Switzerland wishes to thank Germany for organising this debate and the participants for their contributions. In particular, Switzerland commends the leadership shown by the Secretary-General who has stepped up the UN’s action in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and mobilising Member States to provide a coordinated and effective global response.
This pandemic – firstly a public health crisis – has triggered an unprecedented economic and social crisis. It represents a challenge for human security as well as for international peace and security. It is therefore imperative that its security risks are mitigated. A preventative approach, including the respect for human rights, is required in any urgent response and medium and long-term strategy to combat the effects of the pandemic.
Switzerland wishes to underline three important areas of action for a Council response to the pandemic:
First, the impact and spread of the coronavirus exacerbate numerous armed conflict situations and other violent situations on the Council’s agenda. It is crucial that we do not lose any ground in the peace processes. For example, the slowdown in the implementation of the agreement in South Sudan, in part due to the pandemic, is creating a security vacuum which several armed groups are exploiting. In Yemen, the UN’s mediation activities and access to vulnerable populations have been made even more difficult. It is vital that arms are laid down and the pandemic response is prioritised. Switzerland therefore welcomes the resolution 2532 finally adopted yesterday by the Security Council demanding a cessation of hostilities in all situations on his agenda and supporting the efforts of the Secretary General.
Second, Switzerland urges all parties to armed conflicts to guarantee humanitarian actors rapid, unimpeded and sustainable access to affected populations. The humanitarian pause now called for by the Council should enable delivery of humanitarian assistance In Syria, for example, COVID-19 increases the urgency to use all means possible to reach persons in need. It is essential that the cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism is extended in time and strengthened by the inclusion of the Al Yarubiyah border crossing. In view of the negative impact of the pandemic on the implementation of its agenda priorities, the Council must ensure rigorous monitoring of its engagements which aim to protect civilians, including women and children. Furthermore, the Council and all Member States are called upon to implement resolution 2286 on the protection of the wounded and sick, medical personnel and humanitarian personnel in armed conflict. It is unacceptable that attacks on patients, hospitals and medical personnel are increasing during a pandemic.
Third, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, the work of the UN specialised agencies is essential. The operational expertise of civil society is also important. It is the World Health Organization that plays a leadership role in the coordination of the UN response to the pandemic and the implementation of the International Health Regulations, including the transmission of verified information. Misinformation and hate speech can also increase risks to peace and security. For these reasons, Switzerland encourages all states to ensure that reliable information on the pandemic is quickly made available.
The General Assembly called for global solidarity to fight COVID-19 on April 2 – already three months ago - in its resolution 74/270 initiated by Switzerland and other Member States. We note with satisfaction that the Council refers to it in its resolution adopted yesterday.
As the development of the situation concerning the agenda items of the Council over recent months shows, the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing violence and instability and feeding off them. Switzerland therefore welcomes the fact that the Council has recognized the link between COVID-19 and international peace and security and strengthened its commitment to respond to the pandemic. It’s an important political signal. Switzerland urges the Council and the international community to implement this resolution in the various contexts on its agenda.