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UN Chief is Absent on COVID, says AHF

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, calls for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to assume a stronger leadership role in the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In what the secretary-general has called “the biggest challenge for the world since World War II,” (thus, the UN’s greatest challenge to date) and amid an ongoing deadlock with the UN Security Council, it is even more imperative that the UN chief be more active in brokering deals, reassuring the public and cultivating relationships that will work to bring the world together in fighting the pandemic and its disastrous effects, particularly in the most vulnerable countries.

“COVID-19 has put unprecedented strains on countries that rely most on international systems and mechanisms, which is why it’s so critical that the UN, essentially the world’s townhall, play a greater role in coordinating the global pandemic response. That must start with Mr. Guterres,” said AHF Chief of Global Policy and Advocacy Terri Ford. “While recent remarks from the secretary-general are positive, they mean nothing without adequate action behind them. Mr. Guterres has the opportunity to make the UN more relevant in this fight—if he doesn’t seize it, that could indicate he’s not quite up to task for leading the world through a crisis of this magnitude – one that we’ll likely be fighting for the foreseeable future.”

UN expert Stephen Schlesinger writes that Guterres is essentially a politician by trade and has been largely “invisible on the world stage,” with no articulate speeches and no ties to ambitious plans or “visionary global policies.” He goes on to say that Guterres has also not used his leading role at the UN to act as a “moral arbiter or sounding board” and “…has not been by any measure an inspirational figure in the grand tradition of former Secretaries-General Dag Hammarskjold or Kofi Annan.”

“In times of panic, crisis and disaster, the world needs an inspirational figure – this is not a time for meekness or playing politics to avoid irritating the powers that be,” added Ford. “The time is now for Mr. Guterres to step out of the shadows and show the world that he’s capable of bringing us through this crisis. We simply cannot be content with the status quo when the consequences of inaction are so dire.”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.5 million clients in 45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website:, find us on Facebook: and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare


Denys Nazarov, Director of Global Policy & Communications, AHF
+1 323.308.1829

Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy & Policy, AHF
+1 323.308.1820

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