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No. 355,  8 December 2020

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Unilateral Coercive Measures (UCMs) and their Impacts in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic

"The complete and immediate lifting of unilateral coercive measures, in order to ensure the full, effective and efficient response of all members of the international community to COVID-19" is one of the calls of the Joint Communiqué issued by the Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives of 19 countries, Belarus, Bolivia (PS of), Burundi, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran (IR of), Laos (PDR of), China (PR of), Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Korea (DPR of), Pakistan, Palestine, Russian Federation, South Africa, Syria, Venezuela (BR of) and Zimbabwe at the virtual seminar on Unilateral Coercive Measures (UCMs) and their Impacts in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic organized jointly by the Permanent Missions of the Republic of Cuba, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Vienna on 30 November 2020. The text of the Joint Communiqué is reproduced below.

Joint Communiqué

Unilateral Coercive Measures (UCMs) and their Impacts in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic
Vienna, 30 November 2020

Belarus, Bolivia (PS of), Burundi, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran (IR of), Laos (PDR of), China (PR of), Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Korea (DPR of), Pakistan, Palestine, Russian Federation, South Africa, Syria, Venezuela (BR of), Zimbabwe
  1. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to severely affect all nations, in particular developing countries. Despite the fact that the response to and recovery from COVID-19 requires global solidarity and international cooperation, we continue to witness the use of unilateral coercive measures (UCMs), especially of secondary and extra-territorial implications, which are in flagrant breach of the basic purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, International Law, and International Human Rights Law as well as in absolute contradiction with the established principles of multilateralism and the basic norms of international relations and diplomacy.
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every person today and has made the negative humanitarian effect of unilateral coercive measures more obvious. These measures have undeniable impacts on human rights, in particular economic, social, and cultural rights, as they hamper the full realization of social and economic development and hinder the well-being of the population in the targeted countries, in particular women, children, adolescents, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Unilateral coercive measures endanger inter-alia the right to life, right to education, right to food, right to a decent job, access to information, and a basic standard of life. They, especially, hinder the right to health, as they obstruct access to medicines and medical technologies, equipment, and supplies. This is particularly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, where these measures have even hampered the transfer of donations to fight COVID-19. Unilateral coercive measures also undermine the collective rights of people including the right to self-determination, right to development, and environmental rights.
  3. At this time of global uncertainty, with the evolving catastrophic impacts of the novel Coronavirus pandemic – COVID-19, we express our solidarity with all countries as we battle its effects. We are saddened by the loss of lives and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones. We also wish those who have been affected and are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges a speedy and full recovery. We salute the dedicated and hard-working healthcare professionals, medical researchers racing to develop vaccines and treatments, and other frontline workers around the world, who are bearing the brunt of the response to the current health crisis.
  1. We are especially concerned by the immediate and longer-term impacts of the disease on developing countries and commend those donor partners and institutions that have initiated special measures to assist developing countries in their efforts to combat the pandemic. We also commend the solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, within the framework of South-South cooperation, in contributing to the efforts to confront the pandemic.
  2. We appreciate the World Health Organization (WHO) for its leading role in coordinating pandemic preparedness and response and encourage it to also take the lead in developing a strategy to ensure that Governments have adequate supplies of essential medical equipment to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to mitigate its impacts. We also appreciate the work carried out by other international organizations in the fight against COVID-19, in particular, the support provided to the countries subject to the UCMs.
  3. In that regard, we welcome the Secretary-General's appeal of 26 March 2020 on the waiving of sanctions that undermine countries' capacity to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as the statement made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on 30 March on the need to ease or suspend sectoral sanctions in light of their debilitating impact on the health sector and human rights and the necessity to avoid the collapse of any country's  medical system.
  4. We take note of the work on this issue of the Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights and welcome her report to the United Nations General Assembly on 16 October 2020 on the impact of the unilateral sanctions on targeted countries’ ability to respond to COVID-19 and implementation of national response plans in which she urged States, international organizations and other relevant actors to review and minimize the whole scope of unilateral sanctions, to ensure that the humanitarian exemptions are effective, efficient and fully adequate with the view to enable sanctioned States to protect their populations in the face of COVID-19.
  5. We also reaffirm the Group of 77 and China's statement calling to adopt urgent and effective measures to eliminate the use of unilateral coercive economic measures against developing countries, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement's declaration on condemning unilateral coercive measures and urging their elimination to ensure the effectiveness of national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The preservation of peace should be our most urgent goal in view of the present global context.
  6. We also welcome the adopted General Assembly resolutions entitled "United response against global health threats: combating COVID-19 (A/RES/74/307- 11 Sep 2020)", "Comprehensive and coordinated response to the corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic (A/RES/74/306- 11 Sep 2020)", "International cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19 (A/RES/74/274- 20 April 2020)", and "Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (A/RES/74/270- 2 April 2020)", as well as World Health Assembly Resolution 73.1 on “COVID-19 Response” dated 15 May 2020, which inter alia express deep concern about the serious risks posed to all countries, in particular developing and least developed countries, and notably African countries and small island developing States; recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic requires a global response based on unity, solidarity and renewed multilateral cooperation; stress the necessity of urgent short-term actions to swift delivery of medical supplies, especially diagnostic tools, treatments, medicines and vaccines; and strongly urge States to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that impede the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries.
  1. We request relevant international and regional actors to rapidly scaling manufacturing and strengthening supply chains that promote and ensure fair, transparent, equitable, efficient and timely access to and distribution of preventive tools, laboratory testing, reagents, and supporting materials, essential medical supplies, new diagnostics, drugs, and COVID-19 vaccines, with a view to making them available to all those in need, in particular in targeted countries affected by UCMs and developing countries.
  2. States must refrain from adopting unilateral coercive measures that breach their human rights obligations under treaty or customary international law, and to adopt measures ensuring that essential supplies, such as medicines and food, are not used as tools for political pressure, which constitute crime against humanity. We seize this opportunity to call for the complete and immediate lifting of unilateral coercive measures, in order to ensure the full, effective and efficient response of all members of the international community to COVID-19. Global solidarity and international cooperation are the most powerful weapons in fighting and overcoming COVID-19.
  3. Global threats and global challenges require strong, global responses. Facing the virus, we should enhance solidarity and get this through together. We call on all parties to put aside the differences and to concentrate on facing the emergency and its serious consequences in the immediate future.
  4. We should stay true to multilateralism and safeguard the international system with the UN at its core. Global governance should be based on the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits so as to ensure that all countries enjoy equal rights and opportunities and follow the same rules.
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