Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday urged all the countries that are producing COVID-19 vaccines to ramp up production and work to ensure that these are rapidly distributed throughout the world, including developing countries.
“While the support offered by some major nations is commendable, more needs to be done,” the prime minister said, while addressing the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2021.
He earlier remarked that the forum is being held “at a critical moment in human history”.
“The world is facing an unprecedented triple challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic; the reversal of economic progress; and the existential threat posed by climate change,” he said.
He commended the “excellent role” played by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and “the entire UN system’s relief and recovery efforts in the wake of the pandemic”.
Speaking of Pakistan’s efforts to fight COVID-19, the prime minister said that the country has been “more fortunate than other countries”.
“Through our policies of ‘smart lockdowns’ and focus on the disadvantaged, we have been able to somehow contain the virus. We managed to save precious lives and at the same time livelihoods,” he said.
PM Imran Khan appreciated the international recognition of Pakistan’s pandemic containment strategy and the Ehsaas social protection programme.
“We are now making all possible efforts to accelerate our vaccination campaign,” he said.
The premier said that unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had “revealed and accentuated the endemic inequalities which exist within and amongst nations”.
“The global economy will not recover fully until all countries — rich and poor — are enabled to accelerate and expand investment for achieving the SDGs (sustainable development goals) and climate goals,” he continued.
The premier said that he believes the following actions, at the national and international level, are “indispensable to respond effectively to the triple crisis”.
Universal, affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines
PM Imran Khan said that it is “essential” that universal and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines be ensured “to defeat the virus and to revive global trade, investment and growth”.
“The world must ramp up vaccine production, including in the developing countries, and ensure its rapid distribution. While the support offered by some major nations is commendable, more needs to be done,” he stressed.
The prime minister outlined the following as items of “vital urgency”:
- The waiver of intellectual property rights, even if temporary;
- Vaccine production under license;
- Full funding of the COVAX facility; and
- Provision of grants and concessional lending to enable developing countries to purchase vaccines at fair prices.
‘Build back better’
The prime minister said that what is also needed is the mobilisation of adequate finance “to enable the developing countries to meet the triple challenge of COVID recovery, SDG implementation and realisation of environmental goals”.
There are “synergies in these three challenges” which should be utilised to “build back better”, he said.
PM Imran Khan said that the high-income countries have been able to inject $17 trillion to stimulate their economies, but others are still struggling.
“The developing countries […] are estimated to need at least $4.3 trillion to recover from the crises and implement the SDGs. They have so far, unfortunately, secured access to less than 5% of this amount,” said the premier.
The prime minister reminded the forum that last September, he had proposed the creation of new IMF Special Drawing Rights “as an effective way to generate development financing”.
“I welcome the agreement to create $650 billion in new SDRs. Yet, the additional reserves created for the poorest countries will not provide anywhere close to the magnitude of financial relief they require,” he stressed.
“It is, therefore, essential that the proposal of the IMF Director-General, that the high-income countries voluntarily re-allocate a part of their unutilised IMF quotas, be approved urgently,” the prime minister went on to urge.
He said he hopes that “at least $150 billion will be re-allocated to finance sustainable development projects and programmes in developing countries” through the IMF, World Bank and other development banks and institutions.
The prime minister also shed light on how the restructuring of high-cost debt is “another essential instrument to provide fiscal space and development finance for the affected developing countries”.
He warned however that any “common framework” for debt restructuring “should not involve protracted negotiations that would defeat the purpose of debt relief”.
“At this critical time, commitments made to provide concessional and grant finance to developing countries, including the 0.7% ODA commitment, and the advanced IDA-20 window of $50 billion, must be fulfilled,” PM Imran Khan said.
He further called for the fulfilment of the “commitment made by developed countries to provide $100 billion per year in climate finance”, which he said is “vital, including for the success of COP-26 in Glasgow”.
The prime minister said that the accumulated climate finance commitment “now amounts to over $1 trillion”.
“The amounts offered for development cooperation, including ODA, cannot be double-counted as part of the climate finance commitment,” he said.
PM Imran Khan stressed that at least, 50% of climate finance should be allocated for adaptation.
It would enable developing countries to implement their climate commitments in accordance with the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities,” he said.
“Pakistan’s landmark projects such as our Recharge initiative and 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project can benefit greatly from such support,” he added.
‘Sustainable infrastructure must be central to development strategies’
The prime minister said that national and international development strategies “should target sectors that enable developing countries to respond to the triple challenge”.
- COVID recovery;
- Human development;
- Social protection;
- Renewable energy;
- Sustainable agriculture;
- Climate change; and
He said that investment in sustainable infrastructure — which impacts 92% of the SDGs — “must be a central part of development strategies”.
“The UN — with its unique convening power — should initiate a multi-stakeholder dialogue to mobilise the $1 trillion investment required annually in sustainable infrastructure,” the premier suggested.
“Moreover, the UN development system, including the SDG Investment Fair, can make a vital contribution in enabling developing countries to propose viable projects that can attract public and private investment,” he added.
‘Preferential access to global markets’
PM Imran Khan said that the “structural and systemic deficiencies of the international financial and trade architecture need to be addressed comprehensively and urgently”.
“The international trade regime must provide all developing countries with equitable and preferential access to global markets,” he said, adding: “Protectionist measures erected by some major economies in violation of WTO agreements must be rescinded.”
The premier reiterated his demand for vast amounts of illicit finance which flow out of the developing countries to be halted and for their stolen assets to be returned unconditionally.
He said the 14 recommendations of the FACTI Panel “deserve to be endorsed and implemented”.
“I welcome the US proposal for a minimum global corporate tax to prevent profit shifting and tax evasion,” the prime minister said.
International cooperation for a more prosperous world
In the end, PM Imran Khan spoke of how the pandemic had “revealed the essential unity of humanity and the close interdependence of nations”.
“This crisis should crystallise awareness of the immutable importance of the principles and purposes of the UN Charter,” he said.
The prime minister said that we must “focus on peaceful and just resolution of disputes and promote international cooperation for building a more equitable, stable and prosperous world”.