Technology » Science

UN Chief Says Misinformation About COVID-19 is New Enemy

by Edith M. Lederer .
Sunday Mar 29, 2020
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses his statement, during the opening of the High-Level Segment of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses his statement, during the opening of the High-Level Segment of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020  (Source:Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday the world is not only fighting the "common enemy" of the coronavirus "but our enemy is also the growing surge of misinformation" about COVID-19 disease.

To overcome the virus, he said, "we need to urgently promote facts and science" and "promote hope and solidarity over despair and division."

Guterres said the U.N. is launching a COVID-19 Communications for Solidarity Initiative to rapidly inform people about the facts and science, "and promote and inspire acts of humanity around the world."

The U.N. chief also urged all nations "to stand up against the increase in hate crimes targeting individuals and groups perceived to be associated with the coronavirus." He didn't identify any targets but Asians, and especially ethnic Chinese, have reported being singled out for attacks.

Miguel Moratinos, head of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations, and Adama Dieng, the U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, issued a joint statement Thursday expressing grave concern at the increase in stigma, hate speech and hate crimes over the pandemic.

"We are all facing the same enemy, one which is invisible, rapidly advancing, taking lives away and causing havoc indiscriminately," they said. "But allowing it to tear apart the fabric of our societies is perhaps one of the most serious upheavals that the COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting upon our world."

Guterres also urged countries to help achieve a positive response to his call for warring parties everywhere "to silence the guns and instead to help create corridors for life-saving aid and open precious windows for diplomacy."

The secretary-general called for countries to respond generously to the U.N. humanitarian appeal for $2 billion to fund the fight against COVID-19 in the world's poorest countries.

"We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable — millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves," Guterres said. "Recovery must address the inequalities, including gender inequalities, that are leaving so many more people vulnerable to social and economic shocks."

He spoke at the first joint video briefing for the 193 U.N. member nations that also included the presidents of the Security Council, General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council as well as a question and answer session. The video failed for about 10 minutes while the secretary-general was speaking, but then resumed.

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