STATEMENT BY MR. TSOGTBAATAG DAMDIN, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF MONGOLIA AT THE OPENING PLENARY OF THE 76TH SESSION OF ESCAP

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Taking this opportunity, I would like to share briefly my opinion and initiative regarding the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

The coronavirus attack is affecting every life and every nation on this earth regardless of its wealth and power. The COVID-19 crisis compels us to reflect on what we have not thought through well and revisit our values, attitudes, approaches and actions.

In the world confronted by longstanding, emerging, and reemerging infectious disease threats, there is an essential need to enhance the WHO’s global outreach and role. With this view in mind, I would like to put forward an initiative to establish Medical Rapid Deployment Units (MRDU) at the level of regions under the oversight of the WHO. For the world as a whole, I believe, this would be a more intelligent and responsible investment for the security of the people vis-à-vis the conventional practice of creating military Rapid Deployment Units. In the event of an epidemic or pandemic, regardless of the state or administrative boundaries, an MRDU could be deployed in an area where there is an outbreak of a disease with the mission to provide integrated management, guidelines, instructions and recommendations and, where necessary, it may help setting up quarantine regimes etc. Also the MRDUs may create and manage regional warehouses and supply hubs of medical inventories, stockpile of clothes, face masks, personal protective equipment on a revolving basis. The MRDUs would have a register or list of regional doctors and medical personnel to be mobilized in case of an epidemic, which would have regular joint training exercises to ensure their inter-operability at times of need. In other words, we reckon that the government expenditure and fiscal priorities should change in favor of medical preparedness. Furthermore, it would be reasonable to impose moratorium on and cut the defence spending and transfer it to the global health spending.

The WHO HQ is currently reviewing our proposal for MRDU. We hope the regional countries would support this initiative and cooperate with us for its realization. In the meantime, we would like to commend the Chinese initiative to set up a regional bilateral mechanism of medical and health consultations, which we found efficient in overcoming the pre-post-lockdown resumption of economic interaction.

We also view that, eventually, after the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO should enjoy a much higher standing akin to that of the WTO.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

It is evident that life after the prolonged coronavirus lockdown would be different than before. Many desire to wait out the outbreak to return to normalcy. I am afraid we will step in to the age of health-based new normal.

We already experience it in our timid attempt and endeavor to resume our trade activities with China. First thing we are learning is that we, on both sides, need to restore confidence in our health and medical arrangements, i.e. we are facing the need to engage in medical confidence building measures. This involves a more efficient, transparent and frequent exchange of medical data on the people, health preventive systems and institutions, which serve as the basis for developing confidence in the health safety of the people, means of transportation and goods. The confidence building process, we observe, is gradual, but progressive. It requires mutual respect and understanding of each other’s legitimate cautiousness at the beginning. Also, we found that in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown opening there are many arrangements that at first sight look like health-driven barriers, but, in fact, completely unrelated thereto. Therefore, such measures constitute unnecessary bureaucratic barriers. Often they are nothing more than self-inflicting barriers, which is why they need to be identified as soon as possible in order to prevent the pandemic damage in the field of the economy.

In our region, Mongolia so far has the lowest number of COVID-19 infected people. We have zero case of in-country virus transmission as well as the zero fatality. The infection is contained within the quarantine and has not penetrated into the community. This situation portrayed through the documentation, transparent and verifiable exchange of information between health and safety institutions of the two countries, as well as the regular testing of the people involved in the exports of products from Mongolia is serving as a strong guarantee of the safety of trade with Mongolia for China. For us as well, the efficiency of the policies and measures, taken by the Chinese government in combating the virus, along with the willful exchange of the data as per their health safety policies, has also given us certain confidence to open up our borders for the commerce. As a result of such intensive medical confidence building measures the trade between Mongolia and China has been gradually increasing. We gather that similar exercise will be needed elsewhere in the process of resumption of trade and commerce between other countries as well.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

As you are well aware, amid this challenging time, the coronavirus-related discrimination has been on the rise and other types of discrimination continue to exist.

We regret that in spite of our genuine and most transparent efforts toward the economic development and social well-being, our country was identified, without prior notice, consultations and a simple opportunity to explain, as a country, that has strategic deficiencies in our banking and financial system, thus, posing threats to the European Union’s financial system. In the meantime, we have been making progress in reforming and changing our financial system which is being recognized and commended by the relevant international authorities.

We consider that this is the time to be united in the fight against the Corona and not the time to coronate each other with labels and lists.  This time should be exploited for overcoming difficulties associated with the pandemic, and such efforts ought to be supported, not discouraged by bigger and wealthier countries and their groupings.

At the end, please allow me to echo the appeal of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that we should use the pandemic to provide a foundation for a safe, healthy, inclusive and more resilient world for all.

 

Thank you for your attention.