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Inclusive multilateralism matters

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron (The Philippine Star) - March 30, 2021 - 12:00am

Together with my fellow EU Member States Ambassadors (Team Europe) and the World Health Organization (WHO), I had the pleasure to welcome the arrival of 480,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines in Manila on March 4. Two weeks later, I was joined by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and WHO Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe in launching the P1.160-billion (20-million euro) grant to support preparedness and response capacities of eight countries in ASEAN of which P133 million (2.3 million euro) will directly benefit the Philippines. These are both meaningful occasions for everyone to signify our solidarity and cooperation to fight COVID-19.

Our resounding message is that only global, inclusive and co-operative multilateral efforts offer a viable approach to ensure early access to diagnostics and treatments of COVID-19 patients. I am pleased to say that Team Europe has been the biggest contributor to the COVAX facility but has also invested billions in vaccines research, diagnostics, treatment, epidemiology, protective equipment and modernization of health systems.

Thus, the EU has led the multilateral response to make sure no one is left behind in this pandemic. We are a regional organization and it is our lifeblood to advocate for multilateral solutions to address global challenges not only in this health crisis but also in areas such as climate change, environment and trade.

Climate change is a global problem. It affects all of us. Ecosystems and the earth’s climate are interconnected. There are no boundaries. Only globally coordinated efforts can be effective, cost-effective and resilient.

This is why richer countries need to partner up with less developed economies using new technologies and most recent science advancements to ensure that environmental destruction in the past are not repeated. This will feed into a growing momentum towards a green, resilient and inclusive recovery after the pandemic, which should be based on a “clean energy scenario.” Clean and efficient energy investments can strengthen the Philippine economy, create jobs and welfare and address social and environmental challenges.

I was delighted to participate in the Energy Transition National Dialogue with Secretary Cusi on March 8 organized by my British and Italian colleagues, in preparation for the Climate Change COP26. The dialogue showed that to realize a sustainable low carbon future for the Philippines, everyone has to work together.

In the fight against climate change, the EU has made remarkable strides: By 2018, the EU had already its cut greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent compared to 1990 levels, and it is committed to achieving a 40-55 percent cut by 2030. In December 2019, a European Green Deal to decarbonizing the EU economy by 2050 was launched in line with the Paris Agreement.

Biodiversity is another global public good. The EU will continue to sustain the activities of the EU-supported ASEAN Center for Biodiversity. Over the years, the center facilitated strong collaboration among the ASEAN member-states and between ASEAN and the EU. This is crucial to advancing the dialogue at the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15) in Kunming, China this coming May.

Another example of how multilateralism works is a P1.44-billion (25 million euro) regional program of the EU implemented by UN Women and the International Labor Organization: Safe and Fair. This is about realizing the rights and opportunities of women migrant workers in the ASEAN Region and making labor migration safe and fair for all women including in the Philippines, focusing on ending violence against women migrant workers.

In the area of trade, the European Commission has just launched a new trade policy review paper entitled “An Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy.” It builds on the EU’s openness to contribute to the economic recovery through support for the green and digital transformations, as well as a renewed focus on strengthening multilateralism and reforming global trade rules to ensure that they are fair and sustainable.

We want therefore to update the global trade rules embodied by the WTO so that they consider the profound economic developments of the recent decades. This reform is needed to ensure the stability and predictability for trade and international cooperation to thrive in the interest of a global sustainable future. For example, a reformed WTO will address today’s challenges by supporting initiatives aimed at: addressing the health and economic challenges arising from COVID-19; boosting environmental and social sustainability; updating rules for digital trade; addressing unfair trading practices (e.g. state subsidies) that distort competition.

It is therefore essential that the WTO remains the central linchpin of the world trading system and reforming the WTO is our strategic priority. In order to be successful we need the cooperation of all players and global alliances.

As EU’s High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell, said: “Multilateralism matters because it works. But we cannot be ‘multilateralists’ alone. At a time of growing scepticism, we must demonstrate the benefit and relevance of the multilateral system. We will build stronger, more diverse and inclusive partnerships to lead its modernization and shape global responses to the challenges of the 21st century.”

We count on the cooperation and positive engagements of other regional, multilateral organizations, the private sector and governments such as the Philippines. We are sharing only one planet. We all have the responsibility to promote global peace and security and to defend human rights and international law. Inclusive multilateralism matters!

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Luc Véron is Ambassador of the European Union to the Philippines.

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