During the 64th Plenary Meeting of the
General Assembly (74th session),
11 September 2020,
after adoption of the
draft resolution entitled,
“Comprehensive and coordinated response
to the Covid-19 pandemic”
At the outset, I want to express thanks to the co-coordinators, the Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, H. E. Adela Raz, and the Permanent Representative of Croatia, H.E. Ivan Šimonović, for their work.
Pope Francis recently underscored that the “current pandemic has highlighted our interdependence: we are all connected to each other, for better or for worse. Therefore, to emerge from this crisis better than before, we have to do so together.” Because of the international community needs to stand together in the face of the pandemic, the Holy See supported the idea of this “omnibus resolution” from the beginning and during the negotiations emphasized the need for a common and consensus-based approach.
It is unfortunate that this omnibus resolution, launched as a means of showing the world that the General Assembly stands as one and of bringing together many COVID-related initiatives, is adopted lacking consensus. Like many other delegations, the Holy See would have preferred to see much more time given to discussions on the difficult issues.
As for the specific content of the resolution, my Delegation would like to make the following points and one reservation:
- Extensive immunization could be a global public good, provided that vaccines not only are adequate, safe, quality, efficacious and effective, but also and especially are “free from ethical concerns” and available to all.
- We regret the exclusion of faith-based organizations from the list of those who play an important role in response to the pandemic. Through their hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, schools, and charitable organizations FBOs support people on the ground, especially those most affected by the pandemic.
- Furthermore, religious leaders are crucial in promoting dialogue and tolerance. The wording, however, of preambular paragraph 5 and operative paragraph 4 should have followed applicable, agreed language from consensual resolutions of the General Assembly to ensure the safeguarding of freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression in this context. Additional discussions on the text on faith-based organizations and religious leaders should have taken place.
- We welcome that the resolution gives attention to human rights issues. Unfortunately, this focus is hampered by a lack of precision in terminology and in its grounding in international human rights law (PP5, PP21, OP21, OP28).
- The inclusion of specific references to older persons in the text is crucial, considering the impact the pandemic has had on the elderly in many countries (PP21, OP21). This concern should have been buttressed by stressing that healthcare decisions affecting older persons should always respect their right to life and never be interpreted otherwise.
- We are pleased to see consideration given to the international debt architecture and the international financial system as an integral part of our common response to the pandemic (OP31, OP43 et al). Stronger language, however, about the need to renew the international financial architecture would have given the text greater impact. Reduction, if not cancellation, of the debt burdening the poorest nations is essential to ensure that all countries are put in a position to meet the needs of their people during the pandemic.
- We applaud the inclusion of comprehensive language about climate change and the protection of the environment (OP41, 46, 47 et al). In this regard, it is essential to ensure that recovery strategies integrate all three pillars of climate action: mitigation, adaptation and resilience. The pandemic should not reduce our attention on the climate crisis, which continues to be one of the most serious global emergencies.
Finally, the Holy See considers it most unfortunate that the adopted resolution includes the deeply concerning and divisive reference to “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” (OP7). In line with its reservations expressed at the international conferences held in Beijing and Cairo, the Holy See reiterates that it considers the phrase “reproductive health” and related terms as applying to a holistic concept of health, which embraces the person in the entirety of his or her personality, mind and body. In particular, the Holy See rejects the interpretation that considers abortion or access to abortion, sex-selective abortion, abortion of fetuses diagnosed with health challenges, maternal surrogacy, and sterilization as dimensions of “reproductive health,” or as part of universal health coverage.
 Pope Francis, Catechesis at the General Audience, 6 September 2020.
 Cf. Pope Francis, Catechesis at the General Audience, 19 August 2020.