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Covid-19: a wake-up call for multilateralism

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas during a video conference of the Alliance for Multilateralism

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas during a video conference of the Alliance for Multilateralism, © Felix Zahn/photothek.net

16.04.2020 - Artikel

How can the international community overcome the Covid-19 pandemic? And how can key international organisations be strengthened in these efforts? The Foreign Ministers of the Alliance for Multilateralism held discussions on this issue today.

Video conference of the Alliance for Multilateralism
Video conference of the Alliance for Multilateralism© Felix Zahn/photothek.net

Viruses know no borders. Around two million coronavirus cases have been confirmed around the world. Hardly any countries have been spared by the pandemic. All of the world’s countries face unforeseen new challenges – and no country can master them alone.

Foreign Ministers from across the globe therefore held a virtual meeting today as part of the Alliance for Multilateralism. Alongside support for key international organisations, particularly the World Health Organization, their focus was on tangible initiatives of the Alliance, including access to medicines and vaccines, tackling disinformation about the coronavirus and strengthening healthcare systems worldwide.

The WHO as the backbone of efforts to fight the pandemic

“What we need now is more

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva in February
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Geneva in February© Felix Zahn/photothek.net

international coordination, not less,” said Foreign Minister Maas. A priority is to strengthen key international organisations so that the crisis can be brought under control. The Alliance for Multilateralism is therefore supporting the call issued by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a worldwide ceasefire, as well as the work of the World Health Organization as a key coordinator of the efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Access to medicines and vaccines: a “humanitarian imperative”

As soon as sufficient research into treatments for Covid-19 has been conducted, it is essential that they be made available to all people. This is especially important for people in countries with a weak healthcare sector.

Maas said:

A fair distribution of protective equipment, tests, medicines and vaccines – as soon as they are available – is a humanitarian imperative.

“Disinformation can kill people”

Disinformation is also lethal. In the current pandemic, it is important that people have unrestricted access to relevant information about the virus itself or about the spread of the disease. It is thus vital to protect access to free media and to promote the free exchange of information.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas travelled to New York at the end of February to attend, among other things, an event of the Alliance for Multilateralism
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas travelled to New York at the end of February to attend, among other things, an event of the Alliance for Multilateralism© Thomas Trutschel

Long-term impacts of the crisis

How can the impacts of health crises be cushioned in the future? This question was also part of the Foreign Ministers’ discussions. “We will work to strengthen healthcare systems around the world,” said Maas. The aim here is to bring pathogens under control as quickly as possible in the future.

Alliance for Multilateralism

The Alliance for Multilateralism was established by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian. This supraregional network of like-minded states intends to preserve and further develop the rules-based international order. The aim is, within the existing organisations and formats, to bolster the values of the UN, strengthen cooperation, enhance compliance with fair rules and tackle the challenges of the future together.

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