NEW YORK: The United States has failed in its bid to oppose resolution by the United Nations General Assembly demanding equal access for any future COVID-19 vaccine.
The 193 members of the General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution led by Mexico that calls for “equitable, efficient and timely” access to any vaccine developed to fight the pandemic.
The non-binding resolution irked the United States for another reason as it highlighted the “crucial leading role” of the World Health Organisation, which President Donald Trump has strongly criticised for not doing more to halt the virus after it was detected in China.
The adoption of the text was announced three hours after the vote, an unusually long gap. The reason for the delay was that the United States had tried unsuccessfully to block it.
There is no veto at the General Assembly, which includes every UN member state, unlike the more powerful Security Council where five powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — can stop any resolution.
The General Assembly adopts resolutions either by consensus or by majority votes, displayed openly on an electronic board or held secretly in the case of elections.
Faced with the coronavirus, the General Assembly has changed its way of doing business until at least late May to avoid physical meetings at the UN headquarters in New York. Under the temporary setup, a country puts forward a text which is adopted after a “period of silence” of several days in which any member can voice objections.
The United States did not “break the silence” before Monday’s deadline for the resolution but tried to voice objections just afterward. Trump has ramped up his broadsides against the WHO amid criticism at home over his handling of the crisis.
For the United Nations, the temporary procedures were seen as vital to ensure that texts and budgetary authorisations can move forward. The arrangement effectively lets any one of 193 nations hold up the entire United Nations.
On April 3, no country broke the silence to stop a resolution that called in general terms for international cooperation to fight COVID-19. A separate bid the same day by Russia to urge the lifting of economic sanctions amid the pandemic was blocked by Ukraine, Georgia, USA and European Union.
Russia has moved forward this week with another resolution that targets sanctions. It calls on all nations to “face global challenges as good neighbors, refraining from implementing protectionist and discriminatory measures inconsistent with the World Trade Organisation rules.”
On June 17, the General Assembly will have to tackle one of its thorniest issues, selecting five new non-permanent members to the Security Council. The candidates for Security Council seats — which include Canada, Djibouti, Ireland, Kenya and Norway — are already voicing alarm on how the election can take place if the crisis restrictions remain in place.