Ly Thuch, president of Cambodia’s National Committee for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), addressed the Cambodian government’s efforts to strengthen its economic resilience and rebuild in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic at the committee’s 77th Session.

The Cambodian government set up its national committee for ESCAP in 2009 in order to ensure that Cambodia would have a strong voice in the commission’s discussions and to coordinate cooperative efforts related to the commission.

UN-ESCAP undersecretary-general Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana delivered an opening speech at the session, organised under the theme of Building Back Better from Crises through Regional Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.

The session was also attended via video-conference by UN senior representatives in charge of affairs for least developed countries in addition to the national delegations and representatives from countries throughout the region.

Senior Minister Ly Thuch made his remarks on April 28, highlighting five points in his speech.

The first point was that Cambodia has been trying to collaborate with every nation globally to fight the pandemic, taking special care to avoid racial discrimination or playing the blame game regarding the origins of the virus, because that only sabotages what should be the unified purpose of the entire international community: ending the pandemic.

“In the spirit of humanitarianism and international solidarity, Cambodia allowed the Westerdam cruise ship – loaded with more than 2,200 passengers – to dock in mid-February 2020. And as of now, Cambodia has not only provided treatment [for Covid-19] to its own citizens, but also to all foreign citizens in Cambodia free of charge,” he said.

Thuch then went on to say that Cambodia believes that the battle against COVID-19 requires prudent decision-making arrived at through a collaborative multilateral framework that respects international laws but also the sovereignty of each individual nation, regardless of its size or wealth.

He added that it was of paramount importance and urgency to provide Covid-19 vaccines to all people as a global public good in an accessible and affordable manner.

Thuch noted that the supply and distribution of said vaccines should be carried out in a humanitarian spirit in every country and especially in those countries which are most vulnerable.

Thuch’s third point was that Cambodia thinks that all countries should collaborate to avoid the unwanted consequences inflicted by implementing protectionist policies regarding vaccines.

He said the international community must vastly step up its support of national policy initiatives, including providing assistance to countries with limited health care capacity and channeling funds for vaccine production to the right recipients so that as trials advance there is an adequate and affordable supply of of doses quickly available to all countries.

Thuch’s fourth item he addressed concerned climate change and building on the record drop in greenhouse gas emissions that occurred during the pandemic.

He said that policymakers should both implement their climate change mitigation commitments and work together to scale up equitably designed carbon taxation schemes or similar programmes.

Finally, Thuch said that to avoid a repeat of this Covid-19 catastrophe in the future when another novel virus suddenly emerges and begins to spread as experts agree is likely to happen due to a number of factors, the global community must act now by building stockpiles of essential supplies and protective equipment, funding research and supporting public health systems, and putting in place effective modalities for delivering relief to the neediest nations.

“Cambodia is ready to join with its development partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to contribute to the efforts to restore the socio-economic health of all nations. These collaborative efforts will certainly enable us all to achieve our vision for sustainable development,” he said.