How the Coronavirus Pandemic is Impacting the United Nations

The United Nations Secretary General says that the UN is “open for business,” despite an order that all non-essential staff work remotely. “Our work will be done from different locations, using different technologies,” said Antonio Guterres as he issued an order for non-essential personnel to avoid the UN headquarters in New York and its large offices in Geneva and Nairobi.

The United Nations, though, is stressing that it’s work around the world, including peacekeeping and humanitarian relief, remain a priority. From UN News Center

The UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, briefed journalists in New York hours before the extension of remote working advisory, and said there were two chief concerns, firstly, keeping everyone safe who works in the UN complex, or who visits under normal times, and helping New York City to flatten the curve of COVID-19 as it spreads.

“The second priority in parallel is to make sure that the UN’s work continues.  We have 100,000 peacekeepers out in the field, tens of thousands of humanitarian workers that will need to be supported.  And I can assure you that, whether it’s Ms. [Rosemary] DiCarlo, Mr. [Jean-Pierre] Lacroix, Mr. [Mark] Lowcock…All the other senior managers are fully focused on ensuring that the work will continue and that the support will continue.”

This order was issued just a day-and-a-half after I spoke with Margaret Besheer, the UN correspondent for Voice of America, who discusses how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the life and work of the United Nations. We kick off discussing the role of the World Health Organization in managing the global response to COVID-19 before having a broader conversation about how the coronavirus is affecting daily diplomacy at the United Nations, including the work of the Security Council and UN peacekeeping.


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