The United Nations General Assembly | Photo by Arron Hoare via Creative Commons/Flickr
Normally, New York gets congested and busy during this time of the year because of the UN General Assembly. Last year’s meeting was held virtually with world leaders “staying at home.” Still, several state leaders and foreign ministers decided not to attend due to the pandemic physically. This year’s UNGA was transformed into a “hybrid event,” some delegates delivering their speeches in person while others sent pre-recorded video messages.
Secretary Ted Locsin was among those present at the UNGA. After the UN, he will be proceeding to Washington, DC, for important meetings we arranged for him.
At the UN, foremost among the issues tackled by the world’s leaders are the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, which have become serious global threats because of their impact on the world economy.
Just how seriously the world has seen the effect of the coronavirus pandemic is underscored by the extra efforts by the organizers to prevent any possible transmission. Such as the use of air purifiers placing delegations in different “press room” and remove a microphone head after a speech and changing it with a new one and other health precautions.
Not surprisingly, the call for more vaccines to be made available, especially to low and middle-income countries, was on top of the agenda. The United States is taking the lead with the announcement of President Joe Biden that the US will be donating an additional 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer. That’s on top of the 600 million doses being donated to developing countries – making the US the biggest vaccine donor at over a billion doses.
The United States has developed the most effective weapon ever in the history of the world – one that does not kill but saves lives. Numerous studies have shown that the US-made vaccines – specifically those developed by Pfizer and Moderna – provide the highest protection against COVID-19 and are highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization. Both vaccines, created using the mRNA platform, showed remarkable efficacy.
The US FDA already gave emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s booster shot to be used for those above 65 years old and immunocompromised individuals because the protection afforded by the vaccine may wane six months after the second dose. While Moderna is working on a combination single-dose vaccine for both COVID-19 and the flu, a series of studies showed that people who have been fully inoculated with the Moderna vaccine might not need a booster shot for eight months or more.
Describing the efficacy of the two mRNA vaccines against severe illness, an immunologist at the University of Virginia who was also a co-author in one of the studies involving the vaccines said, “Pfizer is a big hammer, but Moderna is a sledgehammer.”
As articulated by UN Secretary-General Guterres, “We have effective vaccines against COVID-19. We can end the pandemic.”
“Global warming and extreme weather changes have enhanced the severity of typhoons, with floods triggering landslides, destroying crops, causing hunger and death.”
To say that the world has changed so much in the last two years is an understatement. COVID-19 and climate change turned lives upside down. Experts see an interconnection between the pandemic and climate change – a major reason infectious diseases are spreading more rapidly and rabidly. Several studies have also shown a “significant correlation” between poor air quality and COVID-19, as exposure to air pollution increases a person’s vulnerability to infection and early death.
Global warming and extreme weather changes have enhanced the severity of typhoons, with floods triggering landslides, destroying crops, causing hunger and death. Melting glaciers could release dangerous fungi, bacteria, and all sorts of microbes and organisms, including viruses, trapped for thousands of years in the layers of ice, which could give rise to the possibility of “interspecies transmission,” scientists warned.
A recent UN report raised the specter of droughts, wildfires, and other disasters heading towards “catastrophic levels” due to global warming.
“The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, adding that these would mean more heatwaves, drought and forest fires as recently seen in Europe and North America.
“The 76-year-old organization must not only “sound the alarm” – it must be steadfast and resolute in leading the world out of the “edge of the abyss,” as Guterres himself described the situation.”
Also disturbing are reports that millions of people from rural areas are at risk of trafficking and slavery because droughts, floods, and other disasters force them to leave their homes and seek work in cities, where they become vulnerable to exploitation. By 2050, the World Bank said more than 216 million people from sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America would be forced to leave home.
At the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, this November, countries will be discussing the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the commitments made to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. According to the watchdog organization Climate Action Tracker, however, only Gambia is sticking to the goal of the Paris Agreement based on the plans it submitted, in contrast to the majority of G20 countries.
“We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetime,” UN Secretary-General Guterres said.
The United Nations faces the biggest challenge in this century. The 76-year-old organization must not only “sound the alarm” – it must be steadfast and resolute in leading the world out of the “edge of the abyss,” as Guterres himself described the situation. More than ever, the world is looking up to it in saving this earth from extinction.