U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres says that the world’s major industrialized nations are not doing enough to work together to combat the coronavirus global pandemic — and that there will be major consequences if they fail to unite.
In an interview Friday with tPBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff, Guterres urged leaders of the G-20 nations to adopt a common strategy in order to bend, and eventually break, the curve in new cases.
“I don’t think that these kinds of cooperation is happening,” said Gueterres, who led a virtual meeting of G-20 nations to discuss the coronavirus spread Thursday, “ I think this kind of cooperation must start effectively, because without it, we’ll be defeated by the virus and the cost will be enormous,” in both human lives and in terms of the economy.
Gueterres said that until now, countries have been operating only in parallel to one another, making no efforts to ensure that their preventative actions are in syncr. He said that sometimes, even within the same nation, different parts of the country are taking different actions.
On Wednesday, the U.N. launched a global campaign to raise $2 billion to provide what Guterres called “the minimum of humanitarian response” able to try to bolster both prevention and response tactics to the virus.
Other highlights from the interview:
Africa may be the next place hit hard by coronavirus. Guterres said that as the virus continues to spread, the continent of Africa is at risk.
“Africa is a continent with very little capacity to respond. And I am extremely worried that in those situations, we might have millions of cases with millions of people dying,” he said.
How will refugee communities fight the pandemic? Guterres, who previously served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the office he formerly ran had a “plan of action,” developed along with other U.N. agencies, to prevent the spread of the virus among communities of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Though some refugees and IDPs live in camps that are small without access to resources or reliable health care, which leaves them ill-equipped to fight a pandemic, their often remote nature could serve to help slow the spread of the virus, he said. Guterres did not mention that the U.N.’s main organizations supporting refugees have recently suspended refugee resettlement departures, given global uncertainty and hardened borders due to the coronavirus.
On war zones and coronavirus. Guterres also called this week for a global ceasefire so that areas in conflict could focus on fighting the coronavirus. He noted that some countries seemed to respond positively, including in Libya, Syria and Yemen. But, in all those places so far, those answers have not translated into results–in fact, Gueterres said the fighting in Libya has gotten worse.