We learnt lessons from the Ebola outbreak; DR Congo President says country moved swiftly to curb coronavirus spread

Learning its lessons from the Ebola outbreak, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) took swift and decisive measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, when the first cases were detected in March, the country’s President told world leaders, gathered virtually, at the UN General Assembly.

Addressing, via a pre-recorded video, President Félix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi said that quick action by the Government brought down the mortality rate in the DRC from 10 per cent in the first days of the pandemic to 2.5 per cent today.

Acknowledging the role of the UN, including the World Health Organization (WHO), in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, President Tshisekedi urged greater support in the areas of capacity-building and technical assistance.

He also called for international efforts, including cancellation of debts and “no-strings-attached financing” to help developing countries recover from the pandemic and to build back better.

The President also informed the Assembly of his Government’s efforts to promote human rights, while acknowledging that much remains to be done to combat sexual and gender-based violence.

He also called for the Security Council to be reformed to make it more transparent, democratic and representative of the Organization’s make-up.

Need for climate action


The President of the DRC also highlighted the threats posed by climate change.

The effects are increasingly visible throughout the world, he said, adding that climate action and building a green economy is “not merely a necessity, but an urgent duty.”

He underscored the DRC’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change, including through the preservation of its forests through a system of school gardens that aims to plant 1 billion trees in the coming years.

Worrying security situation


Expressing concern about the security situation in the east of the country, President Tshisekedi said that residual elements of armed groups continue to spread death and desolation, attacking not only civilians and national armed forces but also peacekeepers serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MONUSCO.

The funding of such groups through the illicit exploitation of natural resources which are then sold abroad must be neutralized through international sanctions, he urged.

Pending the outcome of the strategic review of MONUSCO, he said that the DRCs wants to see more cooperation on the ground between the UN mission and the national armed forces, particularly in those areas where armed groups are present.

“My determination is to put smiles on the faces of those living in the east of the country as soon as possible,” said President Tshisekedi.

South African President warns pandemic has set back African development

Despite the continent-wide approach taken by African countries to combat COVID-19, the pandemic has set back their development aspirations, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told world leaders at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

Speaking via video-link, Mr. Ramaphosa noted that, with resources redirected to fighting the virus, efforts to provide housing, health care, water and sanitation, and education have been hampered, and called for interest payments on African countries’ debt to be suspended.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals


“Until we eradicate global poverty, we will always fall short of realizing the vision of the founders of the United Nations”, Mr. Ramaphosa told world leaders, reminding them of the importance of meeting all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The South African President emphasized gender equality, including the expansion of opportunities for women, and ensuring their rights in the workplace, political life, and in society as a whole.

South Africa, he noted, is a member of the UN’s Generation Equality, prioritizing the eradication of gender-based violence and femicide, and is working to adopt an African Union Convention on violence against women. African Union member states, he continued, are also working on measures to support financial inclusion for women.

‘Silence the guns’


Turning to peace and security matters, Mr. Ramaphosa declared that South Africa is continuing with efforts to “silence the guns”, through conflict resolution and peace-building.

Increased cooperation between the UN and African Union has, he said, contributed to improving peace and security in the Darfur region of Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic.

And, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, South Africa has, continued Mr. Ramaphosa, promoted international peace and security by advocating for the peaceful settlement of disputes and inclusive dialogue.

‘Advance green economies’


Looking ahead to the post-pandemic recovery, Mr. Ramaphosa noted that it presents an opportunity to “place the global economy on a low-carbon, climate resilient developmental path”.

The principles of green, and circular, economies must be advanced, he declared, for the sake of the environment, as well as for job creation and economic growth.

The South African premier added that climate change adaptation, mitigation and support must be at the heart of the global recovery effort.

A choice between tolerance and prejudice
For Mr. Ramaphosa, one of the upshots of the pandemic is that is has presented the world with a choice, and an opportunity to create a new order, rooted in “solidarity, equality and unity of purpose.”

“When history faithfully records the global response to the worst health emergency of this century”, concluded Mr. Ramaphosa, “let it be said that we stood and acted as one, that we provided leadership, and that we gave the peoples of all nations hope and courage”.