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STATEMENT: GLOBAL HEALTH AND FOREIGN POLICY [ITEM 131], 7 DECEMBER 2020

STATEMENT BY 
MR. MOHD HAFIZ OTHMAN 
MINISTER COUNSELLOR 
PERMANENT MISSION OF MALAYSIA TO THE UNITED NATIONS

ON ITEM 131: GLOBAL HEALTH AND FOREIGN POLICY

AT THE PLENARY MEETING OF 
THE 75TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

NEW YORK, 7 DECEMBER 2020

 

 

 

Mr. President,

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees – a real-life example of the butterfly effect where small deviations can have big consequences. We have witnessed the extent of a single virus that claimed the lives of over 1.4 million people globally. It is indeed a human crisis compounded by severe health and socio-economic consequences.

2.   We are often advised to think big. But sometimes we need to start thinking small. The world is over-armed with billions of dollars spent including on weapons of mass destruction that could cause catastrophic harm to human. And yet, collectively, we were not fully prepared to fight against this invisible enemy. While the COVID-19 crisis is sending shockwaves around the globe, low-income developing countries are in a particularly difficult position to respond to the pandemic.

3.   The challenges we confront today are more than just about the pandemic, but rather about the world that is coming into being as a result of the global health crisis vis-à-vis our response to it. We have seen stronger calls for a coordinated global response. At the same time, we are also threatened by the consequences of some unilateral actions. 

Mr. President,

4.   Malaysia believes that a strong health system is crucial for our nation but also our common and global security and prosperity. It is patently obvious by now that no nation can defeat a global disease with local responses. While countries need strong public health systems, those systems need to engage, learn, and cooperate with one another. My Foreign Minister on 3 December at the 31st Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in response to COVID-19 stated and I quote "Our national measures must be supported by a concerted global effort. Interdependency and solidarity must be the order of the day; in the name of our joint destiny, our shared humanity, and the value of our common hope”.

5.   Malaysia, for its part, will continue to contribute actively to this endeavor. We are pleased to host one of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) regional hubs - World Food Programme (WFP) that provides supply chain solutions to the international humanitarian community, including humanitarian relief cargo shipment to support COVID-19 global operations.

6.   In addition, Malaysia hosts a World Health Organization (WHO) representative office with six collaborative and research centres operating in four government agencies and two public universities. Malaysia is also proud to host the WHO Global Service Centre to support the Agency's pivotal work.

7.   A multilateral approach and international solidarity is the only way forward to safeguard our common future. Malaysia continues to call for a vaccine that is accessible, equitable, and affordable. We also believe that a vaccine, once developed - must promote international collaboration rather than nationalistic competition. In this context, Malaysia, decided to join the global COVID-19 vaccine development platform, Covax Facility to ensure eventual vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live.

Mr. President,

8.   Health plays a crucial role in economic and social development and the conduct of our foreign policy and international relations. At the United Nations, health is an integrated element in a number of different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Improving health and access to health services for all has a direct impact on poverty reduction, ending hunger, education, and peaceful societies, among others. As such, progress on health only means progress towards realizing Agenda 2030.

9.   Malaysia also believes that nations need to prepare for the uncertainties and equip their societies to be resilient. In this regard, the healthcare system should be affordable and accessible for all. Effective Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Malaysia has been achieved in the 1990s. The Government of Malaysia provides highly subsidized healthcare for all residents through its extensive network of public hospitals and clinics. A comprehensive range of services is covered, including health promotion, disease prevention, curative, and rehabilitative care. All residents of Malaysia are able to access these services with minimal payments, while services for disadvantaged populations such as the poor, disabled, and the elderly are provided free of charge.

10.  This creates a strong safety net, ensuring that no one is denied access to needed healthcare, regardless of ability to pay. The WHO continues to acknowledge Malaysia as providing quality health care services based on its high performing health care system and well-trained workforce.

Mr. President,

11.  The principal goal of every nation's foreign policy is to uphold national security and interests. At the same time, Malaysia is convinced that foreign policy and international relations must be guided by the values of global solidarity, humanity, and cooperation. Malaysia will continue to profess these linkages within its immediate geographical region as well as through broader memberships such as the United Nations.

Thank you.