UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the G-20 countries to take concerted action to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and rebuild the global economy.

Addressing an emergency meeting of G20 foreign ministers on the Covid-19 crisis, Guterres on Thursday, Sept. 4, said that the pandemic has forced "unprecedented lockdowns, travel suspensions and limited movement across borders," adding that "concerns are growing that some of the current movement restrictions could outlast the immediate crisis."

Raising "five focus areas" for the discussion, he sought agreement on common objective criteria in relation to the removal of travel restrictions, based on scientific evidence. Second, the UN chief called for "investments on systems and practices that support safe travel - in close coordination with the private sector."

Importance of Respecting International Human Rights

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres Wikimedia Commons

Third, he called for better coordination in preventive measures - "in particular more systematic use of testing and tracing and other proven actions to avoid the spread of the virus and allow for effective control of the potential impacts of increased mobility."

Next, he highlighted the importance of full respect for international human rights and refugee law, and also called for an agreement that future vaccines will be considered a global public good to be available and affordable everywhere, supporting global health, global mobility and global economic recovery. "All actions must recognize upholding human dignity as the guiding principle for cross-border policies," he noted.

Lack of Effective International Solidarity

Guterres said there is "a long way to go" on two key fronts: "First, in our capacity to fight the pandemic together. We have seen the results when each country pursues its own strategy, with the advice of the World Health Organization being largely disregarded." "When countries go in different directions, the virus goes in every direction.

"Second, we still lack effective international solidarity to respond to the economic and social impacts and the underlying fragilities exposed by the pandemic," he added. The UN chief further said that more than ever, effective international solidarity is key to advancing these priority areas and build a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world for all.