Bismillah ar rehman ur Rahim,

Asalam-A-lekum

Distinguished leaders, excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,

It is an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to speak at this prestigious forum. I am thankful to H.E. Co-founder of Universal Peace Federation (UPF) Mother Moon for her unflinching and steadfast commitment to promote peace and harmony. The Universal Peace Federation has once again displayed great initiative in convening a dialogue on an issue which is not only the most important and urgent at present but also an issue which can transform our world in profound ways in the future. This can be a critical point in history and how we respond to the threat of the global pandemic, Covid-19 and the lessons will learn from this experience are of critical importance.

I also speak as a survivor of Covid-19. The experience humbles me for the care that I received. But it also makes me acutely aware of the plight of those who have been less fortunate. I hope and pray that a vaccination is available soon and we collectively defeat this virus.

The challenge first and foremost is of a health emergency. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, millions of families have been affected. The healthcare systems in many countries have collapsed and are under stress and overstretched in many others. People are not only losing lives, but they are also losing livelihoods. The pandemic is strangling our economy. Businesses are being forced to shut down. The closure of borders threatens global trade. Our most marginalized sections of society have been most impacted by the virus, the low-income workers, the unemployed, those with disabilities.

However, amidst this adversity there lie great opportunities; there also lies hope. The Virus does not discriminate on the basis of religion, nationality and skin color. It cannot be restricted to countries or confined within borders. The challenge of Covid-19 is a challenge for all humanity. Any effective response can be based on coordination, universal values, and a spirit of working together. We have an opportunity to realize our common bonds of humanity. The pandemic threatens us all and we can only overcome this together.

Over years and decades, we have overcome famines, plagues and wars and we have done it together. The aftermath of the first world war saw the formation of the League of Nations. The destruction wreaked by the second world war led to the creation of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, we need to again pool our resources, expertise, energies and compassion to work towards a world which is safe, kind and just.

My country, Pakistan faces enormous challenges and has been one of the countries worst affected by Covid-19. However, the people of Pakistan have displayed exceptional courage and resilience in the face of a struggling economy, a deadly pandemic, possible food insecurity caused by locust attacks and regional conflicts. Our Doctors, nurses and paramedical staff have sacrificed their lives to protect ours.

The crisis of Covid-19 is an opportunity to reflect upon on priorities as leaders and as countries. We first and foremost need to protect our people from disease and death and that requires healthcare systems that are adequate and available to all. We need to safeguard the economically marginalized to rescue them from poverty and hunger. We cannot offer our people the choice between starvation and infection.

Covid-19 crisis has also spotlighted the need for science and education to fight disease and ignorance. We also need to reflect on how we reached a point where 800 million children out of school globally. Nearly 22 million children don’t have access to education in Pakistan. We need to do better.

We have a choice. The choice between polarization, division, hatred and unity, love and kindness. With unprecedented challenges come unprecedented opportunities. Today, there is an opportunity for the world, particularly the wealthy countries to stand with countries who do not have the resources to fight this on their own. The debts of low-income countries should be restructured to give them an opportunity to save the lives and livelihoods of their people. The vaccine should belong to humanity, to everyone.

We need to do more than just survive this pandemic. We must emerge from it stronger, better and kinder than before. Other common challenges to humanity such as Climate Change, extreme poverty and lack of access to education need to be fought successfully before it is too late.

We have the opportunity to start the journey of founding a world based on brotherhood and empathy. We should seize this opportunity. I am hopeful that we will.

Thank you.

 

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