Beijing, 22 July 2020 – A Dialogue between the UN in China and the African Ambassadors in Beijing was held today about the UN Framework for the Immediate Socio-economic Response to COVID-19. It was organized in partnership with the African Union Mission in China and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Dr. Vera Songwe, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the UNECA, Mr. Rahamtalla M. Osman, African Union Representative, Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UN Resident Coordinator in China a.i. and over 40 ambassadors and senior officials from African countries and UN Country Team joined the meeting online and in person at the UN Compound.
The world is now grappling with the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic: the tens of thousands of lost lives; the broken families; the overwhelmed hospitals; the overworked essential workers and the soaring unemployment rate. Across the world , the pandemic has deepened inequalities within and between countries, exacerbated, and reversed the progress of poverty reduction.
As the first country to suffer the impact of COVID-19 and as one of the first to emerge from the worst period of socioeconomic shock, China is well positioned to provide expertise for recovery, through actions including tight epidemic control and containment, phased loosening of control measures, and a staggered return to production and work. These measures could offer potential lessons for countries in Africa, to be adapted to fit local contexts and capacities. China’s recovery has not been complete, and the health and socio-economic challenges that remain, particularly in regard to vulnerable population groups, will be of great relevance to partner countries.
The dialogue offered a timely opportunity for UN and African officials to exchange views on how China’s experience in the pandemic period could be adapted by countries in Africa; what role could China play to help Africa in combating COVID-19 apart from providing medical supplies; and how could China, UN and Africa could work together under the widely adopted UN Socioeconomic Framework to prioritize and sequence policy responses to COVID-19 and post-pandemic recovery.
Dr. Vera Songwe recognized China’s contributions to Africa through donation of critical medical supplies and the debt service suspension initiative (DSSI). She stated in her remarks that the UN family will continue its contributions to support ‘building back better’ and noted that UNECA has already initiated important avenues of collaboration between the UN and Chinese entities on the African continent. The African Union Representative highlighted the need for a comprehensive multi-sectoral set of interventions that goes into the medium- and long-term, incorporating the involvement and expertise from both private and public sectors, to equalise opportunities and ensure human security.
“There is a real need for coordinated global response, especially on debt sustainability for low and lower middle-income countries” stressed Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, UN Resident Coordinator in China a.i., who also added “We will keep to the commitments we have made and follow up on sharing best practices and ideas for engagement on adapting the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) action plan, going down to country-level impacts.”
Participating embassies and UN agencies shared recent findings of impact studies from respective specialized fields and discussed the priority areas for China, UN and Africa to work together in response to COVID-19 and the aftermath recovery.
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Ms. Louise Xi LI, Head of Communications, UN Resident Coordinator’s Office
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UN China-African Ambassadors’ Dialogue in Beijing