President Charles Michel speaks at the Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States
I would like to thank President Kenyatta and the Secretary General of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, Mr. Chikoti, for this initiative. It brings us together at a pivotal moment in our history.
We all know the damage COVID-19 is inflicting on our people and our economies. We see it in those who have lost loved ones. And those who wonder how to put bread on the table for their family. For them, it is a time of pain, fear and uncertainty.
But we must never let ourselves be carried away by pessimism or fatalism. This global epidemic reminds us how connected we are. That it may be time to reinvest in what connects us – multilateralism, international cooperation and collective action. It reminds us of our common destinies.
African, Caribbean and Pacific States are committed to this cooperation; today’s meeting is proof of that. There is no clearer option for the European Union than to stand by it – to stand by you. Europe has a historic partnership with the ACP countries. We share a rich and diverse landscape of political, commercial and cultural exchanges. And a shared desire to make sustainable development a reality for all.
The Cotonou Agreement, which binds us together, is the only legally binding agreement that the EU and its Member States have ever concluded with so many countries. The bonds we share give us a special responsibility.
The EU is taking bold steps to defeat the coronavirus at home. But we will not turn our backs on our global responsibilities. To Africa, in particular. The partnership between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific states is an excellent example of the dynamic multilateralism that we want to promote. Our countries represent more than half of the seats at the United Nations. When we come together, we can be the catalyst for change in so many ways.
Take climate change. In 2015, we joined forces for the Paris Agreement. And we made the difference.
Today we face another global threat related to COVID-19. And again, multilateralism will be our best line of defence. Solidarity must underpin this common response. Not a solidarity based on a misplaced good conscience. Not a solidarity of words. But a solidarity of action. Tangible and real. During the crisis, and tomorrow, as we forge a more cohesive society.
First, we must defeat the virus. As long as the virus is somewhere, we must act as if it were everywhere. From Brussels to Vanuatu, from Addis Ababa to Port-au-Prince.
We, the European Union, together with our Member States and financial institutions, are redirecting €25 billion of funding to support our partners. But we need to go further – I have a personal commitment to debt relief.
We welcome the first steps taken within the G20. These will give the most vulnerable countries breathing space and room to manoeuvre. And we can do more by involving major creditors in debt relief efforts. With global ambitions come global responsibilities. I will continue to advocate tirelessly for such action within the G7, G20 and other international partners.
Then we have to find ways to put the pandemic behind us. Vaccines, treatments and diagnostics are the only way to relegate the virus to the history books.
On this sensitive issue, we are at your side. The EU recently concluded a successful pledging conference with our international partners. 9.5 billion euros have been raised to develop and distribute health solutions at scale, at an affordable price. Our vision is a vaccine accessible everywhere, for everyone. I join the call for “The People’s Vaccine”. Any future vaccine must be treated as a “global common good”.
Finally, after COVID-19, we must rebuild. Recreating the post-COVID world will be a huge task. I feel a special responsibility to the younger generation – the millions of young people who will experience the results of our actions today. Let’s make sure they benefit from our successes. As Nobel Laureate and former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said, “Future generations will not judge us by what we say, but by what we do.”
The world after COVID-19 should not be a carbon copy of the one before. This is neither possible nor desirable. We need to show more solidarity and more respect for the planet. And use digital technologies responsibly, for the good of humanity. Now it’s up to us – the international community. Let’s make sure the scope of our action matches the scope of this pandemic.
asante sana (Thank you.)