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Jaishankar backs multilateral systems reform amid calls for changes at WHO

At a video conference of the foreign ministers of BRICS, Jaishankar said, "Covid-19 is not only posing great risk to health, well-being of humanity but is also severely impacting global economy."

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: April 29, 2020 8:59:42 am
S Jaishankar at the BRICS Foreign Ministers meeting on coronavirus. (Source: Jaishankar/Twitter)

In an oblique reference to reforming the World Health Organisation, India on Tuesday said the current challenge emanating out of COVID-19 pandemic underlines the need for “reform of multilateral systems” and that “reformed multilateralism was the way forward”.

New Delhi’s position was articulated by External Affairs minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday, at a virtual meeting with the Foreign ministers of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) countries. This was their first meeting since the pandemic erupted in the world stage, although Jaishankar has spoken to them separately earlier. PM Narendra Modi has also spoken about the need to reform WHO earlier during the G-20 leaders’ summit in March.

He also informed the BRICS Foreign ministers that India is providing pharma assistance to nearly 85 nations, including many countries in Africa, on a grant basis, to support their response to the pandemic.

He also emphasized that the pandemic is not only posing a great risk to the health and well being of humanity but is also “severely impacting global economy and output by disruption of global trade and supply chains”.

“Economic activity across sectors has been negatively impacted leading to loss of jobs and livelihoods. He emphasized that we need to provide support to businesses, especially MSMEs, to tide over the crisis and ensure livelihoods are not lost,” Jaishankar said, outlining the economic challenges ahead.

The External Affairs minister also pointed out that the efficacy of traditional medicine systems to strengthen immunity should be recognized and that BRICS should support these efforts.

“He emphasized that the current challenge underlines all the more the need for reform of multilateral systems and that reformed multilateralism was the way forward. He referred to the centrality of development and growth in the global agenda,” an official statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said, at the end of the meeting.

The video conference was convened by the current BRICS chair, Russia Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, and was attended by Chinese Foreign minister & State Councillor Wang Yi, Brazil Foreign minister Ernesto Araújo and South African Foreign minister Grace Naledi Pandor.

Convened in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the statement said that the discussions centred around COVID-19 crisis, its impact and BRICS response. The BRICS Foreign Ministers also discussed the activities to be undertaken under Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020.

In his remarks, Jaishankar said that BRICS, which brings together almost 42 percent of global population, with impressive growth, investment and trade share, has an important role to play in shaping the global economic and political architecture.

According to the statement, he also highlighted the initiatives and various decisive steps taken early by India in the wake of the pandemic including through Aarogya Setu Citizen App and Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package. He highlighted that much before the outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern by WHO, India instituted measures to check Corona Virus. He apprised the BRICS Foreign Ministers about the initiative to coordinate efforts to contain COVID-19 in South Asia, and creation of COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund by the SAARC countries, the statement said.

India also reaffirmed its strong support for Russian BRICS Chairship in 2020 and the overall theme of “BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth”.

“A virtual meeting of BRICS Health Officials is envisaged on COVID-19 pandemic on 7th May, 2020 to take the discussion forward in a focussed and purposeful manner,” the statement said.

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