Developing countries are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic's economic effects disproportionately, world leaders have warned at the general debate of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The debate continued on Wednesday with real-time and pre-recorded video messages from 29 heads of state and government, calling for more finance to and more say by developing countries.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stressed the vital need to adopt more initiatives on development financing and debt relief to support developing countries so that they can emerge from uncertainty.
His country has suffered greatly from the pandemic, he said. Tourism in particular, a sector that supports nearly 14 percent of the population, has been devastated, along with small- and medium-sized businesses in many other sectors.
Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo also expressed concern about the current structure of global economic organizations, stressing that they have proved inadequate for developing countries and calling for a constructive review based on equity, sustainability, and collective prosperity.
Indeed, key multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund or World Health Organization (WHO), must be repositioned to reflect inclusiveness and representative coverage with diverse leaders at the table, he said, adding that admitting the African Union to an expanded Group of Twenty (G20) would have a galvanizing affect.
An increase in representation would redefine global policy and allow for a more inclusive, sustainable world, he noted.
Surinamese President Chandrikapersad Santokhi called for the development of a post-pandemic strategy, with a focus on improving vaccination levels, rebuilding economies, and setting up a recovery fund with the support of international financial institutions and the private sector.
"Access to concessional financing is of critical importance in rebooting our economy," he said, calling for support of the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index, as proposed by the Small Island Developing States.
Some leaders reported on their own positive development solutions in the wake of the economic crisis, with Madagascan President Andry Nirina Rajoelina declaring: "We have seen we are not all equal" and countries such as his own have had to rely upon "home-grown solutions" as their "best weapon in this fight."
When people discuss developing countries, the "grim side of the story" is often foregrounded in the international arena.
Speaking of Africa, there is a tendency to darken the reality. "It is time for this perception to change," he said. "We must stop making use of these prejudices and move into new ideas."
Mongolian President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh said that thanks to the COVAX facility and support from other nations, 65 percent of his country's population has been vaccinated. Meanwhile, the spread of COVID-19 is decreasing, and the government is working towards re-establishing normalcy in everyday life.
The COVID-19 crisis also revealed that the health sector was just as important as defense, requiring better risk management and preparedness as well as greater investment, he noted.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez raised concerns about fair access to COVID-19 vaccines and how countries were being treated unequally amid efforts to distribute doses in a prompt, effective manner, urging the transformation of the global health system, including the WHO, to improve the situation and guarantee timely and equitable access to vaccines.
Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said the distribution of vaccines is the starting point to end the pandemic, as the world must now decide between a future of solidarity or one of greed, where states hoard life-saving doses.
Inoculation rates are less than 2 percent among least developed countries and the 16 member states of the Southern African Development Community, he warned.
With limited access to vaccines, Malawi turned to prevention, wielding a response plan that brought three waves of the pandemic under control without imposing lockdowns.
Describing another unlevel playing field, he said developed nations who pollute the planet must now pay the 100 billion U.S. dollars "cleaning fees" they pledged in the Paris Agreement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that like tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, fixing the climate change problem hinges on science, innovation and breakthroughs made possible by capitalism and free markets.
For its part, Britain is keeping its promise to provide 11.6 billion pounds (15.8 billion dollars) to help the rest of the world tackle climate change, with contributions by other states bringing the 100 billion dollars pledged to developing countries within touching distance.
Looking ahead to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Britain in November, he urged that "it is time for humanity to grow up" and show its capability of learning, maturing, and taking responsibility for the destruction it is inflicting on the planet and itself.