On March 2, 2023, Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, hosted the Summit Level Meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Contact Group in Response to COVID-19. The meeting was attended by nearly 70 heads of states and government representatives including important international organization. The meeting was chaired by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, who is also the current Chairman of NAM.

Opening the event as the NAM Chair, Aliyev said that it had been three years since Azerbaijan assumed the Chairmanship of NAM for the period 2019-2022 and it was extended by one more year by a unanimous decision. Aliyev said that the aim for NAM was to defend justice and international law. “Right after the beginning of the (COVID-19) pandemic, it was NAM that took the initiative to mobilize global efforts to counter COVID-19”, Aliyev remarked. In his opening speech, Aliyev talked about such initiatives that were undertaken by NAM.
Aliyev talked about the initiation of NAM Online Summit at the Heads of State and Government level in May 2020. The Summit decided to establish the Non-Aligned Movement Task Force to work out a database. The World Health Organization used this database as a reference point for identifying the needs of NAM Member States in addressing the pandemic.

Aliyev also mentioned that during the May 2020 Online Summit, NAM Chair suggested the convening of a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly. This Special Session was held in December 2020 and was addressed by over 70 Heads of State and Government. During the session, Aliyev, speaking on behalf of 120 countries of NAM, in a pre-recorded video messages had said that equitable access to vaccine was integral to effective pandemic response. “As many vaccines against COVID-19 are being currently studied, we are all looking forward to the successful outcome of clinical trials and hope that a safe and effective vaccine will soon be available, and that they will be considered as global public goods ensuring their universal distribution at affordable prices for all”, Aliyev had stated in the UNGA Special Session.

Aliyev then referred to vaccine nationalism. Vaccine nationalism may be understood as an economic strategy to hoard vaccinations from manufacturers and increase supply in own country. The aim is to stock up and vaccinate the nation as soon as possible regardless of the limited vaccine manufacturers’ distribution for the rest of the world. Aliyev said that NAM considers “vaccine nationalism” pursued by some wealthy countries, among others, as a serious impediment in countering the pandemic. Subsequently, NAM initiated two resolutions for equitable and universal access to vaccines for all countries adopted in the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly in 2021. It may be mentioned that in March 2021, the UN Human Rights Council during its 46th Session adopted a resolution on Ensuring equitable, affordable, timely, and universal access by all countries to vaccines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic underscored that equitable access to health products is a matter of global priority and that the availability, accessibility, acceptability and affordability of health products of assured quality are fundamental to tackling the pandemic, and expressing its concern about the fact that the unequal distribution of vaccines delays the end of the pandemic. During the Summit Level Meeting, Aliyev remarked that NAM’s leadership in mobilizing global efforts to fight the pandemic once more demonstrated the Movement’s influence and responsibility.

Non-Aligned Movement has also expressed its concerns over the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). Aliyev remarked that the global efforts should be reinforced to prevent, inter alia, backsliding on targets and to catch up with the 2030 Agenda. Aliyev also mentioned that Azerbaijan as the NAM Chair has suggested establishing a UN High-Level Panel on Global Recovery from COVID-19 which would elaborate recommendations on global measures for the post-pandemic period. Aliyev urged NAM Member States to support the initiative.

The Summit meeting was also addressed by the President of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Csaba Kőrösi who said that it was due to the global push launched by NAM which showed how “joint efforts can bring us in catalysing the development and production of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines all over the globe.” The UNGA President was apt in his assertion that it was a convincing display of NAM’s influence and “when the world needed it the most, NAM quickly galvanized efforts to address the crisis, calling for increased global solidarity to overcome the pandemic and its impacts”.

Photo Credit : https://twitter.com/NAMChairAZ/status/1631249058772709377/photo/1