Despite the physical distance between Australia and Kenya, we have much in common. Our lands are richly endowed with natural resources but we also see nature at its most cruel. From droughts and floods in Kenya, to devastating bushfires in Australia, we both understand the havoc such events can cause. Now faced with a global pandemic that respects no borders and affects our citizens, it is clear our interests are more aligned than ever.
Ensuring global security, peace and prosperity for all our citizens underpins our foreign policy. Ours is a relationship based on a desire for fairness, the rules-based order and a mutual commitment to multilateralism.
Australia, a founding member of the UN and Commonwealth, is committed to ensuring multilateralism works for all countries, and builds shared security and development. We believe it is through these institutions that we can most effectively address the global challenges affecting us all.
We are working with global partners to support efforts to tackle Covid-19 in Kenya and beyond.
Australia is a long-term funder of global health, emergency and preparedness and response programmes, including to WHO and the United Nations’ Emergency Response Fund. We also provide core funding to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, among many others.
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Through our steering group membership of the World Bank Pandemic Emergency Finance Facility to our seat on the Executive Board of WFP, we are ensuring African countries can access resources to deal with Covid-19.
While we all deal with the current challenges of Covid-19, we also need to do everything possible to prevent future pandemics, and improve our responses to future crises. This is why Australia fully supports the WHO Director-General’s announcement of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response to evaluate the world’s response to Covid-19.
Australia looks forward to working with the Panel and the international community to ensure this evaluation helps to strengthen WHO and prevent and mitigate future pandemics. We owe it to our citizens and the global community to ensure we do everything possible to manage the risks of future health crises.
Of course, a priority for our countries, and for the world, is the development of an effective vaccine against Covid-19 that is affordable and accessible to all. Australia’s Prime Minister has pledged over AUD350 million (Sh 27. billion) to Covid-19 research and development. Our top scientists are working with international partners to research, develop and test vaccines and treatments.
Australia and Kenya are steadfast in our commitment to free and open trade, and to the need for multilateral trade reforms. These are essential to build prosperity and fairness, and essential as nations seek to cope with, and recover from, the Covid-19 crisis.
Our countries are also deeply concerned over the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women and girls, and people with disabilities. We know the devastating impacts include increased gender based violence, including female genital mutilation and more cases of child marriage. We know the virus is adversely affecting women’s safety, health and livelihoods.
The pandemic has affected our citizens, our countries and the globe. We need to rally together and support each other to pull through this challenge.
Australia and Kenya must continue to work to promote a world that is fair and just for all. Fair in trading relations; fair in development and economic opportunity. We must look out for the most vulnerable, and ensure human rights are at the centre of our efforts. The phrase ‘In This Together’ has never been more appropriate.
- The writer is the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya