Statement by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the UN Security Council Open Debate: Ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in contexts affected by conflict and insecurity on 17 February 2021
I would like to thank the UK Presidency of the Security Council for bringing this important topic to the Council and align myself with the statement given by the European Union.
COVID-19 is placing massive strains on every country’s healthcare, social, economic and security infrastructures. However, that burden is so much heavier in countries that are going through conflict and crisis. Protecting people and societies in such fragile settings from the impacts of the pandemic is not just an urgent health and socio-economic matter; it is an essential element of maintaining international peace and security.
Resolving conflicts and protecting civilians from the scourge of war is this Council’s most noble task. We are encouraged by the positive developments in Libya and the progress being made towards a political solution within the Berlin Process. Unfortunately, the Security Council’s call for a global ceasefire during the pandemic remains unheard in far too many conflicts. This is why the Security Council and the international community must do their utmost to implement UNSC Res. 2532 in full.
We will not defeat the pandemic – and we will be forced to fight an increasing number of variants – if we don’t ensure that vaccines can reach all people in need, including in fragile environments.
To do this, humanitarian organisations need unhindered access – for example in northwestern Syria, where over 3 million people depend on the Security Council to extend the cross-border resolution beyond its current Deadline.
We have to keep UN Peacekeeping Missions operational, as they deliver political support and stability to some of the most vulnerable countries. Germany has therefore joined the Group of Friends for Vaccination of Peacekeepers and serves as its Vice-Chair. This is a prime example of how we can tackle the global challenges imposed by the COVID-19 crisis: through strong multilateral cooperation in a spirit of solidarity, with a strengthened WHO at its centre.
And this is particularly true for the distribution of vaccines themselves, especially in Least Developed Countries. We firmly believe that the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and particularly the COVAX facility are the best ways to ensure fair and equitable worldwide access – not only to vaccines, but also to diagnostics and therapeutics.
Together with our European partners and as part of the Team Europe effort, Germany has been contributing to ACT and the COVAX facility from the outset. Since it was launched last April, Germany has provided 600 million euro in 2020, making us the third-largest contributor to date.
To fill existing gaps, we will step up these efforts and contribute an additional 1.5 billion euro to COVAX in 2021. As part of this, 100 million euro are specifically destined to the COVAX humanitarian buffer, serving the needs of the most vulnerable populations in crisis Settings.
Of course, the up to 338 million doses that COVAX plans to distribute to 145 countries (including 93 developing countries) in the first half of 2021 will only be a first step. More must follow.
Germany remains committed to a global solution to this global crisis. We know that no one is safe until everyone is safe. But this will require a spirit of global solidarity and multilateral cooperation. It is through that spirit that we all can emerge stronger.