World leaders criticize haphazard response to pandemic

Full Screen
1 / 8

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Member state flags fly outside the United Nations headquarters during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. This year's annual gathering of world leaders at U.N. headquarters will be almost entirely "virtual." Leaders have been asked to pre-record their speeches, which will be shown in the General Assembly chamber, where each of the 193 U.N. member nations are allowed to have one diplomat present. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

TANZANIA – World leaders gathering remotely Wednesday criticized a haphazard global response to a microscopic virus that has unleashed economic havoc and taken nearly 1 million lives in its march across the globe. In the words of Kazakhstan’s president, it was “a critical collapse of global cooperation.”

“Our world has been turned upside down,” said Ghana's president, Nana Akufo-Addo. “We all fell together and looked into the abyss together.”

The coronavirus pandemic and its consequences topped the list of concerns on the second day of prerecorded speeches by world leaders at the General Assembly’s first virtual high-level meeting. Countries large and small spoke about struggling to deal with its impact without international coordination.

Pleas for the world to work together to combat the scourge and other global problems have taken the forefront at this week's U.N. gathering that itself was altered by the virus.

“A pandemic is by definition a global challenge” and requires a global response, but COVID-19 “has unfortunately revealed how we are tempted to react to immediate threats — nationally, not internationally,” said Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto.

Instead of uniting behind multilateral efforts to tackle the coronavirus, he said, “we witnessed a series of national responses,” which “raise concerns on how we will be able to combat other global challenges.”

Kazakhstan's president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, warned that the world is “coming close to what some have already called a state of ‘global disfunction’” as a result of the pandemic, and the global system is now “on the verge of dramatic upheavals that may lead to irreversible consequences.”

“Now is a make-or-break moment for the humankind,” he warned.