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Sereni: “Solidarity is in our national interest” (Avvenire)

Marina Sereni

Dear Editor,

Covid-19 knows no boundaries nor skin colour, it does not distinguish political opinions nor religious beliefs. Never before have we understood that we are “all in the same boat”, never before has it been clear that “no one can save themselves”, as Pope Francis has reminded us. For this reason, our country cannot fail to take up the appeal that comes from the UN. Secretary General Guterres, most recently with his speech on 8th April (tinyurLcom/avvenire-guterres) on ‘Avvenire’, continues to address the international community in order to reach a global ceasefire and to relaunch the 17 great UN Goals for 2030 in the new context of crisis.

If we continue to shoot – in areas of conflict – nothing will be done to counter the spread of Coronavirus. We are talking about contexts already devastated by war, with millions of refugees who have had to leave their homes and villages, with totally inadequate healthcare systems. We are talking about our neighbours. The call for a ceasefire has been joined by many, in theory. But, in most cases, instead of silence the weapons, we have seen the fighting increase in intensity. Italy and Europe must relaunch with force, in particular for Libya, their commitment to ceasefire, also in light of the recent approval of the new Irini naval mission, aimed at monitoring the UN embargo, of which our country hosts the General Command and is responsible for the leadership.

Guterres’ second initiative is no less essential: the “Global Humanitarian Response Plan” through which we will help the most vulnerable countries in their fight against the virus. The main objectives are, in the short term, to support the health response of the most fragile states and, in the medium term, to address the indirect socio-economic consequences of the pandemic. In this context, the plan has priority measures: 1) delivering essential laboratory equipment for testing and medicines to treat the sick; 2) ensuring hygiene in camps and settlements for displaced people and refugees; 3) launching public information campaigns on the transmission of the virus; 4) creating airlifts and hubs in Africa, Asia and Latin America to allow humanitarian workers to travel and supplies. This has been discussed in the recent G7 and G20 and there is broad consensus for such an approach. Now words must be followed by action, including on our part.

Then, there are at least two other areas of global commitment. The first concerns the role of the WHO. Italy has already joined the Strategic Plan of preparation and response defined by the UN agency and participates in the two initiatives promoted to study the vaccine. We should not give up learning how important it is to share the most effective provisions and measures for the fight against Covid-19, to exchange information and data in a transparent and sure way, to cooperate in scientific and technological research.

With all due respect to sovereigntists and nationalists this virus forces us to cooperate, to share solutions to common problems – that are dramatic in the health sector but no less at the economic and social level – to give value to supranational institutions, to rely on the effectiveness and strength of multilateralism. Eventually, the virus has highlighted the risk of a global food crisis: in recent days the FAO has raised the alarm for the impending consequences on supply chains. Italy – the headquarters of FAO, WFP and IFAD – can launch an initiative to prevent the effects of the pandemic on the populations in the poorest and most vulnerable countries from being compounded by the lack of food.

Multilateralism, cooperation and solidarity are strategic pillars of our Country’s international policy. It is absurd to counterpose cooperation projects with the effort being made to support Italian families and businesses, like some members of the opposition have. The size and role of a country like Italy in the world also depend on its ability to build and nurture bonds of friendship and solidarity with less developed areas and countries. It should come as no surprise that Minister Le Maire, speaking of the measures that France is going to take to counter the consequences of the epidemic on the economic and social level, has also put the emphasis on projects for Africa. And perhaps it will be interesting to know that Italy is the first European investor in Africa. In short, for our Country, claiming the place it deserves in international meetings means considering cooperation and commitment in multilateral fora as a real investment. And knowing that, facing the virus, being generous and supportive is the best way to do our national interests as well.