What's In Blue

Posted Fri 23 Jul 2021

Consultations on Resolution 2565 on the Equitable Distribution of the COVID-19 Vaccine

On Monday (26 July), Security Council members will hold in-person closed consultations to discuss the implementation of resolution 2565 of 26 February on the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support Oscar Fernandez-Taranco and Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ramesh Rajasingham are expected to brief. The UK, which was the penholder on resolution 2565, requested Monday’s session.

Monday’s meeting will be the first Council session on the implementation of resolution 2565 since its adoption in February. The resolution demanded a humanitarian pause to facilitate the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in areas of armed conflict, while reiterating the Council’s demand from resolution 2532 of 1 July 2020 for a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda. Resolution 2565 additionally called for the strengthening of national and multilateral approaches and international cooperation, such as the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, to facilitate equitable and affordable access to the COVID-19 vaccine in conflict and post-conflict situations and in humanitarian emergencies. It was co-sponsored by all 15 Council members, making it a presidential text.

Fernandez-Taranco is likely to reiterate key messages from previous Council meetings on the COVID-19 pandemic. These include recalling the link between the pandemic, vaccine access, and international peace and security. UN officials have often stressed that the global health crisis has exacerbated conflict drivers through its socioeconomic consequences and by raising political tensions. At a 25 January briefing on the implementation of resolution 2532, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo asserted that inequalities in the global recovery and the failure to vaccinate in developing countries, including countries affected by conflict and instability, would be “a severe blow to peace and security”. At Monday’s meeting, Fernandez-Taranco may highlight the important role of vaccines in conflict prevention and note that the longer the pandemic lasts, the worse its secondary effects will become and the greater risks it will present to peace and security.

Rajasingham is expected to report that the impact of the pandemic in humanitarian settings has worsened as infections and deaths from COVID-19 have increased in almost every fragile setting that the Council follows. He is likely to call for the international community’s continued support in responding to the rise in cases and to the pandemic’s secondary effects. Despite the call contained in resolution 2565 for equitable vaccine distribution, Rajasingham is likely to note that vaccines have not reached conflict settings in considerable quantities. Among other points, he may also address the hesitancy of many communities to be vaccinated.

Since the adoption of resolution 2565, the vaccine rollout in lower- and middle-income countries has been slow. However, with large supplies of the vaccine expected to become available later this year and in early 2022, one of the UK’s apparent objectives in calling for Monday’s consultations is to discuss preparations for coordination structures and capacities, such as logistical arrangements and trained healthcare workers, to be in place to successfully distribute the COVID-19 vaccines. The briefers and several Council members may also highlight the principle of non-discrimination and the need to reach all groups, such as internally displaced persons, as part of national vaccine distribution plans.

Some members are likely to raise concerns about the unequal distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to date between wealthy and lower-income countries, despite resolution 2565 and the creation of COVAX to address this problem. COVAX had announced its intention to deliver two billion doses of vaccine worldwide during 2021, and to provide 1.8 billion doses to 92 lower-income economies by early 2022. However, as at 23 July, COVAX had only distributed 136 million doses. The COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year in India was a significant contributing factor to the slow start as India restricted vaccine exports, which had “a severe impact on COVAX’s supply in the second quarter of this year”, according to a 27 May statement by COVAX’s co-leads—the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi)—and their main implementing partner UNICEF.

During Monday’s session, Council members may refer to efforts to scale up COVAX’s distribution of vaccines. A virtual summit on 2 June secured pledges of $2.4 billion, with Japan pledging the largest amount of $800 million. According to a GAVI press release, the donor funds will allow it to secure 1.8 billion doses for lower-income countries by early 2022. The summit generated an additional $775 million in pledges for vaccine delivery. Several days later, on 13 June, the Group of Seven countries (G7) committed to sharing at least 870 million doses for countries in need through COVAX. Some speakers at Monday’s meeting may emphasise the need for donors to disburse their pledges to COVAX and for the vaccine to be distributed expeditiously.

Council members are likely to reiterate the need for parties to conflict to heed the Council’s demand in resolution 2532 for a ceasefire in all situations on its agenda to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Some members may also ask the briefers what more the Security Council can do to support vaccine distribution and to facilitate humanitarian access for vaccine distribution. Concerns may also be raised during the session about pandemic responses in specific conflict situations.