By Ambassador Hélène Cavé, Head of the EU Delegation to Liberia
May 9 is Europe Day. 70 years ago, on 9 May 1950, five years after the end of the Second World War, French Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Schuman proposed a joint authority to oversee French and German production of coal and steel. Old enemies became partners and allies. This decision changed the course of European history for the best, and started an ambitious, though complex, project of European integration.
Today the European Union (EU) is a living project of peace, unity, common values and solidarity. We are the first trading partner of most countries, and first provider of development and humanitarian aid, investing more than all the rest of the world combined. We are committed to multilateralism and international cooperation to address global challenges. We are working with partner countries and organizations around the world to protect and promote peace, security, human rights and sustainable development. We are investing in clean energy and fighting climate change; promoting gender equality and defending the most vulnerable.
Today the world is facing a global challenge that has captured all of us by surprise, and is affecting every country and every aspect of our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought suffering to millions of people worldwide. It has shut down public life in many parts of the world. It has badly hit our economies, putting livelihoods at risk and questioning our common future.
We all have a stake in this. In our interconnected and interdependent world, we will not truly be safe until all of us are safe, across every village, city, region and country. We need international cooperation and solidarity, in the common interest of all. If one fails, we all fail. Therefore, the EU and its Member States are responding to this crisis and its severe consequences at home and abroad. While we support our citizens, we also need to assist our partner countries worldwide to address the impact of the pandemic on their livelihoods, economies, social cohesion and stability.
To fight COVID-19 on a global scale, the EU announced on April 8 the allocation of more than EUR 20 billion, equivalent to more than US$ 21 billion, to support our partner countries’ efforts in tackling the pandemic. The EU’s response follows a Team Europe approach, combining resources from the EU, its Member States, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The EU is also one of the main donors to the response led by the World Health Organization (WHO). We have committed EUR 114 million, or US$123 million, to the UN Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan led by the WHO to support countries with vulnerable health systems.
On May 4, the European Commission registered EUR 7.4 billion, or US$ 8 billion, in pledges from donors worldwide at a Coronavirus Global Response pledging event, and contributed with a pledge of EUR 1.4 billion, or US$ 1.5 billion, in response to the call to action from the WHO and other global health actors. The EU is supporting the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global cooperation platform to accelerate and scale-up research, development, universal access and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and life-saving treatments in response to COVID-19.
The EU is concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Liberia, on the health, economic, social and humanitarian fronts. The virus is already affecting Liberian livelihoods and the economy. The EU and its Member States will support the response of the Liberian authorities to protect and sustain those in need, as well as the economy, in the short and medium terms. We are working with the authorities and other international partners to respond to the country’s needs. The EU will mobilize around EUR 14.75 million, or US$ 15.9 million, from our Budget Support Programme and other projects. A disbursement of EUR 6.25 million, or US$ 6.7 million, is expected to be completed before the end of May. The EU will work with the Liberian authorities and other international partners to maximize the use of the funds mobilized. We count on the Liberian Government to have full transparency and accountability of these funds. EU citizens need to know and understand how their money is used during this crisis, within the EU but also abroad.
Respect for human rights must remain at the heart of the fight against COVID-19. This crisis is affecting in particular people in vulnerable situations. Response measures must take into account the needs of those who are living in poverty, women who may be subjected to sexual and gender-based violence, children who may be abused or maltreated, older people, persons with disabilities, or prisoners. Emergency measures must be implemented and enforced in a proportionate way, fully respecting the human rights of all. In addition, this crisis should not be used to limit fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press and access to information. It should neither be used to spread disinformation that can put lives in danger, or to stigmatize people, including persons tested positive and those close to them.
The threat of this virus is real. We need to protect ourselves to protect others, and protect others to protect ourselves. Together, we can stop this virus if we all do our part; if we practice social distancing, wear masks and face shields, wash our hands, avoid touching our face, clean our houses, call 4455 in case of suspect symptoms, and collaborate with health workers to trace contacts and isolate people who need to be isolated to protect others.
This pandemic has also brought the best out of humanity. Our modern day heroes are now our healthcare workers and those who are every day on the front line to help us. Small acts of solidarity, generosity, love and kindness are spreading around the world. We will defeat the virus and come through these hard times together. And the EU will continue to be with Liberia and Liberians during and after these challenging times.