The new president of the U.N. General Assembly called for global cooperation in his first speech in office, saying that some countries had been using the pandemic as an excuse to act unilaterally.
Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, who took the helm of the 75-year-old institution on Tuesday, told diplomats that “social distancing will not help at the international level” and that no nation can tackle the pandemic alone. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that a coronavirus vaccine is distributed equitably, calling it a “most profound” ethical issue.
Bozkir also called for a “frank, transparent and results-oriented dialogue” about how efforts to control the virus failed and what needs to be done to prevent a similar situation in future. He said the pandemic has empowered critics of multilateralism to become more vocal, with some questioning the need for the global community to work in concert.
“These criticisms are not baseless,” he said, “But their conclusions are misguided.”
The president pointed to the masks worn by other General Assembly members in the room as a reminder that “we are in this together.” Though the annual summit of world leaders will mostly take place virtually this year, Bozkir’s opening remarks were attended by some diplomats in a chamber reconfigured for social distancing, according to the Associated Press.