UN chief warns of long road ahead after vaccines

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the UNGA's special session to discuss the response to COVID-19 on Dec. 3,2020, at UN headquarters, in New York. (AP)
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Updated 03 December 2020

UN chief warns of long road ahead after vaccines

  • “Extreme poverty is rising; the threat of famine looms. We face the biggest global recession in eight decades,” Guterres said
  • He said Covid-19 had exacerbated other long-term challenges including inequality and climate change

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that the world could be fighting the aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic for decades to come even if vaccines are quickly approved.
Opening a special UN summit on the virus, being held virtually as a safety precaution, Guterres hailed the quick scientific progress but cautioned that vaccination was not a panacea for the ills affecting the planet.
“Let’s not fool ourselves. A vaccine cannot undo damage that will stretch across years, even decades to come,” Guterres said.
“Extreme poverty is rising; the threat of famine looms. We face the biggest global recession in eight decades.”
He said Covid-19 — which has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally — had exacerbated other long-term challenges including inequality and climate change.
Leaders or senior officials from more than 100 countries will take part in the summit through short, pre-recorded speeches, but diplomats do not expect the virtual two-day gathering to lead immediately to major decisions.
Guterres reiterated his call that vaccines be considered a “global public good” that are shared around the world.
He appealed for contributions to fill a $4.3 billion shortfall in financing over the next two months.
More than 180 countries have joined Covax, a global collaboration working with manufacturers to distribute vaccines equitably.
The major exceptions are the United States, which has been at the forefront of research and where outgoing President Donald Trump wants to vaccinate Americans first, and Russia, which has unveiled its own vaccine but met skepticism.
Casting blame for Covid’s heavy death toll in the United States, Trump has moved to withdraw from the World Health Organization, saying it was beholden to China in the early stages of the crisis.
Guterres strongly defended the UN body’s performance and said that its recommendations “should have been the basis for a coordinated global response.”
“In some situations, there was a rejection of facts and an ignorance of the guidance. And when countries go in their own direction, the virus goes in every direction,” the UN chief said.


Iran deal architect among veterans named for Biden State Department

Updated 17 min 21 sec ago

Iran deal architect among veterans named for Biden State Department

WASHINGTON: The lead US negotiator of the Iran nuclear accord and a battle-tested hawk on Russia were named Saturday to top posts at President-elect Joe Biden’s State Department, signaling a return to normal after Donald Trump’s chaotic presidency.
Wendy Sherman, who brokered the Iran accord under Barack Obama and negotiated a nuclear deal with North Korea under Bill Clinton, was named as deputy secretary of state.
Victoria Nuland, a former career diplomat best known for her robust support for Ukrainian protesters in the ouster of a Russian-aligned president, was nominated under secretary for political affairs — the State Department’s third-ranking post in charge of day-to-day US diplomacy.
Biden said that the State Department nominees “have secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory.”
“I am confident that they will use their diplomatic experience and skill to restore America’s global and moral leadership. America is back,” Biden said in a statement.
The State Department team will work under secretary of state-designate Antony Blinken, whose confirmation hearing will take place on Tuesday on the eve of Biden’s inauguration.
Blinken said that the State Department team, with women and ethnic minorities in prominent positions, “looks like America.”
“America at its best still has a greater capacity than any other country on earth to mobilize others to meet the challenges of our time,” Blinken said.
The optimism comes amid rising doubts about US leadership in Trump’s waning days after his supporters ransacked the Capitol on January 6 to try to stop the ceremonial certification of Biden’s victory.
Under outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a staunch defender of Trump, the United States has aggressively challenged Iran and China, robustly backed Israel and toyed with improving ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while also imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Sherman’s nomination marks another clear sign that Biden wants to return to the accord under which Iran drastically slashed its nuclear program in exchange for promises of sanctions relief.
Trump exited the deal in 2018 and imposed sweeping sanctions in what many observers saw as an unsuccessful attempt to topple the Shiite clerical regime.