Unfair Vaccine Distribution: NAM Chairman President Aliyev’s Call Is Timely

By R.Ravichandran
KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 (NNN-Bernama) — As nations around the world race towards securing vaccines, the recent call by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev as the Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) regarding the unfair distribution of vaccines is not only timely but important to ensure the pandemic is defeated, and the world can revert to normalcy soon.

This is more so when reports emerged of efforts by rich and developed countries to look after their own interests in acquiring vaccines for their citizens, with some countries securing more than what is needed for their population.

The Azerbaijani leader, in an interview with the Azerbaijan State Television on Feb 1 which was published by AZERNEWS and made available by Azerbaijan’s embassy in Malaysia, among others touch on issues relating to unfair distribution of vaccines – where he noted that developed countries, accounting for 14 per cent of the world’s population, have ordered 53 per cent of the world’s supply of vaccines so far.

And, in his own bold style when addressing various international issues, Aliyev put forward the interests of NAM member countries by highlighting the injustice and inequality in the distribution of vaccines.

The Azerbaijan President did not mince his words when he questioned the values of democracy, justice and human rights of these rich countries for their attitude of only looking after their own interests at a time when the world is grappling with the fallout of the pandemic.

“When I took over the chairmanship, I said that Azerbaijan would defend international law and justice, protect the interests of all member countries, and we are doing exactly that,” Aliyev had stressed in the TV interview.

Aliyev has also pledged that Azerbaijan, as the chairman of NAM, will continue to raise its voice over the situation.

“Today, I take this opportunity to call on members of the Non-Aligned Movement to join us. We must raise this issue in the international arena, in the UN (United Nations). We need to appeal to the World Health Organisation (WHO), we need to appeal to companies, we need to appeal to rich countries to give up these practices. This is injustice. This cannot be ignored. This cannot be hushed up. Azerbaijan, as the leader of the second-largest institution after the UN, will continue to have its say in this regard,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a recent virtual meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had described the goal of providing vaccines to all as “the biggest moral test before the global community”, underlining that everyone, everywhere, must be included.

“Yet, progress on vaccinations has been wildly uneven and unfair. Just 10 countries have administered 75 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, more than 130 countries have not received a single dose. Those affected by conflict and insecurity are at particular risk of being left behind,” he said as posted on the UN News website.

When voicing this issue, Aliyev is also thinking of the interests of 120 NAM member countries – especially the developing and the less developed countries in Asia and Africa.

It must be noted that more than half of the world population lives in NAM member countries. The movement, which originated during the Cold War, also makes up nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’ members.

Azerbaijan assumed the chairmanship of NAM during the 18th Summit of the Heads of State and Government, held in Baku in October 2019. Under its chairmanship, Azerbaijan had identified the promotion of Bandung Principles as one of its chairmanship priorities to the NAM.

It is interesting that some of the issues raised by Aliyev such as equality, human rights, justice and the promotion of mutual interest and cooperation are also within the context of the 10 Bandung Principles, adopted at the 1955 Asian-African Conference (Bandung Conference), which was also the cornerstone for the movement’s formation later. These principles were later adopted as the main goals and objectives of the policy of non-alignment.

By raising the issue of unfair distributions of vaccines, the NAM chairman had also pointed out the importance of solidarity among NAM members in finding solutions to common problems facing NAM countries in this unprecedented time and unpredictable situation.

Meanwhile, geostrategist and former lecturer of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Azmi Hassan said that the Azerbaijan president’s statement on the disparity of access to the vaccines is timely and relevant.

Azmi said it is very critical not only for rich countries but “all nations, rich or poor, to have access since the world community is targeting herd immunity.

“So it is something very hard to swallow when developed nations talking about justice…equitable…but when it comes to vaccine, they practice something else,” he said in an audio-recording, sent through WhatsApp to Bernama.

When asked what international organisations like NAM must do to ensure a fair distribution of vaccines in the interests of all countries, Azmi opined that NAM members must be part of the COVAX programme, a global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level.

“I think, for the time being, this is the best method to ensure that distribution of vaccine is equitable. And not only nations are part of COVAX programme, but also industries that produce vaccines, for example, are also part of COVAX programme, and they have to ensure that they commit to their promise to this particular COVAX programme,” said Azmi.

Meanwhile, Dr. Rossilah Jamil, Associate Professor at Azman Hashim International Business School, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, said that the statement made by Azerbaijan President as the NAM Chairman echoes the outcries made by other world leaders regarding the danger of vaccine nationalism.

“Many regard vaccination as a beacon of hope for us to return to pre-COVID normal. Global unequal distribution of vaccines means that many organisations will not be able to operate at their full capacity. Millions of workers will be denied to return to work,” explained Dr Rossilah, whose works concentrate on the areas of human resource, people development, and management education.

Dr Rossilah said the pandemic has forced organisations to innovate their management practices through working-from-home policies, online meetings, webinar training, etc.

“Although there are benefits of these practices, however, we are now starting to notice some downsides. Non-face-to-face interactions do hurt organisational culture, identity and cohesion which are important for human capital effectiveness,” she said.

In short, NAM is a moral voice in addressing global challenges and unfair practices, such as the unfair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, to ensure that the much-sought-after vaccines are affordable, accessible, and equitably shared for all the people and nations in the world.