BRUSSELS: Describing the COVID-19 pandemic as an unparalleled global health crisis that has caused grave disruptions to the world economy, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on Monday called for concerted international cooperation, with transparent and timely sharing of accurate information to combat the deadly disease.
Established as a dialogue forum in 1996 to bridge Asia and Europe, the ASEM has 53 partners including 51 member countries and 2 regional organizations (ASEAN Secretariat and European Commission).
India is an active participant in ASEM, which represents around 62.3 percent of the world's population and 57.2 percent of the global GDP.
"We, the Foreign Ministers of the Host of the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit and the ASEM Regional Coordinators, in consultation with ASEM partners, express deep concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, which is an unparalleled global health crisis that has caused grave disruptions to the global economy, trade and travel, led to unprecedented job losses as well as impacted heavily on the lives of people," the ASEM said in a joint statement.
It said that access to transparent, timely, reliable and fact-based information is crucial for an effective global response to the pandemic and underscored the importance of sharing information about potential global health risks and health strategies related to COVID-19.
The novel coronavirus has killed nearly nine lakh people and infected over 27 million others across the world.
"We reaffirm our commitment to working together and sharing experiences, best practices and information in a free, responsible, transparent and timely manner in order to decisively and effectively control the spread of the pandemic," the statement said.
It said that tackling the pandemic requires international cooperation to accelerate the development and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments, which is considered a "global public good for health".
Noting that the virus does not distinguish between continents, borders, nationalities or ethnicities, it said the primary responsibility of governments was to adopt and implement responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that are specific to their national context.
The statement called upon the ASEM partners to implement national action plans by putting in place measures across governmental sectors against COVID-19.
It, however, said that the government measures in response to the pandemic 'should protect and not undermine human rights'.
"We must not allow stigmatisation and discrimination, or for the pandemic to worsen existing inequality. Those in vulnerable situations must be protected, including tackling violence against women and children," it said.
The member states committed to working towards an open, free, fair and non-discriminatory environment that provides a level playing-field, transparency, and mutual benefit for trade and investment.
"We will continue to ensure the uninterrupted flow of essential goods and services across borders, as well as their appropriate global distribution," the statement said.
"As we look forward to the post-pandemic phase, we commit to continue working together to accelerate post-COVID-19 sustainable socio-economic recovery, stimulate economic development and financial resilience, and minimise the potential of global economic recession by restoring growth, investments, sustainable connectivity, business travel and tourism, and maintaining market stability," it added.
"We commit to continue striving together for a sustainable inclusive post-COVID-19 recovery," it added.