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Recovery from COVID-19 pandemic demands new commitment to multilateralism – UN expert

NEW YORK (22 October 2021) – The world needs a strong renewed commitment to multilateralism to defeat an ever-mutating virus that does not respect borders and to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, a human rights expert told the UN General Assembly today.

“Instead of an effective global and inclusive approach, what we have is a ‘two-track pandemic,’ where high-income countries with access to vaccines are already beginning to relax safety measures, but others with no or limited access to vaccines are facing a very precarious future,” said Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the most severe crisis the world has faced since the Second World War, with almost five million people dead and more than 241 million people infected around the world,” he said in delivering a report to the General Assembly. “In just one year, there has been a staggering increase of 40 percent in the number of people needing humanitarian assistance and protection, with the figure now standing at 235 million.”

Equitable access to vaccines has been hampered by vaccine nationalism, bans on exports of raw materials for vaccines, and lack of funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, the global collaboration intended to speed up development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, he said.

Sewanyana called for comprehensive multilateral action, including adequate funding for the World Health Organization, an overhaul of the global tax system, establishment of a global fund for social protection and introduction of an emergency universal basic income.


Mr. Livingstone SewanyanaIndependent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, took up his functions on 1 May 2018. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), a Ugandan civil society organization. A lawyer by profession and advocate of the High Court of Uganda, he holds a PhD in Public Law from the University of Cape Town (South Africa). Mr. Sewanyana is recipient of several awards for his scholarly and professional work, the most recent being a Regional CEO Award (2017), the NACOBA Service Award (2016), the European Union Human Rights Defender Award (2015). He has written and published widely on human rights, corporate governance, public sector management and access to justice.

Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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In New York, please contact Mr. Nenad Vasic (vasic@un.org, +1 917 941 7558)

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (
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