December 28, 2020
As the world enters 2021, after a “year of trials, tragedies and tears”, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has delivered a message of hope for the new year.
Praising the kindness shown by people around the world, the tireless efforts of frontline workers, the scientists who have developed vaccines in record time, and the countries making new advances to save the planet from climate catastrophe, Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his wish for a year of healing.
Against the backdrop of persistent suffering and grief, in a year when the COVID-19
pandemic marked everyone’s lives, Mr. Guterres said in his New Year’s message that we shall work together “in unity and solidarity”, so those “rays of hope can reach around the world”.
“So many loved ones have been lost — and the pandemic rages on, creating new waves of sickness and death”, he noted. Adding that poverty, inequality and hunger are on the rise, with jobs disappearing, certain sectors struggling to survive, debts mounting and children struggling, Mr. Guterres raised his concerns regarding the increased violence in the home and insecurity.
But a New Year lies ahead, he continued, and if we work together in unity and solidarity, the rays of hope can reach around the world: “people extending a helping hand to neighbours and strangers; frontline workers giving their all; scientists developing vaccines in record time; and countries making new commitments to prevent climate catastrophe”.
“That’s the lesson of this most difficult year”, he said, “both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are crises that can only be addressed by everyone together – as part of a transition to an inclusive and sustainable future.”
As for the UN’s plans for 2021, a central ambition is to build a global coalition for carbon neutrality – net zero emissions – by 2050, Mr. Guterres spelled out, adding that “every government, city, business and individual can play a part in achieving this vision”.
Urging the world to act together, the UN Secretary-General called on people to make peace not just among themselves, but also with nature, tackling the climate crisis, stopping the spread of COVID-19 and making 2021 a year of healing: “healing from the impact of a deadly virus. Healing broken economies and societies. Healing divisions. And starting to heal the planet”, he noted.
“That must be our New Year’s Resolution”, the UN chief concluded, sending his wishes for a happy and peaceful 2021.
The United Nations (UN) on Sunday commemorated the first International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, underscoring the need to learn lessons from the coronavirus pandemic, and urging greater investments in preparedness, to confront future health emergencies.
“This first observance of the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness falls at the end of a year in which a scenario many had feared came tragically true … As we strive to control and recover from the current pandemic, we must think about the next,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a message.
The top UN official highlighted the need for strong health systems and social protection, support for communities on the frontlines, and technical cooperation among countries.
“Across this work, science must be our guide. Solidarity and coordination are crucial, within and among countries; no one is safe unless all of us are safe,” said the secretary-general.
He also honored medical professionals, front-line personnel and essential workers globally for their “remarkable commitment” in face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we recover from the pandemic, let us resolve to build up our prevention capacities so that we are ready when the world faces the next outbreak,” the UN chief noted.
Similarly, Volkan Bozkir, president of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), said that the “devastating experience” of the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the benefits of tackling epidemics.
“If we ready ourselves, then we can save lives and stop epidemics from developing into pandemics,” he said, adding that COVID-19 “must be our final warning.”
“We cannot afford to be complacent, and we must learn from our mistakes.”
Bozkir urged everyone to join him in trusting science, supporting early warning mechanisms, and standing together in solidarity.
“We will prepare as we have never prepared before — so that epidemics and pandemics can no longer cause the kind of suffering we have seen across the globe this year,” the UNGA president said.
In a separate message, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of a “One Health Approach,” which integrates human health, animal health and plant health, as well as environmental factors.
“Any efforts to improve human health are doomed unless they address the critical interface between human and animals,” said Tedros.
The WHO chief also urged countries to invest in preparedness capacity to prevent, detect and mitigate emergencies, and reiterated the importance of strong primary health systems as the foundation of universal health coverage as well as the “eyes and ears” of health systems everywhere.
“True preparedness is not just a job of the health sector, it requires an all-of-government and all-of-society approach,” Tedros said.
The International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, to be marked on Dec. 27 annually, was proclaimed earlier this month by the UNGA, to advocate the importance of the prevention of, preparedness for, and partnership against epidemics.
This international day falls on the birthdate of Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist, responsible for ground-breaking work on vaccinations.