COVID-19: UN must lead by example, says UNGA President

President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA), Amb. Tijani Muhammad-Bande, has called for strong coordination and coherence in the organisation’s activities on the coronavirus epidemic.

The advice comes as the world looks up to the UN and its relevant agencies, especially the World Health Organisation, for guidance in the fight against the virus.

Muhammad-Bande spoke in New York on Tuesday at a joint informal meeting of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council on steps being taken to tackle the disease.

The meeting heard briefings from the UN Secretariat on measures in place to protect the organisation’s staff and ensure continuity of operations.

Describing the COVID-19 as a serious global threat, the PGA noted that multilateral response was required to effectively tackle it.

“The UN must lead by example. We recognise that the situation is evolving, and we will be guided by the advice of local health authorities and the WHO.

“The UN should take a coordinated and coherent approach making decisions of meetings and other activities.

“The public trust in the UN will be undermined if the principal organs are not coordinated in applying the same criteria on decisions that need to be taken, particularly on meetings and business travels,” he said.

There are currently no fewer than 110,000 cases of COVID-19 in more than 100 countries, with no fewer than 4,000 deaths.

Muhammad-Bande, who is Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN, expressed his “deepest condolences” to families of the victims.

As part of the measures to protect its staff, the UN announced restriction of public access to its headquarters in New York starting from 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Secretariat has also developed a set of criteria and risk assessment methodology, according to the Nigerian envoy.

“We have started the process of looking at scaling down, postponing and/or cancelling meetings, as appropriate.

“Some of those decisions fall under my purview to make, others will need to be taken by the GA or other bodies.

“We are working closely with the Secretariat and looking into the UN calendar of meetings and processes due to take place soon.

“The key here is to ensure public health and safety and at the same time ensure continuity of business,” he stated.

The PGA urged Permanent Missions to the UN to share best practices and take appropriate measures.

“We can handle this crisis, we are resilient. We will be defined by our actions when it comes to tackling the major challenges of our time.

“COVID-19 is the latest one and we must confront and defeat it. We will do so,” he added.(NAN)