We need to end COVID pandemic: UN chief
Beds set-up at Indoor Stadium Srinagar as venue was turned into COVID-19 emergency centre. [File] Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

We need to end COVID pandemic: UN chief

United Nations: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday gave a rallying call for urgent action to end the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed over four million people across the world, saying the response of the international community to fight the pandemic "has been too slow and too unequal."

"Our world is challenged like never before. From climate change, to conflicts, to COVID-19, which is putting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) further out of reach," Guterres said at the 2nd SDG Moment on the eve of the commencement of the high-level week of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

The 2nd SDG Moment to take stock of the 2030 Agenda comes as the world experiences a deeply uneven response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which risks creating a two-tier recovery with significant implications for the advancement of the SDGs, especially in developing countries.

Emphasising that the world has a path to recovery "if we choose to take it", Guterres outlined his five areas for urgent action - ending the pandemic, sustainable and equitable recovery for all, equal rights for women and girls, climate action and net-zero emissions by 2050 and public collaboration for a global recovery.

"First - we need to end this pandemic. Our response has been too slow and too unequal. I call on the world to mobilise behind a global vaccination plan that doubles vaccine production, to reach 70 per cent of the world's population by the middle of next year,” he said.

More than 5.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally, but only 2% of them in Africa, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said last week.

As per latest WHO data, there have been 228,206,384 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 4,687,066 deaths. As of 15 September 2021, a total of 5,634,533,040 vaccine doses have been administered.

Guterres added that “we need to get down to the business of a sustainable and equitable recovery for all, so that we stay on track to end poverty by 2030."

This means making bold investments in systems that support human development – from education and universal social protection, to health care and jobs, he said, adding that it means putting people above profits, including through progressive taxation, and ending tax evasion, money laundering, and illicit financial flows.

He also stressed on the need for reforming the global financial system, tackling debt distress and ensuring that developing countries benefit from the recent allocation of Special Drawing Rights. Emphasising equal rights for women and girls, Guterres said, "we cannot achieve any of the SDGs without gender equality. We need bold investments to make sure every girl has a seat in the classroom – and the skills she needs to chart her own future.

"We need to dismantle the power structures that allow discrimination, violence and economic hardship to keep one half of humanity down. And we need to make sure that girls and women have a seat at every table. From the halls of power to the boardrooms of business."

Guterres also called for urgent climate action and said nations must “end the war on our planet” and commit to zero emissions by 2050. "Fifth – we need you. All of you are critical to global recovery. I urge you to work with your governments to put people first in their budgets and recovery plans,” he said.

"It would be easy to lose hope. But we are not hopeless. Or helpless. That's what this SDG Moment is all about,” the UN chief said.

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