UN Security Council holds emergency meeting on coronavirus crisis after facing backlash

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres organised a private virtual briefing on the coronavirus pandemic. The 15-member body is in charge of keeping international peace and security.

The official global figures show 1.5 million people became infected with the virus, while 90,000 people died after contracting the disease.

The pandemic is present in more than 200 countries and global territories.

In the meeting Gutierres said: “The pandemic also poses a significant threat to the maintenance of international peace and security – potentially leading to an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to fight the disease,

“The engagement of the Security Council will be critical to mitigate the peace and security implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Indeed, a signal of unity and resolve from the Council would count for a lot at this anxious time.”

The Security Council has been scrutinised by diplomats over their lack of action over the crisis in the United States and China.

The novel virus originated last year in Wuhan, a major city in China.

While Beijing has not been keen in the body getting involved, Washington has demanded that any council intervention refers to the origin of the virus.

A senior European diplomat said: “That is the wrong discussion to have right now about naming the virus. It’s COVID-19 … and it’s a threat to international peace and security and the Security Council should have expressed itself on it earlier.”

US President Donald Trump has previously referred to the pandemic as the “Chinese virus”, and said that Beijing should have acted faster to warn the international community.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun asked the Security Council on Thursday to condemn stigmatisation and politicisation of the crisis.

“To overcome this global challenge, solidarity, cooperation, mutual support and assistance is what we need, while beggar-thy-neighbour or scapegoating will lead us nowhere,” Zhang said.

Recently, council members have been discussing two draft verdicts.

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“The eyes of the world are on each of us that are on this Council, and we must act to save lives,” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, told the council on Thursday.

“The most effective way to contain this pandemic is through accurate, science-based data collection and analysis of the origins, characteristics, and spread of the virus,” she added.

After Tuesday’s meeting the council released a statement backing Guterres’ efforts in regards to “the potential impact of COVID-19 pandemic to conflict-affected countries.”

“We’ve been waiting for this meeting for quite some time,” Belgium’s UN Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve told reporters.

“It was an occasion to demonstrate unity in the council and I hope this is the beginning of making progress also on a resolution.”

Richard Gowan, UN director for the International Crisis Group think-tank, said: “What the council could do is project a bit of international unity in the face of the disease,

“After weeks of China and the US bickering about the origins of the virus, a simple statement from the council about the need for cooperation would be a reassuring signal.”

Guterres told the council of the coronavirus pandemic: “This is the fight of a generation – and the raison d’être of the United Nations itself.”

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