April 06, 2020

Menendez calls for U.S. Leadership at United Nations to Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to UN Ambassador Kelly Craft, urging her to take a leadership role at the UN Security Council to pass a resolution on the COVID-19 pandemic.  The United Nations’ Security Council has not yet held any meetings about the crisis, contrasting its current inaction with its robust response during the 2014 Ebola crisis.

“Historically, American leadership has helped the global community organize, set priorities, and unite disparate and often conflicting national responses to avoid the worst-case scenario,” wrote Menendez. “Yet, as Americans and people all over the world continue to face this threat to international health, stability, and security, we have not seen strong U.S. leadership at the UN Security Council or elsewhere on the global stage.”

Following the Trump Administration’s failed attempt to rebrand the novel coronavirus from its globally recognized name of “COVID-19” to the “Chinese Virus” or “Wuhan virus,” the Senator specifically raised concerns about the risk of further undermining America’s leadership abroad by racializing the infection.

“Unfortunately, the public perception is that United States antagonism towards China, which held presidency of the Council in March, stymied efforts of the body to work together,” added Menendez, urging the Trump Administration to cooperate with all of the members of the Security Council.Racializing and stigmatizing the pandemic only serves to exacerbate existing divisions within the UN Security Council and endanger lives, including those of American citizens. Now is not the time for recriminations; the United States must galvanize the world towards decisive action,”

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

Ambassador Craft:

I write to urge you to assert strong U.S. leadership at the UN Security Council by collaborating with global leaders to develop a response to end the COVID-19 pandemic. As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to impact the lives of 7.7 billion people and kill hundreds of thousands, and is already disrupting daily life and economies across the world. The United States currently has over 200,000 COVID-19 cases—a figure that has tripled over the past week—and stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the United States and restarting the U.S. economy will require a global campaign against the pandemic.

Historically, American leadership has helped the global community organize, set priorities, and unite disparate and often conflicting national responses to avoid the worst-case scenario. Yet, as Americans and people all over the world continue to face this threat to international health, stability, and security, we have not seen strong U.S. leadership at the UN Security Council or elsewhere on the global stage. The UN Security Council has not even held a meeting or produced a resolution regarding the pandemic. Unfortunately, the public perception is that United States antagonism towards China, which held presidency of the Council in March, stymied efforts of the body to work together. Racializing and stigmatizing the pandemic only serves to exacerbate existing divisions within the UN Security Council and endanger lives, including those of American citizens. Now is not the time for recriminations; the United States must galvanize the world towards decisive action. 

In 2014, during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the United States led efforts at the UN Security Council to achieve a groundbreaking resolution calling on Member States to respond to the outbreak by lifting travel restrictions, delivering medical aid and financial assistance, and increasing communication. The resolution helped generate political will to facilitate an unprecedented international response to the epidemic—likely saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

Today, the world faces an even greater challenge, indeed one that is already on our shores attacking our citizens. This threat that can only be defeated with U.S. leadership championing a rational, fact-based, global response. I urge you to move swiftly to lead a determined effort to produce a UN Security Council resolution focused on finding a solution to the crisis. This unprecedented threat calls for unprecedented action. We cannot allow politics to hinder our response. Our citizens demand it. Indeed, the whole world does.

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