The United Nations realises that the only hope for a sustainable and swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is to ensure equitable access to vaccines for everyone and everywhere. As such, the President of the United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) Abdulla Shahid launched a social media campaign entitled, “New Year’s Resolution for Vaccine Equity”. The UNGA President has called upon all those supporting the campaign to send to the world a clear message of our commitment and partnership on the importance of vaccine equity. Vaccine equity acknowledges that no nation, state, or individual’s life is more important or more deserving than another’s.

The Non-Aligned Movement, under the chairmanship of Azerbaijan, has reaffirmed its full support to this campaign. Azerbaijani Permanent Mission to the United Nations wrote on its official Twitter account that “Azerbaijan is proud to support United Nations General Assembly’s New Year’s resolution on Vaccine Equity and will continue its leadership role as Chair of Non-Aligned Movement in global efforts to provide safe, effective and accessible vaccination for every single person in every part of the world”.

NAM has also supported the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Declaration on Vaccine Equality. The WHO Declaration called on global, national and local leaders to accelerate the equitable rollout of vaccines in every country, starting with health workers and those at highest risk for COVID-19. This includes scaling up vaccine manufacturing and rejecting vaccine nationalism at every turn. All governments should ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are distributed free at the point of care and without risk of financial hardship, starting with health workers and those people at greatest risk of COVID-19, to prioritize affected communities and the voices of essential workers in decision-making and ensure gender equality is central to all actions.

NAM has called for a 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. 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. 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 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 expressed its concern about the fact that the unequal distribution of vaccines delays the end of the pandemic. It recognised the primary responsibility of States to adopt and implement responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that are specific to their national context, and stated that emergency measures taken by Governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic must be necessary, proportionate to the evaluated risk, applied in a non-discriminatory way, have a specific focus and duration and be in accordance with States’ obligations under applicable international human rights law.

The Resolution put forward by Azerbaijan on behalf of NAM recognized that COVID-19 pandemic requires a global response that is people-centred, gender-sensitive, with full respect for human rights, multidimensional, coordinated, inclusive and innovative, based on unity, solidarity and multilateral cooperation, to ensure that all States, in particular developing States, including the least developed countries, have unhindered, timely, fair and equitable access to safe diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines, vaccines and essential health technologies and their components, as well as equipment, bearing in mind that immunization against COVID-19 is a global public good for health in preventing, containing and stopping transmission, and in bringing the pandemic to an end.

The Resolution by NAM has called on the 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, and to promote the equitable global distribution of and universal access to vaccines, in order to further the principles of international cooperation and solidarity, to end the current pandemic and to promote the realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

It was also on the initiative 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. India, a prominent NAM Member State has lent its support to vaccine equity, The Indian position is that since much of the developing world is yet to be vaccinated, the first focus should therefore be on vaccine equity. There is a need to scale up our efforts and make the COVID-19 vaccine available, accessible and affordable. To ramp up the production capacity of vaccines, it is essential for the global supply chains of raw materials to be kept open.

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