Pakistan calls for fair distribution of Covid vaccine

Updated 14 Nov 2020

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Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations Munir Akram delivers a statement at a G-77 ministerial meeting in New York. — PID
Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations Munir Akram delivers a statement at a G-77 ministerial meeting in New York. — PID

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has urged the international community to ensure that Covid-19 vaccine is made available to all and is distributed across the globe without any discrimination or favour.

At a G-77 ministerial meeting in New York, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations Munir Akram also emphasised the need to rebuild the economies destroyed by this pandemic.

Pakistan has reported 2,304 coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest since July, indicating a 27 per cent increase since Thursday. The virus also claimed 37 lives on Friday.

“A vaccine once developed must be available to all without discrimination and without favour,” the Pakistani envoy said. “But the critical requirement today is adequate finance to enable our economies to recover from the crisis.”

Ambassador identifies debt suspension as the first economic need of pandemic-hit developing nations

Ambassador Akram, who is also the president of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, pointed out that the pandemic had devastated the economies of many developed countries, adding to the multi-dimensional challenges they were already facing from climate change and other endemic problems.

“We must at this time, focus on specific objectives that we need to achieve to recover from the devastation that we are facing. For the group of 77, unity is the key to success in achieving the objective,” he said.

The Group of 77 is a coalition of 134 developing countries, designed to promote their collective economic interests and to create a joint negotiating capacity within the United Nations.

Ambassador Akram identified debt suspension as the first economic need of the developing nations devastated by the pandemic.

He recalled that in April, Prime Minister Imran Khan launched an initiative for debt relief to help developing countries deal with this crisis. “We believe that the debt suspension by the G20 should be extended until … we have recovered from the pandemic,” the Pakistani envoy said. G20 or Group of Twenty is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union.

“The least developed countries’ debt should be cancelled, as they have asked,” Ambassador Akram said. “The debt restructuring for other developing countries … must be implemented and sizable net inflows from the multilateral development banks should be invigorated.” The debt restructuring should include “efficient debt buybacks and debt swaps,” he added.

The Pakistani envoy emphasised the need to expand concessional finance through official development assistance (ODA) and other sources and called for private sector participation in debt suspension. This should include global liquidity and financial stability facilities proposed by the Economic Commission for Africa, he added.

“And finally, and most importantly, the issuance of new SDRs, and the repurposing of existing and utilised SDRs for developing countries,” he said. SDRs or special drawing rights are supplementary foreign exchange reserves defined and maintained by the International Monetary Fund.

Ambassador Akram said that most of these actions were already envisaged in the 2015 Addis Ababa plan that sets the UN agenda for sustainable development.

The plan underlines the need for investment in sustainable and resilient infrastructure, energy, transport, water, sanitation as prerequisites for achieving development goals.

Ambassador Akram said that investment in infrastructure would affect 92 per cent of sustainable development goals. “We need to mobilise an additional $1.5. trillion annually for investment in sustainable infrastructure,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2020