News Analysis: Actions Speak Louder Than Words in the Fight against COVID-19

AKP Phnom Penh, August 10, 2020 —

Until now, I see world leaders have yet to reach a real joint practical effort to combat COVID-19 although there have been repeated diplomatic calls by them that the world needs to fight the virus. Action speaks louder than words, not the racism and blame games that some continue to indulge in.

In a global webinar organised by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), streamed from the Republic of Korea on August 9, 2020, Prime Minister Hun Sen, of the Kingdom of Cambodia, told the world: “We must avoid racism and the blame game, which lead to disunity. The whole world needs to join hands to fight this pandemic.”

Mr. Ban Ki Moon, former UN Secretary-General, told the forum: “COVID-19 has indeed become a grave threat to humanity. We have seen the intensification of unsettling trends… the growing tension between the U.S. and China, which some call a new Cold War… nationalism and protectionism are on the rise, resulting in countries shifting away from multilateralism and international cooperation.”

Former Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, said: “International institutions cannot function effectively without the cooperation and leadership of the world’s strongest powers. Today there is not such leadership, the United States is not willing to provide it. This is not just about the current U.S. administration, the American public is exasperated with its global leadership role, which is far too often left the United States with wildly disproportionate burns and obligations for which the American public sees little commensurate benefit”.

Harper said: “China cannot fill the void for a different reason. It is not widely trusted, then when we look at its role in the early spread of the virus how could it be? And for its part the European Union remains focused on the internal divisions that have become ever more challenging in the decade since the global financial crisis. So, the lack of international cooperation today is all very explicable, but that does not mean that this state of affairs is not risky”.

Small Cambodia, big heart 

As a small Southeast Asian nation, but with big heart, Cambodia did her part such as a model by permitting the Westerdam cruiseship, with more than 2,200 passengers and crew, to dock at its deep seaport in Kampong Som, Sihanoukville port in February 2020 while other nations abandoned it to its fate.

This is a crystal clear example of how other global leaders, except PM Hun Sen, had turned down humanitarian requests. This also showed how other countries, at the time of Westerdam’s call for help, failed the need for international solidarity.

We must have a greater global commitment, not just in diplomatic terms, to come up with the resources, including finance, technology and know-how support, to fight Covid-19.

Calls for a joint response and universal solidarity come not only from Prime Minister Hun Sen alone. As stated in his video message to the international forum of the “World Rally of Hope: Building and Renewing our nations in the post-COVID-19 World: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values” on Sunday, the Premier shared his five key points: Global solidarity, no blame game, be well-prepared for post-COVID-19 recovery, promoting global trade for global growth, maintaining global peace and security.

Other stellar speakers included Mr. Ban Ki Moon, the Rev. Paula White, spiritual advisor to President Donald Trump, the Hon. Chuichi Date, former President of the House of Councillors of Japan, and Hon. Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

In addition to those were H.E. Macky Sall, President of Senegal; H.E. Brigi Rafini, Prime Minister of Niger; H.E. Stephen Harper; H.E. Alfred Moisiu, former President of Albania; and H.E. Jimmy Morales, former President of Guatemala; and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, co-founder of the Universal Peace Federation and host of the Rally, expressed their commitment to fight the pandemic.

An optimist Newt Gingrich said: “I believe that we can in fact work together, we can reach across national boundaries, we can reach across parties and differences, and we can find a way to create a dramatically better future for our children and our grandchildren.”

Where are the resources?  

Each of the speakers’ voices was heard loud and clear by 190 countries with over 1 million participants logged on live to the webinar. But, a question dangling here is how much they will translate such diplomatic words into actual practice.

Talk, after all, is cheap, only action can face the challenges.

Nigerian Prime Minister H.E. Brigi Rafini, told the event: “The Covid-19 crisis has had significant impacts on the geopolitical balance of power as well as on the global economy. It affects all sectors: religion, government, university and education, business and economy, family, women and young people, the media and the environment”.

“This means that Africa must face not only the pandemic but also the need to revive its economy. This double fight requires an exceptional mobilisation of financial resources. Already, before the pandemic, Africa needed 600 billion dollars per year to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and those of Agenda 2063, in particular the objectives of its first ten-year plan 2013-2023, including the structuring projects,” said H.E. Brigi Rafini.

So, where will the resources come from? It must be a very big day for the world.

H.E. Macky Sall, President of Senegal, said that to date, COVID-19 has not revealed all of its secrets, but already hit the whole world hard.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that there have been nearly 20 million cases of COVID-19 with more than 700,000 deaths, nearly 13 million recovered globally.

“The COVID-19 pandemic ignores borders, social, ideological and geopolitical considerations. It brings to light the limits of the most sophisticated health systems and shows us our common vulnerabilities; men and women, young and old, rich or poor, countries of the North and the South”.

“In the face of so many challenges and uncertainties, faith, confidence in science, and determination to act together will help us to hold on to hope, overcome trials and overcome our common vulnerabilities.

“The virus will remain a threat to everyone as long as it continues to circulate somewhere in the world. We will overcome it not by turning inward, but by working in solidarity and human fraternity,” said H.E. Macky Sall.

New Normalcy, vaccine put solidarity before profit 

Prime Minister Hun Sen shares view with others that, no one knows when the Covid-19 crisis will end. So, we have to adapt to the ‘new normal’ life.

H.E. Jimmy Morales, former President of Guatemala told the event: “we cannot ask everyone to stay locked in their houses because the State will not be able to subsidise food and sustenance for the entire population in a sustained manner, much less continuously, if there is no one to produce goods and pay taxes. People will not be able to subsist. They will have to go out to work and produce, keeping the relevant measures.”

PM Hun Sen also said: “While the world is awaiting a breakthrough in vaccine development, Cambodia calls for an adoption of the vaccine as a global public good which people anywhere and everywhere can access.”

Morales said, “All governments and leaders globally must advocate that it be free for all people, that, in the case of pandemics, vaccine manufacturers put solidarity towards humanity before profit, and that the State bears the cost of medicines for their citizens, aiming at the preservation of life.”

This is a pandemic without borders. We cannot have a situation in which one nation’s citizens are treated for free whilst those in the next country, or even on the other side of the world, cannot afford treatment. Covid-19 has made us a global village in a new way, and the new normal demands a new paradigm, it demands international unity against this most common of foes.

By Ek Tha

Spokesman of the Council of Ministers,

Advisor to the Ministry of Information,

Standing-Vice Chairman of the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit