SCO Foreign Ministers support biosafety initiative

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SCO Foreign Ministers support biosafety initiative 10.06.2020 11:22


Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, all countries are forced to adapt to new realities and the SCO member states are no exception. At an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the SCO member states, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov proposed the adoption of a Statement on Biosafety at the upcoming summit in St. Petersburg. The document provides for a number of collective measures and efforts of the member countries of the Organization to ensure biosafety in the SCO space.

Sergey Lavrov praised the work of medical experts of the SCO countries, and also announced the upcoming meeting of health ministers on May 28 in a video conference format. According to Lavrov, the meeting will give new dynamics and quality of work to combat the pandemic.

The SCO Secretary General Vladimir Norov, who also took part in the meeting, pointed out the need to develop and adopt at the upcoming SCO summit a comprehensive plan of action of the Organization’s member states to build countries' potential in the field of medicine. This plan should include professional development, joint research and development of vaccines.

The readiness of the SCO member states to jointly implement a plan to build capacity in the field of medicine was assessed by Alexander Lukin, head of the HSE Department of International Relations.

He recalled that in the SCO, all decisions are taken by consensus, and countries such as Russia, India and China could be the main driving forces in the implementation of the package of measures for biosafety and increase the capacity of all SCO member countries.

The expert separately noted the effective measures taken by India in the fight against coronavirus. In his opinion, cooperation with India in this area will be extremely useful, given the accumulated potential of the Indian pharmaceutical industry.

During the meeting, the Indian Foreign Minister Subramanyam Jaishankar emphasized India’s strong commitment to jointly fight the pandemic, as well as the country's willingness to share experience and practice with all SCO member states.

Pakistan has supported collective efforts to combat infectious diseases. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Kureshi welcomed the initiative to combat epidemics and recalled the need to share experiences and learn from each other.

According to Lukin, if we are talking about the fight against infectious diseases, then they need to be fought on a global scale.

Today, the urgent issue is the search for a vaccine from COVID-19. Great expectations are placed on the World Health Organization. WHO strongly advocates the joint development of a vaccine by all countries and medical organizations. The WHO position is supported by many countries and regional structures. The European Commission, for example, notes that medicine should be a “global public good,” and access to it should be “fair and universal.”

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this approach. “The United States and several Western countries are opposed to providing vaccines to each state. They hope to find a cure first and make money on it” the expert said.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi also spoke at the meeting. He stated that the SCO should continue to uphold the “Shanghai Spirit”, especially during the spread of COVID-19. It is necessary to strengthen the cohesion and coordination of views in the Organization for an early victory over the pandemic. Wang Yi made the proposal to establish the SCO Infectious Disease Data Center, as well as to develop a mechanism for joint prevention and control of epidemics in the border areas of the SCO member states.

Commenting on the Chinese initiative, Lukin noted that WHO already has a mechanism for exchanging data that states provide. “However, within the framework of the SCO, it is possible to create an international system in which indicators will also be evaluated, and developed countries will be able to assist others,” Lukin said.

In conclusion, the expert noted that if we combine the experience of Russia in organizing work on the fight against viruses, India, known for its pharmaceuticals, and China, with its rich experience in epidemiological work, then we can create an effective international center corresponding to the level of the SCO Secretariat and the RATS.