Prime Minister Johnson gave his address to the UN General Assembly remotely on Saturday, 26 September and used the opportunity to announce increased UK support for the global fight against novel coronavirus.
You can watch the speech here.
It was heartening to see the Prime Minister give strong rhetorical support to the need for global cooperation to solve shared challenges, noting that ‘’no-one is safe until everyone is safe”, and to see the government put their money where their mouth is by pledging:
- A 30% increase in funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which Johnson described as “the one body that marshals humanity against the legions of disease”. An additional £340 million was pledged over the coming four years, making the UK the largest state funder of the organisation
- A further £541 million in funding to COVAX, a new initiative to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed to all countries of the world. Of this sum, £500 million will be ringfenced for developing countries
- The ending of all tariffs and export controls on medical supplies for COVID-19
The Prime Minister also outlined a five step strategy for combatting this and future pandemics. While it remains to be seen how elements of this agenda will be implemented, in particular whether the UK can corral broader international support to give the WHO greater abilities to investigate the causes of diseases, UNA-UK welcomed the laying out of these objectives and Johnson’s statement that “never again must we wage 193 different campaigns against the same enemy.”
We were also pleased that the Prime Minister mentioned UK celebrations of the 75th anniversary in London in January 2021, and the UN climate conference scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November of that year. Action to address the climate crisis is surely foremost among the “vital work” Johnson noted has ceased due to the pandemic.
In the aftermath of recent developments that have called the UK's commitment to a rules based global system into question, UNA-UK was encouraged by this speech and the substantive commitments behind it, which show that the UK still has the capacity to be a global force for good. We hope that the forthcoming Integrated Review will see this approach applied to all aspects of British foreign, development, defence and security policy.
Photo: Prime Minister of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Addresses General Assembly Debate. Credit. UN Photo/Evan Schneider