the resolution. As early as April, fighters in twelve countries had put down their weapons, including those involved in some of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

Unfortunately, as we know, many of these ceasefires are beginning to fall apart, including in the Philippines. We also note with deep concern the recent escalation of violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and have called on the sides to resume substantive negotiations to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as soon as possible. We strongly urge governments and other actors around the world to respect existing ceasefires, or to agree on new ceasefire arrangements so that they may focus on addressing COVID-19 and protecting their citizens.

We strongly condemn the terrorist organizations that seek to take advantage of this difficult situation. What a terrible thing, in the middle of this pandemic, as legitimate governments focus on containing the virus, that these organizations are working to advance their recruitment efforts and carrying out criminal, unjustifiable acts. For example, we have seen racially or ethnically motivated terrorist groups and actors advancing their interests by spreading disinformation and conspiracies regarding the virus outbreak and spread of the virus. It is inconceivable how anyone can be so evil – that’s what we’re up against.

ISIS has exploited security gaps in Iraq caused by the pandemic to re-launch a sustained insurgency. Through propaganda, ISIS, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups have used the pandemic as a recruiting tool. We will continue our legitimate and lawful operations and actions against those terrorist groups that threaten peace everywhere.

As the world’s largest humanitarian donor, the United States remains unwavering in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic; we continue to support critical programs in health, water and sanitation, and protection. We take seriously the Secretary-General’s warning of a generational catastrophe due to ongoing school closures that have affected more than one billion students. We are working directly with those on the ground combatting this virus, including governments, multilateral organizations, faith-based organizations, NGOs, the private sector, research institutions, and other organizations. At the same time, we look to meaningfully address other risks that may be exacerbated by the pandemic.

The United States has already announced more than $1.6 billion dollars in additional economic, health, and humanitarian aid toward our commitment of nearly $2 billion in U.S. foreign assistance to combat COVID-19. This assistance is part of more than $12 billion provided by the U.S. government to benefit the global response, including through vaccine and therapeutics development, preparedness efforts, and humanitarian assistance. This is in addition to more than $170 billion in U.S. investments in global health and humanitarian assistance over the last 10 years. Indeed, the United States has been the world leader in such assistance by a large margin.

The international community must remain equally committed to maintaining our responses to other ongoing humanitarian crises as well. This virus has not only claimed lives, but crippled economies around the world. Vulnerable and marginalized populations, including here in the United States, have been hit particularly hard by these secondary effects.

When we consider how best to manage future pandemics and limit their impact on international security, we must learn from our experiences of COVID-19 and recognize the vital importance of transparency. It is also crucial to ensure protections are in place for populations in conflict areas and for at-risk groups.

We must not let this virus stall longstanding efforts towards peace and security. We must not let it divide us. Together with our UN and other international partners, the Trump Administration will continue leading the fight against this virus during this critical time, and will do all we can to ensure a world that is safer and more secure, now and in the future.

Thank you.