In this file photo taken on September 20, 2017 an official looks at the empty chairs of leaders ahead of their participation in an open debate of the United Nations Security Council in New York. The UN Security Council on July 1, 2020 unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a halt to conflicts to facilitate the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, after more than three months of painstaking negotiations, diplomats said.
AFP/Stephane Lemouton/Pool
UN adopts resolution calling for pandemic-related halt to conflicts
Philippe Rater (Agence France-Presse) - July 2, 2020 - 7:32am

UNITED NATIONS, United States — The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a halt to conflicts to facilitate the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, after more than three months of painstaking negotiations, diplomats said.

The resolution, drafted by France and Tunisia, calls for "an immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations" on the Security Council's agenda.

It is the Security Council's first statement on the pandemic and its first real action since the outbreak started.

Tunisia's ambassador to the UN, Kais Kabtani, hailed it as a "historic achievement," but experts questioned whether the text would have any impact and say the paralysis undermined the Council's credibility.

Repeatedly blocked by China and the United States, which opposed a reference in the text to the World Health Organization (WHO), the resolution aims to support an appeal in March by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire.

It "calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days, in order to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance."

Fighting against jihadist insurgent groups is excluded.

The new text makes no reference to the WHO, which the US has criticized for its management of the crisis. Washington opposed any mention of the WHO back in May.

The Security Council's paralysis for more than three months has been widely criticized, including by some members who have described their "shame" over its inaction.

During the negotiations, the United States and China, the two largest financial contributors to the UN, had both threatened to veto resolutions.

Brokered compromise

According to diplomats, Indonesia, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, helped broker a compromise that saw a reference to a General Assembly commitment to supporting the WHO added to the preamble.

The vague reference was deemed satisfactory to China, which wanted to emphasize the importance of the WHO, and the US, which broke away from the UN body over its handling of the pandemic.

"The adoption of this resolution will send an important signal to conflict parties and may help change calculations on the ground," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

On Thursday, Guterres welcomed the fact that his ceasefire request was supported by nearly 180 countries and more than 20 armed groups, but he acknowledged that it had not been followed up with concrete action.

"It seems unlikely that the ceasefire call will actually have much impact in many war zones," said Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group think tank.

"The Council missed the opportunity to boost the secretary-general's global ceasefire in April or May, when a resolution could have made a significant difference.  

"This feels like a belated face-saving device following months of difficult diplomacy," he added.

Oxfam said the delay meant the UN had "failed to protect" millions of people.

Another meeting on the pandemic is scheduled for Thursday.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 3, 2020 - 4:23pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

August 3, 2020 - 4:23pm

The Department of Health reports 3,226 additional COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, pushing the country's total to 106,330.

The DOH also announces 275 recoveries, bringing the total number of recoveries to 65,821. The national death toll is now at 2,104 with 46 new deaths.

"With 3,226 additional cases reported today, 2,543 (79%) cases occurred within the recent 14 days (July 21 to August 3). The top regions with cases in the recent two weeks were NCR (1,267 or 50%), Region 4A (445 or 17%) and Region 7 (353 or 14%)," the DOH says.

August 3, 2020 - 12:10pm

The United States has entered a "new phase" of the pandemic, White House coronavirus advisor Deborah Birx warns, with rural areas just as threatened as major cities.

Birx, who heads the White House coronavirus task force, toells CNN's "State of the Union" that local virus mitigation procedures were starting to work, but added that "what we are seeing today is different from March and April".

"It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas," she adds. "To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus."

"We are in a new phase," Birx says. — AFP

August 3, 2020 - 7:29am

The number of coronavirus cases recorded worldwide has passed 18 million, according to an AFP tally from official sources at 2240 GMT Sunday.

At least 18,011,763 cases have now been registered as the pandemic's rate of infection continues to accelerate. A million more cases have been detected in just the last four days.

More than half of the world's cases have been recorded in the United States and in Latin America and the Caribbean region. — AFP

August 2, 2020 - 5:08pm

For Gabriel Gordon and his wife Lena, the small restaurant they opened 14 years ago in the coastal California town of Seal Beach was a dream project and the cornerstone of their future success.

But this weekend, Beachwood BBQ, which had become a staple in the community, permanently shut down — yet another casualty of the carnage the coronavirus pandemic has unleashed on restaurants across the United States.

"This restaurant launched everything for us and allowed us to have a nice life," said Gordon, 43, who is now concentrating his efforts on another restaurant and three breweries he owns. "This is what allowed us to have a nice life and it's heartbreaking to see it close."

According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry — the second largest private sector employer in the US — is among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with losses projected to reach a staggering $240 billion by the end of the year. — AFP

August 2, 2020 - 10:28am

The United States counted 61,262 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours leading up to 8:30 pm Saturday (0030 GMT Sunday), according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

It was the fifth consecutive day with more than 60,000 infections recorded, according to the Baltimore-based university. There were also 1,051 deaths in the 24-hour period.

The US has now tallied more than 4.6 million cases and 154,319 deaths, making it the hardest-hit country in the world. — AFP

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