Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, political actors have been urged to seek for consensus in addressing the disruptions to political processes involving elections.
Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), said governments on their part must promote more community-based approaches and inclusiveness underpinned by a human rights-based approach.
“Business continuity of governments is a key area that we should be supporting, targeting key areas beyond health, but also those that will reinforce peace and stability,” Dr Ibn Chambas said in his address at a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Accra-Airport.
Speaking on the topic: “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on West Africa and Sahel”, Dr Ibn Chambas lauded the resilience of the people of West Africa and the Sahel in the face of adversity.
“The resilience and solidarity demonstrated during the Ebola crisis that affected the region has created room for optimism. I am convinced that together, we shall prevail against COVID-19,” he said.
“First, this is a global crisis, with a global impact and so, addressing it will require global action and solidarity. The existential threat posed by COVID-19 cannot be addressed by any single country or entity in West Africa and the Sahel.”
He said: “At the national level, we must support a whole-of-government approach while at the region or international level, we collectively harness efforts, enhance collaboration, share resources and expertise to contain, prevent its spread and find a cure.”
Dr Ibn Chambas said secondly, this crisis has once again demonstrated the frailties in nations’ health policies and systems and the increasing need to enhance access to healthcare for the population especially the most vulnerable including women and children.
He said meeting this aspiration would require international cooperation and assistance otherwise, humanity would remain exposed to such pandemics time and time again.
Dr Ibn Chambas quoted Mr António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, as having aptly put it: “In our interconnected world, we are only as strong as the weakest health systems”.
He said thirdly, this crisis was imposing a new way of life to billions of people in the world but at the same time emphasizing the relevance of human security.
“It is pushing us to readapt and enact smart policies and strategies to promote human development in a manner that is comprehensive and sustainable” and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were key in this regard.
Dr Ibn Chambas re-echoed the call for the cancellation or postponement of the debt of African countries, initiated by the UN to support developing countries.
“In addition, I also wish to reiterate the call by the UN Secretary-General, for an immediate ceasefire particularly in West Africa and the Sahel to reinforce diplomatic action, help create conditions for the delivery of lifesaving aid, and bring hope to places that are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
He said it was important that despite the need for action to address the pandemic, they keep focus on other peace and security threats which might be exacerbated by this health crisis.