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UN chief appreciates critically important partnership between US and UN

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed his appreciation for the critically important and strong partnership between the US and the UN in responding to pressing global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, peace and security crises and increasing threats to human rights, during a phone conversation with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The US State Department said that in an introductory call with Guterres on Thursday, Blinken underscored the US commitment to multilateral cooperation and praised the role of the United Nations as the indispensable anchor of the multilateral system.

A readout of the conversation issued by the UN said Guterres expressed his appreciation for the critically important and strong partnership between the United States and the United Nations in building multilateral responses to pressing global challenges, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, multiple peace and security crises and the increasing threats all pose to human rights.

The Secretary-General particularly welcomed the United States rejoining the Paris Agreement, re-engagement with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Human Rights Council. Guterres and Blinken also discussed a range of concerning situations around the world, including Syria and Yemen.

A statement issued by State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Blinken expressed US interest in close coordination with the UN on the many challenges the world faces today, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change.

Underscoring President Biden’s focus on bringing the pandemic under control, the Secretary praised the central role the UN and UN agencies play in coordinating our global response, highlighted the US re-engagement with the World Health Organization, and expressed our deepened focus on promoting health and advancing global health security, the State Department said.

Blinken noted that strengthening and reforming the WHO will better position it to prevent, detect, and respond to future pandemics.

On climate change, Blinken highlighted the US return to the Paris Agreement and welcomed UN cooperation in confronting the global climate crisis.

Immediately after his inauguration as US President last month, Joe Biden had signed an executive order saying Washington is rejoining the Paris climate accord.

Former president Donald Trump had announced his decision to withdraw the US from the historic Paris Agreement on climate change in June 2017 and America was out of the pact on November 4, 2020, joining only two other nations on the planet – Syria and Nicaragua – which were not part of the climate accord.

Angry at the WHO for its handling of the coronavirus, which he had termed China virus due to its origin in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Trump had halted funding to the global health agency last year.

His administration had also formally notified the United Nations of its decision to withdraw the US from the Geneva-based WHO.

The US rejoined the WHO in one of the first official orders of the Biden presidency, reversing a key foreign policy decision by Trump.

In a letter to Guterres on the first day of his presidency, Biden had said that the United States intends to remain a member of the WHO.

The WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security. The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security,” Biden had said.

Earlier this week, Blinken said President Biden has instructed the Department of State to re-engage immediately and robustly with the UN Human Rights Council.

We recognise that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” Blinken said.

“However, our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of US leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage, he said.

Blinken has said that in the immediate term, the US will engage with the Council as an observer, and in that capacity will have the “opportunity to speak in the Council, participate in negotiations, and partner with others to introduce resolutions.”