“Faced with the pandemic, a moratorium on African debt is necessary”.

The former Portuguese Prime Minister calls for general mobilization but also for coordinated and united action.

Without seeking to create the slightest controversy with the Heads of State who continue to minimize the seriousness of the disease or prefer to hide behind their borders, he insists above all on the necessary support for developing countries, especially African ones, which will not be able to finance alone the necessary measures.

The report you are presenting today is very comprehensive, but isn’t it a bit late?

Antonio Guterres: No, this is not the case. If you look at the content of the report, especially the political positions, the main points were already stated by me three weeks ago and also during the preparation of the last G20.

The document published today is a substantive work, involving all UN agencies and regional commissions. It is a collective position that will allow us to effectively support countries in their response to the pandemic.

It contains an economic and social response, in addition to the health assistance provided by the World Health Organization (WHO). This report is not a first working tool; it shares experiences and consolidates what has already been done.

Nevertheless, we hope to obtain ceasefires in certain places. I will report on this over the weekend, mentioning the successes but also the failures. This is an essential step.

In 2014, the Security Council declared the Ebola epidemic an international threat. Faced with the coronavirus, nothing like it. Why not?

I can’t answer that. This is the responsibility of the member states of the Security Council.

For our part, we have launched operations on the ground to stem the crises in order to better combat the virus. This is why I have decided to launch a global appeal for a ceasefire, and why all our special representatives in the various conflict zones are working in a very committed manner.

But for now, the ongoing conflicts do not seem to be coming to an end…

It’s true. In Libya, in particular, we had positive responses from both sides to our appeal, but then the situation worsened…

But even so, it created a positive dynamic. Our special rapporteurs in the field are in contact with the parties in conflict. There is mobilization, including in countries that can have an influence on certain belligerents.

We have had interesting answers in Colombia, the Philippines, Yemen, Syria, Cameroon… But of course, between declarations and reality there is often a huge difference, and there are those who like to provoke from all sides.

Nevertheless, we hope to obtain ceasefires in certain places. I will report on this over the weekend, mentioning the successes but also the failures. This is an essential step.

There are two main forms of response that correspond to two systems: an “Asian” response, which seems quite effective, and a “Euro-American” response, which is obviously less effective. What model should Africa follow?

Unfortunately there are not only two models, there are many! This is the problem.

For us, it is very clear that the transmission of the virus must be suppressed by two types of measures. First, screening, tracing and of course the treatment and isolation of patients.

And then the movement restrictions and the distance between people.

Naturally, countries that are not sufficiently prepared to test are forced to take further containment measures. The ideal, as Tedros Ghebreyesus said for the WHO, it’s testing, testing, testing…

The less opportunity you have, the more indiscriminate measures you should opt for.

READ MORE: WHO’s Tedros: ‘Don’t abandon the poorest to coronavirus’

But it seems to me, listening to you, that it is the Asian countries that have applied the best method….

South Korea and Singapore have put a lot of emphasis on testing, that’s true. From this point of view they are probably the most interesting models.

Beninese President Patrice Talon believes that confinement is unrealistic in Africa, where many people are in extreme economic fragility and must work every day to survive. What do you think about this?

What is obvious is that a big financial outlay is needed to support people who might lose their jobs or who work in the informal sector.

This is why we are calling for the mobilization of sums representing 10% of the GDP of each country. Developed countries are able to do this themselves, but resources must be found so that developing countries can do the same. And that represents an amount that we have estimated at $3 billion.

This implies in particular significantly increasing the capacity for action of the International Monetary Fund, coordinating swaps between central banks, all of this to provide more liquidity to emerging countries.

The question is whether we revive the economies as they were before or whether we take the opportunity to correct the aspects that have made our world more vulnerable.

You also talk about a moratorium on the debt of poor countries or, at least, on the payment of interest. Can we believe this?

The World Bank has spoken about it in its board of directors, and African ministers debated it at length today (31 March).

In any case, it is necessary. This crisis is not financial, it is human. The liquidity of financial systems must be maintained. Money must keep flowing to keep households and small businesses in developing countries afloat.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Africa: opportunity to reshape development

You insist on the idea of ​​getting out of this crisis to “move towards a better and more united world”. Do you really believe that?

We’re going to go through a depression, that’s obvious, but then we’re going to revive the economy. The question is whether we revive the economies as they were before or whether we take the opportunity to correct the aspects that have made our world more vulnerable. We need a more sustainable and inclusive economy. Responses will be united or they will be ineffective.

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