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31st Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in response to Covid-19

Mr. President,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Distinguished Representatives, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. First and foremost, allow me to take this opportunity to thank the Republic of Azerbaijan for initiating today’s Special Session of the General Assembly on Covid- 19. I would also like to thank the Republic of Azerbaijan and Canada for their commitment and dedication in co-facilitating the intergovernmental negotiations on the modalities for the organization of this Special Session. Excellencies, 2. This is a historic gathering of our General Assembly. Unfortunately, we are gathered not in New York, but from our own nations, among our own people, as we face these unchartered waters together.

3. A single virus has claimed the lives of over 1.4 million people worldwide, and has plunged us into a global economic recession. It has resulted in a health, economic, and social crisis – a potent concoction which if left unmanaged, could reverse decades of progress we have achieved together in the United Nations. 4. I speak to you today from Malaysia, as we are also facing the devastating impacts of Covid-19, undoubtedly the harshest we have seen in recent history, with an uncertain outlook on what the future brings for us.

5. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Malaysia’s aim was simple – deny the virus the destruction it seeks upon us, on our lives and more importantly, our livelihoods. Our action plan has been straight forward – secure our borders, entrench the “new normal” in our communities, and fortify the economy for our people. 6. Sadly though, over 300 Malaysians have lost their lives to the virus. But in comparative terms we have fared better than most, and for that, we are grateful. Excellencies, 7. Covid-19 has become the defining crisis of our generation, and unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Our path towards a full recovery will not be linear, and at each step of the way, nations will need to balance public health fears with economic and social concerns – making trade-offs based on our unique national circumstances. 8. But Your Excellencies, our national measures must be supported by a concerted global effort. Interdependency and solidarity must be the order of the day; in the name of our joint destiny, our shared humanity, and the value of our common hope.

9. The question remains – how do we get out of this? We need a vaccine – a vaccine that is accessible, a vaccine that is equitable, and a vaccine that is affordable. Our stand on this is clear – whoever finds it must share it. Not only is it a global responsibility, it is also a moral responsibility. Malaysia cannot stress this enough - a vaccine, once developed, must promote international collaboration rather than nationalistic competition.

10. While there have been some positive developments on this front, with several companies yielding positive results – offering us a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.

11. As soon as news of a vaccine breakthrough made headlines around the world, misinformation about forced vaccinations, DNA alterations, and fake accounts made the rounds. Global fears have been intensified by the immediacy of round the clock news cycles and unending streams of information, both accurate and false on social media. 12. The chief motive for this campaign? To mislead and undermine trust in medicine when it matters most, and ultimately prolong this pandemic. 13. It’s simple – misinformation costs lives, especially as we are preparing national vaccination plans for our people. Public awareness on the need to vaccinate is crucial to prevent a climate of fear and division during the roll-out phase. Anti-vaccination propaganda is not new, and is merely symptomatic of a larger issue at hand; which is the erosion of trust in authorities and experts, and science denialism. 14. Negativity, as an outcome of the propaganda must be addressed head-on. It would be a tragedy, if in our eagerness, dangerous supporters who campaign against the whole concept of vaccination be left to flourish – risking damaging influence on the masses, and threatening millions more lives. As much as Covid-19 presents itself as an invincible enemy, dangers of misinformation are real and presents itself as a setback to the progress we have made thus far. Excellencies, 15. Malaysia remains committed to work together with the United Nations, and all its member states. Multilateralism must continue to deliver for us and all nations. Yes, it may not be perfect, and much more must be done; but in facing humanity’s common challenge – working hand in hand is essential for us to advance our shared interests.

16. Tragic as the consequences have been, and we may not have seen the worst of it yet, we must remain vigilant in our efforts – determined to do everything in our power to work with each other to overcome this deadly virus. Togetherness, unity and progress – these are our values, these are the ties that bind us together to make the right choice for the future. A choice worthy of the people’s trust and of our times.

I thank you.

Hishammuddin Hussein

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia


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