Supporting the UN’s Leading Role in Fighting Three Kinds of Virus

The coronavirus, as well as the other forms of virus, have driven home the value of multilateralism to address our collective challenges. United, not divided; cooperative, not confronting; and all-win, not zero-sum game represent the trend of the time.

In 1945, after two world wars, most countries were in ruins and the survivors craved an end to the dark days of pain, hunger and humiliation.

The UN was founded to address these challenges and for three quarters of a century, the world in general has been free from the scourge of war. More countries have gained national independence and economic prosperity, and more than 1 billion people have emerged from poverty. The vision of the founders of the UN has become a reality.

However, on September 21, when the 193-member world body commemorated its 75th anniversary, the celebrations were muted. Nobody felt cheerful and no place was safe for gathering together or shaking hands. Three kinds of rampant viruses stood in the way.

First, the novel coronavirus.

By September 24, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, the virus causing the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), had infected more than 30 million and killed around 1 million people all over the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard, an online map tracking the pandemic as it unfolds.

The numbers continue to rise at a rate of more than 200,000 infections and thousands of deaths daily. These are no mere numbers to add or curves to flatten. These are human beings attacked by COVID-19 and fighting for their lives, with a staggering number losing the battle. Behind every victim, there are families suffering pain and sorrow.

Besides the health and humanitarian crisis, what is happening is also a social and economic crisis. Prolonged lockdowns have set people and nations apart. Children cannot attend school, their parents cannot commute to work, and society as a whole is failing to function.

For the less advantaged groups, such as women, children and those living in underdeveloped areas, the blow is harsher. Many of them are woefully underprepared for the virus and risk sliding into deeper poverty and violence. The pandemic has aggravated all the challenges the UN faces in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 to address worldwide social, economic and environmental challenges.

Second, the political virus.

The finger-pointing, blame game and cover-ups are equally deadly. Some politicians in the U.S. keep calling the virus the Wuhan or China virus, trying to shift the responsibility for failing to respond to the pandemic effectively. Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward’s new book Rage (2020) reveals U.S. President Donald Trump admitted on tape that he was playing politics with the pandemic.

This kind of political virus kills too. The time, energy and resources invested in the shame-and-blame approach could have been put to better use–in saving lives. Among the 200,000 American lives lost, many could have survived.

Reports released by the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis indicate that Trump administration officials deliberately covered up the truth of the pandemic. As a result, over 58,000 more Americans died since June and millions of American lives have been put at risk.

The latest outbreak of this form of virus was Trump’s verbal attack on China in a recorded speech aired in the UN General Assembly on September 22, not an unexpected anniversary present, though.

On the same day that Trump made “the UN must hold China accountable” rhetoric, ex-Trump adviser Fiona Hill told CNN, “It’s not the Russians or the Chinese or anyone. We are doing this to ourselves.”

Third, the virus of unilateralism, bullying, racism, populism, nationalism and more.

Populism and nationalism have failed to address COVID-19. Those approaches to contain the coronavirus have provenly made things manifestly worse. Breaking commitment and stepping back from international organizations do not help either. These attempted remedies are actually another form of virus. They hurt and spread. This form of virus cuts deep into the bonds and trust between people, ethnic groups and nations. It turns people against people, nation against nation, and reintroduces the law of the jungle in the world.

The U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO), among many other world bodies, not only undermines the global effort to combat the pandemic, but also makes the nation pay a dear price on the moral ground. A recent Pew Research Center survey of 13 nations found that the United States’ reputation has declined further over the past months, even among its allies, partly due to its COVID-19 response, or failure to respond.

Bullying others and always putting oneself ahead of others will not make any nation great, nor help to survive this existential COVID-19 crisis of the humankind. Like the proverb said, if you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk longer, walk together.

The United Nations flag at the UN headquarters in New York on July 16 (XINHUA)

A long walk requires an all-society, all-government and all-world approach driven by compassion and solidarity. To confront the virus in all forms, people around the globe are looking up to the UN to take a leading role and collective action to address the pandemic, besides the other common challenges of climate change, regional conflicts and unbalanced development.

WHO is working closely with governments and its partners to protect public health and prevent the spread of the pandemic. In addition, UNICEF, the UN World Food Program and other UN bodies have adjusted their operations based on the development of the pandemic and are playing their respective roles in humanitarian support.

China has been a staunch support of the UN, taking pride in its role as a builder of world peace, contributor to global development and keeper of international order. To support the UN role in leading the global effort to contain COVID-19, China made a new pledge on September 23 to provide funds and support in other forms to fight the common enemy COVID-19.

The coronavirus, as well as the other forms of virus, have driven home the value of multilateralism to address our collective challenges. United, not divided; cooperative, not confronting; and all-win, not zero-sum game represent the trend of the time. It is the UN and it is multilateralism that we count on to lead humanity on the right path and chart a way out of our own “1945 moment” together.