On February 25, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened a one-day High-level Thematic Debate entitled “Galvanising Momentum for Universal Vaccination”, In a background statement issued by the United Nations (UN) before the debate took place, concerns were expressed at the uneven, unfair, and unbalancedpace and reach of COVID-19 vaccinations. According to the background statement, only 5 percent of people in the Least Developed Countries have been vaccinated versus more than 70 percent in high-income countries. “This is unacceptable and not only leaves billions of people unfairly exposed to the virus but jeopardizes hard-won gains in the fight against the pandemic as mutations and variants continue to occur, people continue to suffer and die, and economic losses continue to mount”, the background statement said.
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the largest collective voice of the developing world, has highlighted the need for universal vaccination against COVID-19 and in various multilateral forums has repeatedly expressed concerns at the prevalent vaccine inequality. In the UNGA debate on “Galvanising Momentum for Universal Vaccination “ held on February 25, 2022, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in his national capacity and as the Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement on behalf reiterated the principled position endorsed by NAM on universal vaccination and vaccine inequality.
Ilham Aliyev highlighted the fundamental role of the United Nations system in coordinating the global response to control and contain the spread of COVID-19, and in providing support to States. On behalf of NAM, he also acknowledged the leading role played by the World Health Organization (WHO) in addressing the pandemic. He also highlighted how the NAM has actively engaged in mobilizing the efforts of the wider international community, in the spirit of multilateralism, cooperation and solidarity, to address the pandemic and its negative consequences through a number of successful undertakings.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, initiated by Azerbaijan and co-sponsored by 126 countries in mid-December 2021. The resolution was titled “Ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The Resolution put forward by Azerbaijan on behalf of NAM recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic requires a global response that is people-centred, gender-sensitive, with full respect for human rights, multidimensional, coordinated, inclusive and innovative. The Resolution by NAM also called on the Member States and other relevant stakeholders to remove unjustified obstacles restricting the export of COVID-19 vaccines, resulting in an unequal distribution in access thereto between developed and developing countries.
It was on theinitiative 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 adoptedduring the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).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 “ aimedataccelerating development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to all countries and atstrengthening 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.
Aliyev raised the issue of low availability of COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries and remarked that the disparity between developing countries and developed countries in terms of the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines prevents the entire international community from achieving the complete elimination of the pandemic as soon as possible and also impedes the successful realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Aliyev also welcomed the efforts of countries that have donated COVID-19 vaccines, and actively encourage further sharing of vaccines doses from all countries in a position to do so to low- and middle-income countries and other countries in need. On behalf of NAM, he also appreciated and supported the works of COVAX Facility and the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, including the COVAX Advance Market Commitment Engagement, as well as other constructive related initiatives to ensure affordable, equitable, universal and timely access to COVID-19 vaccines for all. Further, noting the challenging circumstances faced by United Nations Peacekeepers, we welcome the efforts of countries for donating COVID-19 vaccines to UN Peace Operations. He also urged the Member States to take immediate steps to prevent speculation and undue export controls and stockpiling that may hinder affordable, timely, equitable and universal access for all countries to COVID-19 vaccines.