The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is likely to hold a meeting this week on the issue of coronavirus pandemic after the change in the presidency of the UNSC from China to the Dominican Republic.
On April 2, nine elected council members wrote to the presidency, requesting a closed video teleconference (VTC) on the impact of coronavirus on issues relevant to the council’s agenda, with a briefing by the Secretary-General.
They cited “peace and security impacts of Covid-19”.
This was needed since China’s envoy to the UN, Zhang Jun had maintained that the issue of coronavirus fell within the concept of global public health and the security council’s primary responsibility was dealing with the geopolitical security and peace matters.
On March 18, Estonia, in a press statement, had expressed the need to discuss the pandemic which was rejected primarily by the then President, China, as it ‘went beyond the scope of the council’s mandate of addressing threats to international peace and security’.
The opposition by China is primarily because of the bitter war between Washington and Beijing over the pandemic. China has been opposed to the idea of a discussion for the fear of being cornered.
There have been two draft resolutions initiated in the security council. Last week, Tunisia produced the first draft of a resolution, as well, expected to be negotiated initially among the E10 or elected members of the council.
Subsequently, a reportedly French-led draft resolution has been discussed exclusively among the P5.
Jose Singer, the special envoy from the Dominican Republic to the United Nations Security Council Ambassador, had said last week that as his country took over the presidency of the UNSC for April, “a special meet on Covid-19 is being “negotiated” and “it has been brought up by few (UNSC) envoy..it is taking shape.”
“UNSC session could happen for sure next week or before,” Singer said while listing out the council’s agenda for the month.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General called for an immediate global ceasefire on March 23, to “silence the guns” and “focus together on the true fight of our lives”.
This would not be the first time that a global epidemic would be discussed at the UNSC.
In June 2011, a UNSC resolution was adopted on the HIV epidemic. In September 2014, the council determined that the unprecedented extent of the Ebola outbreak in Africa constituted a threat to international peace and security which was followed by another resolution on the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in October 2014.
This is a pandemic that has claimed nearly 70,000 lives and has affected over 1.2 million people globally.
If the security council is briefed on the peace and security implications of Covid-19, there would be many takeaways from its previous resolutions on AIDS and Ebola that may be relevant.