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President Cyril Ramaphosa: General debate of the 31st UN General Assembly Special Session on Coronavirus Covid-19

3 Dec 2020

Statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the general debate of the 31st UN General Assembly Special Session on Covid-19, UN Headquarters, New York

Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr António Guterres,
President of the UN General Assembly, Mr Volkan Bozkir,
Excellencies,

We meet in this important Special Session of the UN General Assembly at a time when the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread in many parts of the world. 

This pandemic has demonstrated once again how intertwined are the fortunes of the nations of the world.

Since the start of the pandemic there has been coordinated international action to ensure that all countries are able to respond effectively.

This collaboration has been of particular benefit to developing economies, which continue to shoulder the burden of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. 

South Africa deeply appreciates the assistance, advice and solidarity it has received from the international community.

As a result of the decisive measures we took from the onset of the pandemic, we managed to delay the transmission of the virus, prepare our health facilities and save many lives.

We put in place emergency relief measures to support individuals, households and companies in distress, and have now embarked on a reconstruction and recovery plan to return our economy to growth and job creation.

As the African continent, we have driven a deliberate, targeted and coordinated response to COVID-19.

Led by the African Union, we established a COVID-19 Response Fund to contain the pandemic in member states and enable their economies to recover.

The African Union appointed several Special Envoys to solicit concrete support for the continental effort as pledged by the G20, the European Union and international financial institutions.

We launched the groundbreaking African Medical Supplies Platform to facilitate access for all African countries to critical equipment and supplies.

We have also established a COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to ensure that African countries are able to access and distribute affordable and effective vaccines without delay.

In addition, an African Green Stimulus Programme is being developed to ensure our economic recovery takes place in a more sustainable manner. 

As African countries we will continue to need substantial support to recover from the pandemic. 

We reiterate our call for a comprehensive economic stimulus package for Africa, for a suspension of interest payments on Africa’s external and public debt, and for the lifting of all economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan to allow them to adequately respond to the pandemic.

It is only through multilateral cooperation that we can overcome this global emergency. 

We must continue to support the World Health Organization as the lead UN agency mandated to coordinate the global effort. 

We must continue to drive a holistic response to COVID-19 that recognises the relationship between health, social, economic and environmental measures. 

This pandemic must not detract from our commitment to both the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. 

We must place gender equality at the forefront of our recovery efforts.

To ensure that there is equitable access for all to an effective vaccine, we call on UN Member States to work with the WHO on the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and the COVAX Facility. 

In the spirit of solidarity and cooperation, let us continue to work together to overcome this crisis and build a better, safer, more equitable, peaceful and prosperous world.

I thank you.

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