Even as the clamour for a fresh probe into the origins of the coronavirus grows, the question remains - will China cooperate? When asked whether the United Nations can bear upon China to be more transparent, UNGA President-elect Abdulla Shahid said “this question is to be answered by the membership of the General Assembly.”
He added that the President of the General Assembly has to abide by a code of ethics, the main one being remaining impartial. “It should be left for the membership to decide on how they wish to proceed on the issue,” he said.
Recently, G7 countries have taken on China over the issue. The body is seeking a fresh probe into the origins of the novel coronavirus.
The G7 communique said, “We also call for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 COVID-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China.”
Just before heading to the UK for the G7 Summit, US President Joe Biden asked his intelligence community to submit a report to him in 90-days on the plausibility of a lab leak of the virus. This after an intelligence report stated that three researchers of Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill and needed hospitalization in November 2019.
Calls for a fresh probe put a further question mark on the initial inquiry conducted by the World Health Organisation.
The WHO has been harshly criticized for its response to the pandemic and failure to alert the world in time of the human to human spread of COVID-19. When asked whether multilateral organisations like the UN and WHO had failed in the once-in-a-century test of mitigating the crisis, he said it would be “unfair” to say that the multilateral system has failed, but said there were ‘shortcomings’.
Abdulla Shahid said that as UNGA President his priority would be vaccine equity. He said he has been speaking with Ambassadors from African countries and had learnt that while 1 in 500 people are vaccinated in these countries, the richer countries have managed to vaccinate 1 in 5 people already.
India voted for Abdulla Shahid in the elections last week who won with three-fourths majority. This, despite Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul entered the fray. Sources said that while both candidates were friends of India. However, the country had already committed its support to Maldives at a time when no other candidate was in the fray.
Maldives had announced FM Shahid’s candidature in December 2018. In mid-January 2021, in a surprising development and with less than 6 months before the elections, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul entered the fray.
Moreover, since Maldives had never held the office of President of the General Assembly before, and Afghanistan had held this post during the 21st GA session in 1966-67, India chose to vote for Shahid.