Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Pandemics and Security at the Open debate of the UN Security Council (Video conference)

02.07.2020 - Speech

The world is facing its biggest crisis since 1945: More than half a million people have already died from a virus which we don’t yet have a cure for. Many more could follow.

The emergency braking in the global economy will deepen humanitarian crises and destroy trust in state institutions.

We have heard from our briefers how conflicts are spiralling out of control, especially in Africa and in war‑torn countries such as Yemen and Libya.

At the same time, human rights violations are soaring.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Yesterday, this Council finally sent a sign of unity by endorsing the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire.

Resolution 2532 was long overdue.

Let us now implement it together, by working towards country-specific ceasefires. We all know that they can facilitate humanitarian access and serve as entry points for political talks.

Today’s meeting can also be a launching pad to address major health risks and their security implications more systematically.

To do so, we should agree on three lines of action:

First, we must address the effects that pandemics have on the conflicts and humanitarian crises on the Council’s agenda.

UN peace operations themselves will need to adapt:

  • by monitoring the fast changing dynamics of conflict
  • by protecting the health of staff and local populations
  • and by keeping the mission fully operational.

This is why Germany, together with other EU member states, has signed a letter assuring the Secretary-General that we will uphold our military, police and civilian contributions.

Second, safe, unhindered and rapid access for humanitarian workers and medical experts is even more important during a pandemic. It is the obligation of this Council and other member states involved to make this happen.

We also heard the Secretary-General´s call for immediate steps to ensure that COVID‑19 does not reverse progress achieved in gender equality and women’s participation in peace processes.

Germany therefore contributed 4 million euros to the COVID‑19 emergency window of the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund. And we call on others to follow suit.

Third, this Council must finally embrace a broader understanding of peace and security. The founders of the United Nations may well have had artillery, bombers and soldiers in mind when they drafted the Charter.

Today, we know

  • that a virus can be deadlier than a gun
  • that a cyber‑attack can cause more harm than a soldier
  • and that climate change threatens more people than most conventional weapons.

Closing our eyes to this reality means refusing to learn.

What we need is early, preventive action, based on good reporting and adequate capacities in the UN system.

This is what “maintaining peace and security” means in the 21st century.

Thank you very much!


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