In first UN address, President Duterte reiterates need for universal access to COVID-19 vaccine

Calls for reforms in UN, a  WHO that is “quick to coordinate, quicker to respond”

President Rodrigo Duterte addressed the United Nations for the first time on Sept. 22, New York time. The President spoke before the High-Level General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly from the Malacañang Golf Clubhouse in Malacañang Park./PCOO/

(Eagle News) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, Sept. 23, reiterated the need for universal access to a vaccine against COVID-19 once it is developed, and called on reforms in the United Nations and other organizations as the world faces a “new normal.”

In his first address to the United Nations, President Duterte noted that “once the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied or withheld.”

“It should be made available to all rich and poor nations alike as a matter of policy,” he said.

He also noted the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement “collective voice” that  a COVID-19 vaccine “must be considered a global public good.”

“Again Mr. President, to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, we must work with seamless unity which demands complete mutual trust and the conviction that we will win or lose together,” he said.

He called on “coordinated national plans and efforts to pursue a common purpose,” even as he recognized that each nation had its own strategy in fighting the virus.

He condoled with the families of those who died due to the virus, which he said “knows no border, knows no nationality, knows no race, knows no gender, knows no age, knows no creed.”

“We cannot bring back the dead but we can spare the living. And we can build back better healthier and more prosperous and just societies,” he said, as he hailed COVID-19 frontliners all over the world who have “selflessly answered the call to combat the COVID-19 pandemic despite (the virus’) virulence and unknown characteristics.”

Call for reforms

In his speech, the President also called for a World Health Organization that is “quick to coordinate and quicker to respond.”

He also called on reforms in the UN which he called “humanity’s essential organization” but “is only as effective as we make it.”

“To make significant changes, we need to be bold. We need to make the same collective courage that finally made the UN a reality 75 years ago,” he said.

For this, he said “we need to act on longstanding recommendations to improve the Security Council’s composition and working together, and working methods, to strengthen the role of the General Assembly, and to streamline processes and operations…”

“Indeed to be ready for the new global normal it can’t be business as usual for the UN. Let us empower the UN, reform it to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Let us strengthen it so it can fully deliver its mandate to maintain peace and security, uphold justice and human rights sand promote freedom and social progress for all. After all, we are the United Nations,” the President said.