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Amina Mohammed
Image: picture-alliance/empics/B. Lawless

UN: 'Me first' approach to coronavirus must end

John Silk
June 27, 2020

In a wide-ranging interview, Amina Mohammed told DW the world must show solidarity against coronavirus. She also said the Security Council needs reform and offered an olive branch to the US in its standoff with the WHO.


On the 75th anniversary of the founding charter of the United Nations, its deputy secretary-general said their had been a distinct lack of solidarity regarding the coronavirus outbreak. Amina Mohammed told DW that a number of countries displayed a "me first" attitude, when the world "needed to come together."

But "it's difficult when you put 193 countries together and you try to get agreement with different interests," she said.

Mohammed recognized that nations needed to look after their own interests first, before helping others, but now the time has come to work together. She said: "We understand that you need to put the oxygen mask on before you can reach out and help others," but now it is time to "help in that global response."

Read moreUN Charter: After 75 years, a stress test for global ideals

Looking for solutions

President Donald Trump has repeatedly issued threats to withdraw the United States from the UN's health arm, the World Health Organization (WHO), but Mohammed hopes to find a solution. She said: "When a member state as important as the United States has a challenge with the way and manner in which the United Nations work, we continue to hope that we can talk through that challenge and find the remedies for it."

She added: "Whether it is the WHO or any other agency, they are an important member of this family and we intend to try to keep them in the family. And I think that we have seen the secretary-general and the WHO leaning forward to try to resolve some of those challenges and concerns."

Read moreUnited Nations at 75: A rose for peace

Competing for a coronavirus vaccine

UN values remain intact

The UN was formed 75 years ago with the ashes of World War II still smoldering but Mohammed believes the body's "values remain as valid today as they did in 1945. And I think it's those values and the fact that we as an institution convene and continue to give hope to the aspirations of maintaining peace."

Mohammed said that were moments in its history when the peacekeeping organization could have "done better," such as in Rwanda, Myanmar and Syria.

However, Mohammed believes that the UN has always had the right intentions in some of the world's most fraught regions.

"I think people have lost their lives trying to do these things. And they did it with intention, with the values that we hold sacred," Mohammed said.

Read more'International community has failed completely' in Syria

Reform of the Security Council

When asked if she would support the reformation of the UN Security Council, Mohammed said: "Of course I would. Anything that would transform a better response to striving to achieve peace in the world today."

However, Mohammed was keen to stress the Council must take some credit. "We might have avoided a Third World War," she continued. "I think that's credit to the United Nations and the work that we've done in the Security Council."

"But today, we have so many more conflicts. We have different needs. And so I think that one needs to look at being fit for purpose. And I would argue that we could do better."

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