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Queen calls for global vaccine equity during virtual Warwick Economics Summit

By JT - Feb 06,2021 - Last updated at Feb 07,2021

Her Majesty Queen Rania called on the international community to address issues fuelling rising inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing the need for equitable global COVID-19 vaccine distribution (Photo courtesy of Royal Court)

AMMAN — Her Majesty Queen Rania called on the international community to address issues fuelling rising inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic, stressing the need for equitable global COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

“We are all in a race against a pandemic, not against each other,” Queen Rania said, adding that any single country’s inability to recover from this crisis could lead to instability and insecurity for all, according to a Royal Court statement.

Her Majesty made these comments while participating virtually in the Warwick Economics Summit, featuring an interview with Queen Rania on Saturday, conducted by CNN news anchor Becky Anderson.

Her Majesty explained that while some wealthy countries have pre-ordered enough vaccine doses to immunise their populations three times over, “lower income countries will at best only manage to vaccinate a tenth of their populations” this year.

“I see no reason why those who have excess supply can’t donate their surplus to poorer countries, and I’m glad that some countries have committed to doing just that,” the Queen said, echoing His Majesty King Abdullah’s calls for vaccinations to be treated as a global public good.

“If we aren’t motivated by moral or ethical responsibility, then at least we should be motivated to act from a global health standpoint,” she said.

“This pandemic has revealed and reinforced cracks in our world order, along lines of income inequality, gender inequity, and social injustice,” Her Majesty said, adding that, while everyone has suffered some kind of loss since the start of the pandemic, “this loss hasn’t been felt equally.”

“While some people are enjoying the benefits of rebounding global markets, far too many people around the world are suffering from parallel pandemics of hunger, violence, and illiteracy,” she added. “In fact, for the first time in 20 years, extreme poverty is back on the rise.”

The Queen went on to highlight current challenges to global education, stating that COVID-19 has caused the greatest disruption to education in human history, with school closures affecting 1.6 billion learners.

“Access to education has never been fair, but the disparities that we are seeing today, both within and across countries, are quite staggering. A child’s fate hinges on which side of the digital divide they fall, and far too many — millions, in fact — are falling on the wrong side.”

Her Majesty underscored the need to strengthen education systems by developing remote learning solutions and making them universally accessible. “Online learning solutions aren’t just band-aid measures for temporary problems. They reinforce our education systems by offering contingency options.”

The Queen also called for the international community to prioritise closing the global education funding gap, noting that UNESCO has warned that it is approaching USD 200 billion per year.

“That might sound like a lot, but when you think about it, it’s only 10 percent of global military expenditures,” she said. “There is no excuse for us not to make an effort to close that gap.”

Describing school and daycare closures as “nothing short of a full-scale crisis for a lot of working moms,” Her Majesty explained that women worldwide have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, adding that they are more likely to work in sectors impacted by lockdowns and are often the first to be let go or forced from their jobs.

“That is really tough on mothers and families, but it is also terrible for the global economy,” she said, noting that today marks an opportunity to ”revamp, rethink, and redesign the workplace so that it better meets the needs of men and women.”

Despite current challenges, Her Majesty pointed out that this period has also shown some of our strengths as an international community, particularly regarding global efforts to contain and cure COVID-19.

“If we take the development of vaccines, for example, it would have taken us years to get to this point had it not been for the coordination and collaboration of the medical community,” Queen Rania said. “That was a really shining, undeniable example of how a crisis can fuel innovation, and how, when we put our politics and national identities aside and work toward a common goal, we can achieve so much for so many.”

She went on to urge the audience to carry that spirit of collaboration forward into a “post-pandemic world,” and to make “all people’s wellbeing our new bottom line.”

“Whatever ‘normal’ we go back to, I know that we cannot go back to the ‘old normal’ that left too many people behind,” she stressed. “If we’ve learnt one thing from this crisis, it’s that we’re only as strong as the weakest among us.”

The 2021 Warwick Economics Summit, held virtually and accessible for free online for the first time this year, is one of the largest student-run economics conferences in Europe. Now in its 20th edition, the three-day summit gathers university students from around the world to hear from global thought leaders on a broad range of social and economic topics.

This year’s speakers included former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, OECD Secretary General Ángel Gurría, economist Jeffrey Sachs, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former prime minister of Finland Esko Aho, and Financial Times CEO John Ridding.

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