EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Shortsighted and 'stupid mistake' not to support affordable COVID vaccine for all, says Guterres
The march of COVID-19 which has “put us on our knees”, should be a lesson in humility for world leaders, and a lack of solidarity on the part of some richer nations towards developing countries, means we will all pay a heavy price, the UN chief has told UN News, in an exclusive interview ahead of the new General Assembly session.
“We need an affordable vaccine for everybody everywhere, because we will only be safe if everybody’s safe”, warned António Guterres. “To think that we can preserve the rich people, and let the poor people suffer, is a stupid mistake.”
In a wide ranging-interview, just ahead of the unprecedented and mostly virtual UNGA75, Mr. Guterres outlines his priorities for the year ahead, with the unpredictable threat of the coronavirus that is still spreading, together with the opportunities that he sees to radically change course for the long-term benefit of all.
The UN chief reiterates the imperative of silencing the guns through a global ceasefire so the world can truly unite against the virus; building true solidarity through the “global public good” of a vaccine for all, available to all; and making sure the world keeps global warming below 1.5 degrees and achieves carbon neutrality through climate action, by 2050.
He outlines the importance of women taking power for themselves, ending inequalities through a sea change in attitudes over discrimination, gender, disabilities and equal rights.
You can find a partially-edited transcript of the interview below, as well as our Lid is On podcast featuring the interview, and UN video capturing some of the highlights – all featured on this page.
UN News: COVID-19 has hit the world hard and changed many things. We’ve seen amazing acts of solidarity, but there are still some struggles ahead. How do you assess where we are now with this pandemic?
UN Secretary-General António Guterres: I’m very worried. The pandemic has shown us the enormous fragility of the world. Not only in relation to COVID-19, but also in relation to climate change, to the lawlessness in cyberspace, the risks of nuclear proliferation, to the impacts of inequality in the cohesion of societies.
A microscopic virus brought us to our knees. This should lead to a lot of humility in world leaders, and solidarity in the fight against COVID-19.
A microscopic virus has put us on our knees. This should lead to a lot of humility in world leaders, and to unity and solidarity in the fight against COVID-19. But we know that there has been no unity. Each country has adopted its own strategy, and we see the results: the virus has progressed everywhere.
In developing countries, people are suffering so much from this lack of solidarity. This is negative for everybody, because if we are not able to properly address COVID-19 in these countries, the virus goes back and forth and we will all pay a heavy price, even in the richest countries in the world.
UN News: What would you hope governments and community do to overcome it and emerge stronger?
SG: We need everyone to work together in cooperation. It is absolutely essential that a vaccine be considered a global public good, a people’s vaccine. And that we won't have a competition of countries trying to get as many vaccines as possible for themselves, and forgetting about those that have less resources.
We need an affordable vaccine for everybody, everywhere, because we will only be safe if everybody’s safe. To think that we can preserve the rich people and let the poor people suffer, is a stupid mistake.