United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said that the lack of preparedness for the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic revealed how non-state actors could access deadly strains to perpetrate a bioterrorist attack.
Addressing the UN Security Council, he said, "The weaknesses and lack of preparedness exposed by this pandemic provide a window onto how a bioterrorist attack might unfold - and may increase its risks. Non-state groups could gain access to virulent strains that could pose similar devastation to societies around the globe."
Guterres also said that some actors might take advantage of the current global crisis and promote further division resulting in the escalation of violence and potential "devastating miscalculations" in regions already ravaged by conflicts. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic might further erode the people's trust in public institutions if citizens perceive government have mishandled the response or lacked transparency about the scope of the crisis, Guterres said.
Antonio Guterres urged members of the Security Council to come together to fight the global coronavirus outbreak, marking the first time the 15-nation body discussed the pandemic. “The engagement of the Security Council will be critical to mitigate the peace and security implications of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Guterres told council members.
“A signal of unity and resolve from the Council would count for a lot at this anxious time,” he said in a text released by his office. In his speech, Guterres outlined nine areas of concern to international security tied to the virus, from eroding public trust in institutions to the economic fallout to threats of postponed elections to the risk that some conflicts will be exacerbated.
Guterres also warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is deepening already existing inequalities and “is having devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls” who could reverse limited progress toward gender equality over the last 25 years. The U.N. chief said in a video message and policy paper that “across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.”
“These currents are combining as never before to defeat women’s rights and deny women’s opportunities,” Guterres said. The U.N. chief urged governments “to put women and girls at the centre of their efforts to recover from COVID-19.”
He called for women to be put in leadership roles, with equal representation and decision-making power. According to the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, the number of people infected with the virus has exceeded 1.5 million with 95,000 deaths.
(With agency inputs)