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Antonio Guterres: UN chief laments lack of global solidarity in COVID-19 fight

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging the world’s richest countries to do more to help the poorest nations through the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN chief spoke with Dailyrater to promote an international relief fund to which few countries have pledged financial support so far.

The new coronavirus continues to spread around the world, having already infected more than 14.5 million people and caused more than 600,000 deaths. Guterres says there’s now more than ever a need for international solidarity and financial assistance.

“To respond to the dramatic economic and social consequences of COVID, and to effectively address COVID globally, we would need a package corresponding to more than 10 per cent of the global economy, which means trillions,” Guterres told Dailyrater.

“We see those trillions being spent by developed countries, in the United States, in Europe, but we do not see the mobilisation of resources to support developing countries to do the same.”

The United Nations is seeking $10.3 billion (around €9 billion) in coronavirus relief funding for the world’s most fragile nations, but so far, it has collected less than a fifth of that amount.

On Saturday, Guterres seized the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture to call on global leaders to tackle the inequalities laid bare by the pandemic, saying the world was at “breaking point”.

“COVID-19 has been likened to an X-ray, revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built,” Antonio Guterres said in his address, marking what would have been the birthday of former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mandela.

“It is exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere: The lie that free markets can deliver health care for all, the fiction that unpaid care work is not work, the delusion that we live in a post-racist world, the myth that we are all in the same boat.”

Speaking to Dailyrater, Guterres said the world’s most dramatic situations were unfolding “where populist governments were totally unable to face COVID in an effective way”.

“My hope is that people will feel that indeed we need unity, that indeed we need solidarity, we need international cooperation and that we need global governance with multilateral institutions much stronger than in the present,” he said.

The UN says up to 270 million people could face starvation by the end of the year because of the impact of the pandemic.

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