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Better stop politicising the pandemic

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A worker handles boxes of Covid-19 vaccines, part of the World Health Organisation-led Covax programme which aims to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccinations. In light of the grave threats posed by the pandemic, our priority should be on forging international solidarity to curb the outbreak, promote vaccine equity and build global herd immunity. AFP

Better stop politicising the pandemic

More than 211 million people have contracted Covid-19 and over 4.4 million succumbed to the disease. By all accounts, the pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges that humanity has experienced for generations, triggering severe global systemic crises, ranging from public health and tourism to trade and the disruption of global supply chains, not to mention the deterioration of socio-economic inequalities.

While the fight against this pandemic is far from over, the battle over its origins has intensified. It is scientifically wrong, morally irresponsible, and dangerous as far as global public health is concerned. Indeed, the worsening of political rhetoric on the origins of Covid-19 is worrisome, as leaders of some countries have exploited the pandemic to advance their domestic and geopolitical agenda. Such selfishness and irresponsible behaviour would acutely harm the spirit of international cooperation and humanitarianism.

In times of crises, we need to work together, not blame each other. A blame game is unproductive and dangerous, which should not be allowed to dictate international solidarity. Against all kinds of noise, any right judgement should be based on science and academic research by medical professionals, not on the spinning of data and facts by self-interested politicians and pseudo scientists. So, let scientists, not politicians, decide how best to combat the pandemic and prepare for future ones. Objectivity is the most critical here. Unfortunately, the politicisation of the process has presented an obstacle to science and mankind’s quest for objectivity.

We must continue upholding the core principles and values enshrined in the UN Charter.

The UN Charter, the product of inclusive global dialogues and negotiations after World War II, is supreme. When we talk about the rules-based international order, we must stress the centrality of the UN system. A fair, just and inclusive international order cannot be built if we do not adhere to the spirit and principles of the UN Charter.

In light of the grave threats posed by the pandemic, our priority should be on forging international solidarity to curb the outbreak, promote vaccine equity and build global herd immunity. No one is safe unless everyone is safe. No country is safe unless all countries are safe. The gap in vaccination rollout rates between developed and developing countries are a matter of concern. We need to address such vaccine inequity urgently. We have all the necessary mechanisms and resources to address the pandemic, but we do need a strong collective political will to overcome the challenges.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) plays a critical role in leading the world towards a safer place from the pandemic. The resolution of the World Health Assembly should be used as the baseline for scientific study. We should oppose any attempt to politicise and interfere in the research process. Multilateral cooperation must prevail. Under the roof of the WHO-led global health system, we can overcome the challenges we have been facing, and we can move forward together to restore the trust-based, human-centred, and rules-based international cooperation, essential for addressing public health crises and other global issues.

The panacea for the pandemic crisis is cooperation, cooperation and cooperation. Time is a valuable resource. Don’t waste it politicising the pandemic. Don’t waste it blaming each other. People across the globe, especially in the developing world like Cambodia, do not care about the blame game and all sorts of politicisation of the virus. What they really need is helping to overcome this crisis and leave no one behind. They wish to see the progress in vaccine multilateralism, not vaccine nationalism, whereby every country can have an equitable access to affordable vaccines without any form of discrimination. Meanwhile, they have noticed which countries talk the talk, but not walk the walk, in promoting vaccine multilateralism. Instead, they have excessively stockpiled vaccines without any plan to use them anytime soon.

It is dangerous and immoral to hold global public health hostage to geostrategic and political interests. A healthy rivalry among major powers should compete to provide global public goods to poor countries through different schemes and initiatives. Therefore, major powers must refrain from treating international health cooperation as a zero-sum game, as they often do in other spheres of rivalry. Moreover, all nations are obligated to invest in global health governance and the wellbeing of humanity, regardless of their political ideologies, religions or races.

Suos Yara is member of the National Assembly

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