COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the developing world. The pandemic is expected to push between 55 and 63 million people into extreme poverty by the end of 2021 and the world’s poorest countries are the most vulnerable in this global crisis. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), being the largest collective voice of the developing world, has taken note of this and therefore has called for a coordinated and concerted global response based on unity, multilateral cooperation, solidarity and respect for human rights to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and recover from the pandemic.
NAM stressed this call during the 47th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC). Speaking on behalf of NAM at the 47th session of the HRC, Seymur Mardaliyev, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United Nations (UN) Office and other International Organizations in Geneva, reiterated the concerns of NAM about the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the enjoyment of human rights around the world and stressed the importance of human rights in shaping the response to the pandemic in terms of both the public health emergency and the broader impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. The NAM representative made the organisation’s position clear that considering the challenges faced by the developing countries during the times of current crisis, necessary fiscal space should be provided to developing countries through debt relief, and appropriate measures for financing and debt sustainability.
The representative of NAM expressed serious concern over the disparity in the distribution of vaccines against COVID-19 between developing and developed countries which prevents the entire international community to achieve the elimination of the pandemic as soon as possible and hampers progress in the realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Inequitable distribution of vaccines has been a concern for NAM. Since the beginning of vaccination, more than 90% of all vaccines administered have been concentrated in high-income countries and some middle-income countries, while low-income countries are still lagging behind in gaining access to the COVID-19 vaccines supply compared to high-income countries. NAM has called for an equitable, affordable and fair access, availability and distribution of vaccines, between developing and developed countries.
It was on the initiative of Ecuador and Azerbaijan on behalf of NAM countries that a resolution on “Ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic” was adopted by UN HRC during its 46th session. The Resolution expressed concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has perpetuated and exacerbated existing inequalities and that those most at risk are persons in vulnerable and marginalized situations, including older persons, migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, persons with disabilities, persons belonging to minorities, indigenous peoples, persons deprived of their liberty, homeless persons and persons living in poverty, and recognized the need to ensure non-discrimination and equality.
The Resolution by NAM recognised the important role of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator initiative, as well as other relevant initiatives that are “aimed at accelerating development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to all countries and at strengthening health systems, and recognizing in particular its vaccines pillar, the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, which is the key to ensuring an equitable global distribution of vaccines to all States”.
NAM has urged States to facilitate the trade, acquisition, access and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, as a crucial element of their responses to the pandemic, to ensure the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and to support the administration of vaccines to address the pandemic, in accordance with international human rights obligations and the Sustainable Development Goals and other international legal frameworks, taking into account the principles of non-discrimination and transparency.
By Dr. Ankit Srivastava
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