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SG/SM/20608
1 March 2021

‘Pandemic Recovery Is Our Chance’, Secretary-General Tells Aswan Forum, Pledging Solidarity with Africa amid Efforts to Expand COVID-19 Vaccination

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the opening of the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development, held from 1 to 5 March:

It is a pleasure to greet this year’s Aswan Forum.  I welcome your focus on “Shaping Africa’s New Normal:  Recovering Stronger, Rebuilding Better”.

The COVID-19 [pandemic] continues to upend lives and economies across the world, endangering our work for peace, human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.  [The year] 2021 must be the year to get on track.  Pandemic recovery is our chance.

African countries and the African Union have shown leadership and unity in response to this unparalleled test.  I reiterate the solidarity of the United Nations with the people and Governments of Africa at this time.

The rollout of vaccines has generated hope.  I commend the African Union’s efforts through the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Force to secure vaccine doses for African countries.

Last week, the COVAX facility delivered its first shipments of vaccines to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.  This is a historic step towards ensuring equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally.  Vaccines must be a global public good, available and affordable for everyone, everywhere.

The world urgently needs a Global Vaccination Plan, and I am urging the G-20 [Group of 20] to bring together countries, companies, international organizations and financial institutions with the required power, scientific expertise and production and financial capacities.

I am also calling on the international community to support the world’s most vulnerable people and countries, from strengthening health systems to providing debt relief.

Pandemic recovery is also an opportunity to address the fragilities and inequalities that have been exposed by the pandemic, and to pursue a more inclusive and sustainable path that advances gender equality and safeguards the global environment.

Ambitious climate action is a key part of the picture.  Despite its relatively limited contribution to global emissions, Africa continues to pay a high price for climate change.  As we strive to mobilize a global coalition to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century, we also need a breakthrough on adaptation.

In recent years, Africans have done much to advance the well-being of the continent’s people.  Economic growth has been strong, the digital revolution has taken hold [and] a free trade area has been agreed.

The United Nations will continue to support Africa’s efforts across this agenda, including to silence the guns.  In that spirit of common purpose, I offer my best wishes for a successful forum.

For information media. Not an official record.