U.N. Chief Calls Pandemic Biggest Global Challenge Since World War II

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres attends the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council's main annual session in Geneva on Feb. 24, 2020 . (Getty Images)

The Washington Post

April 1st, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak sickening hundreds of thousands around the world and devastating the global economy is creating a challenge for the world not seen since World War II, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said late Tuesday.

Speaking in a virtual news conference, Guterres said the world needs to show more solidarity and cooperation in fighting not only the medical aspects of the crisis but the economic fallout. The International Monetary Fund is predicting an economic recession worse than in 2008.

“It is a combination, on one hand, of a disease that represents a threat to everybody in the world and, second, because it has an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past,” he said. “This is, indeed, the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War.”

While acknowledging that wealthier developed countries have been hard hit by the crisis, Guterres emphasized a need for them to bolster the health-care systems of poorer nations that could buckle under the weight of the crisis.

“Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world,” he said. He warned that if the virus is left unchecked in the developing world, it would soon spread all over again.

He added that these countries’ economies will need to be assisted as well in the face of the coming global recession.

“We must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the International Monetary Fund,” he said, calling for further debt alleviation for developing countries.

He also recommended that once the crisis has passed, the global socioeconomic order should not return to how it has been.

“Everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and the many other global challenges we face,” he said.


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