UN headquarters in New York City. [Photo/Agencies]
Since its founding 75 years ago, the United Nations has responded to international challenges and overcome difficulties to maintain global peace, stability and development. The world today is more complex and less predictable than it was 75 years ago, and we have far more problems to solve. Despite the continuous progress we have made, we are yet to find effective solutions to the problems plaguing humankind and nature as a whole.
And since human anxiety about the future has further increased, instead of decreasing, we have to overcome the major and severe challenges facing us.
The first major challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus is still raging in many parts of the world, so far infecting more than 29 million people and claiming over 937,000 lives globally. And there is no sign of the epidemic being brought under control in many countries, with more than 200,000 new infections being reported every day globally.
Moreover, there is no effective treatment for COVID-19, and the vaccines being developed are all in the experimental stage, with some being in the trial stage. That people across the world are still vulnerable to infectious diseases despite the great advancement in science poses the most serious public health challenge since the founding of the UN.
In the face of the pandemic, many countries have chosen to stand together and help each other, demonstrating the spirit of cooperation. However, there is a certain country that has failed to properly respond to the pandemic and tried to pass the buck to other countries. At such a critical time in the global fight against the pandemic, that country has even withdrawn from the World Health Organization after having stopped providing financial support for the global health body. Such shameless selfishness has put human life and safety at risk.
Given the contagiousness of the virus, no country can stay unscathed or tackle the health crisis alone. The only way to defeat the virus is for all countries to put aside their differences and prejudices, prioritize humankind’s common interest, and work together to develop effective vaccines and therapeutic drugs, build a sound global public health system, and share their experiences to strengthen the fight against the pandemic.
Also, the UN and the WHO need to play the leading role in the global fight against COVID-19, and developed countries should provide assistance, in the shape of medicines and medical equipment, for developing countries and least-developed countries that have weak public health systems, especially African countries. Only when the pandemic is effectively brought under control in all countries can any country consider itself safe.
Second, we should be prepared to face the post-pandemic challenge. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the global economy and society, in fact, every aspect of human life. In particular, the economic decline in developed countries has touched record highs. Industrial and supply chains have been disrupted, and a large number of people have lost their jobs due to suspension of production and closure of factories as part of the strict measures to contain the virus. And since infections and deaths are still increasing in many countries, the losses are likely to rise further.
Perhaps people should learn to live with the threat of the virus until an effective vaccine is developed, and enterprises should resume production as soon as possible to boost economic vitality and help restore normalcy in society. There is a serious need to build partnerships to fight COVID-19 and deepen cooperation to ensure steady economic recovery. As for major countries, they should strengthen their coordination on macroeconomic policy, stabilize the global industrial and supply chains, open their markets wider, oppose trade protectionism, and promote trade and investment liberalization.
All countries should honor their commitments to the international community, especially to the UN and the developing countries, because reducing assistance, support and funding for international organizations such as the UN due to temporary economic difficulties would be nothing but shortsightedness. The UN, on its part, must make more efforts to ensure that all countries meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. And so long as all countries work together, we can hope to make up for the losses caused by the epidemic.
Third, we should also be prepared to deal with the challenges from unilateralism and hegemonism, which pose a serious threat to bilateral and multilateral relationships, and global peace and stability, hurt the common interests of all countries, reduce their development space, violate the UN Charter, and undermine the world order with the UN at its core.
Therefore, all countries should oppose unilateralism and hegemonism, and support multilateralism so the global governance system reflects the concerns and aspirations of the majority of countries, developing countries in particular. There is also a need for countries to resolve their differences and disputes through dialogue and consultation, and firmly oppose sanctions, “long-arm jurisdiction” and forced “decoupling”.
This is the time for the international community to uphold the UN Charter and the authority of international conventions and treaties, safeguard the central role of the UN in the world order, support the leading role of the WHO in the global fight against COVID-19, and maintain the multilateral trading system centered on the World Trade Organization. Whether the international community can effectively deal with these challenges depends on whether all countries unite, work together, oppose hegemony, promote equity and justice, and turn their commitments into actions.
The author is president of the China Public Diplomacy Association.
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