Dr. Mabel Lu MIAO posted the first question at the MSC 2021


On February 19, 2021, a forum with the theme “Beyond Westlessness: Renewing Transatlantic Cooperation, Meeting Global Challenges” was held online as part of the Munich Security Conference Special Edition 2021, bringing together the world’s most senior decision-makers and leaders from international organizations to discuss intensive topics, including global cooperation to fight the pandemic, climate change and transatlantic relations.


Dr. Mabel Lu MIAO, secretary-general of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), a Munich Young Leader 2020 and the only Chinese participant, posted the first question to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres during the conference.


Participants at the MSC Special Edition 2021 included Joe Biden, President of the United States of America, Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Charles Michel, President of European Council, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), John Kerry, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Can the UN and WHO lead coordination of vaccine production?


The decline in U.S.-EU relations over the past four years made improving transatlantic relations the key point of this conference. During the conference, Dr. Miao asked Secretary-General Guterres about global cooperation in fighting the pandemic. She asked whether the UN, including World Health Organization (WHO)  would be able to lead global efforts by the European Union, United States and China to convene the trilateral global vaccine summit to coordinate global production, distribution and standardization of a vaccine, especially for developing countries.


Guterres stated that this was question is very important and emphasized on the need for international cooperation. He pointed out that we need to make sure that we bring together countries, but also highlighted that companies that have the power, scientific expertise and industrial and logistical capability to produce and implement a global vaccination plan that ensures the vaccine reaches everybody, everywhere. Guterres added that the entity best placed to coordinate between various entities, countries, companies and international organizations, is the G20, while the UN is ready to fully support any effort. He called for the whole world to mobilize resources so in order to vaccinate everybody everywhere as soon as possible, which would require an emergency taskforce.


The need to strengthen international cooperation


All participants at the conference shared a hopeful outlook on a number of topics. Despite being confronted with unprecedented challenges in 2020, multilateralism and global cooperation felt to be more even more valuable and were further emphasized, especially in the development of COVID-19 vaccines with and multiple countries making commitments towards coping with climate change.


In his first speech on an international, multilateral stage after his inauguration, US President Joe Biden said that competition must not lock out cooperation on issues that affect us all, especially if we are to defeat COVID-19 on a global scale.

Other speakers welcomed Biden’s comments and reaffirmed the significance of joint efforts on addressing the pandemic. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that multilateralism is the foundation of all our political activities and our fight against the pandemic has made this clear once again, adding that international organizations such as the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the WHO and the International Monetary Funds must be further strengthened to be effective in this fight.



In response to this, Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the fact that the world we are living in is a global community now, a small village and the only option we have is solidarity and cooperation.


President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of European Council Charles Michel and Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg also echoed the theme of international cooperation in response to COVID-19 and called for multilateralism in tackling the pandemic, climate change and other global challenges.


In terms of the challenges of the COVID-19, manufacturing and distribution of a vaccine was one of the key issues at the MSC. Dr. Tedros warned that unequal vaccine distribution poses global risk. To address this challenge, Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, suggested that with the sufficient contributions, we should have the ability to buy the vaccines for developing countries through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), which would provide a fairly high level of coverage‌‌.

The question of how to deal with climate change was another major theme within the discussions. The French President Emmanuel Macron pointed out that Europeans and Americans need to develop effective multilateralism to better cope with climate change and other issues.

The US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, responded that the US must also be humble as it as inexcusably absent for four years, but most of all we need to be ambitious, because the job must get done. He said that in November, “the UN climate conference COP26…is our last best hope to get all of our nations on the right road to keep us at the 1.5 and achieve a net zero by 2050”.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also claimed that the shard goals of the UK’s presidency of the G7 will help the world build back better and build back greener after the pandemic.


Interviews with Dr. Miao after the MSC


After the MSC Special Edition 2021, media including CGTN interviewed Dr. Miao concerning the conference.


Miao said that she wanted to ask the question for three reasons. First, considering the challenge of the pandemic we are facing, we need substantial global cooperation and solidarity to fight COVID-19 and this is precisely what MSC 2021 is calling for. Second, in terms of responses to the pandemic, vaccination is the wisest choice to help build protection and the world’s three largest economies (US, EU and China) should put more into global vaccine distribution and provide support for less-developed countries that are struggling to treat escalating numbers of patients with little prospect of a vaccine to protect them from the virus. Third, given the leading role of the UN in international cooperation on tackling global challenges, we hope that the UN will play a bigger role in fighting the pandemic in conjunction with the WHO.


Miao pointed out that the MSC is not only considered an opportunity for Europe and the US to reconnect and exercise their roles, it is also a platform to call for global collaboration to meet global challenges, which requires all countries to work together, including China. She added that China has called for global cooperation since the very beginning of the pandemic and worked with other countries to combat the spread, adding that China was among the first to join the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, an initiative that accelerates the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. Miao quoted State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said that “China will continue to advance global cooperation on epidemic response, strengthen joint prevention and control, and assist countries and regions in need.”