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UNGA approves pandemic measure on 6-month mark

The U.N. General Assembly approved its third coronavirus-related resolution on Friday, six months after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic.

UNITED NATIONS (AN) — The U.N. General Assembly voted 169-2 to approve its third coronavirus-related resolution despite opposition from the United States and Israel on Friday, exactly six months since the World Health Organization declared the world faces a pandemic.

The 193-nation assembly's non-binding resolution, drafted by Afghanistan's U.N. Ambassador Adela Raz and Croatia's U.N. Ambassador Ivan Šimonović, calls for "intensified international cooperation and solidarity to contain, mitigate and overcome the pandemic and its consequences.”

It also emphasizes that all nations must have access to effective, safe and affordable medicines, treatments, vaccines and equipment, and that "extensive immunization" against COVID-19 will be needed to restore public health and safety. Nations also were encouraged “to adopt a climate- and environment-responsive approach to COVID-19 recovery efforts."

A last-minute amendment from Cuba's delegation that urged nations to reject unilateral economic, financial and trade sanctions gained approval despite U.S. and Israeli objections.

On March 11, WHO declared COVID-19 had become a pandemic — the worldwide spread of a new disease —  marking the first time a coronavirus gained that distinction.

Biggest 'global catastrophe' since 1945

Afghanistan's Raz told the assembly, which meets in New York, the resolution honors the 900,000 people who have died from COVID-19 and the more than 25 million people who have been infected.

“The world is experiencing the worst economic recession since World War II, and equality and poverty are increasing, and more people are experiencing hunger,” she said. “We are indeed facing the most significant global catastrophe since the founding of this important organization, the United Nations.”

The assembly passed two prior non-binding resolutions on the pandemic in April. Such resolutions have no legal force, but carry weight in the court of global opinion. The 15-member nation U.N. Security Council, the world body’s most powerful arm, can approve legally binding resolutions.

An April 20 resolution urged all nations to quickly join forces in ensuring that everyone will have access to medical supplies, drugs, future vaccines and testing to cope with the pandemic.

That resolution, unanimously approved using a “silence procedure,” asked U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and WHO to propose how to accomplish those goals, particularly in developing nations. It also emphasized the U.N. health agency plays a “crucial leading role” in coordinating the global response to the new coronavirus pandemic.

An April 2 resolution called for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat” COVID-19. It also emphasized that nations must show “full respect for human rights” and said “there is no place for any form of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in the response to the pandemic.”