Matt Hancock Appointed as a Special Envoy to the UN to Help Covid Recovery in Africa.

The Guardian has reported that Matt Hancock’s selection as the UN special envoy for Covid-19 recovery in Africa necessitates a firm commitment to human rights and a just recovery. Matt Hancock has been appointed to the United Nations as a special representative. The former Secretary of Health and Human Services will assist African countries in their recovery from Covid-19.


Hancock said he was “honoured” to have been given the role, adding on Twitter: “I’ll be working with the UN Economic Commission for Africa to help African economic recovery from the pandemic and promote sustainable development.” The UN estimates that African countries will have to spend more than £300 billion to recover from the pandemic.

The appointment comes four months after he resigned from his cabinet post after hugging and embracing an aide in his workplace, breaking social distance guidelines.

Hancock’s “success” in managing the UK’s pandemic response, according to UN undersecretary-general, Vera Songwe, is a tribute to the strengths he would bring to the post.

“The acceleration of vaccination that has led the UK to move faster towards economic recovery is one testament to the strengths that you will bring to this role, together with your fiscal and monetary experience. The role will support Africa’s cause at the global level and ensure the continent builds forward better, leveraging financial innovations and working with major stakeholders like the G20, UK government and COP26. As we recover from the pandemic, so we must take this moment to ensure Africa can prosper,” the Conservative MP wrote in his acceptance letter, which he also uploaded on Twitter.

The appointment, however, was opposed by Global Justice Now, which is fighting for a global vaccine rollout and has advocated for vaccine patent waivers. Its director, Nick Dearden, said:

“Matt Hancock helped to block international efforts to allow low and middle-income countries to produce their Covid-19 vaccines, leading to millions of deaths in the global south. The audacity of this man claiming to help African nations and promote sustainable development is sickening.”

Hancock’s unpaid appointment comes as a damning report from MPs details how the UK government and scientific advisers made mistakes that cost lives during the outbreak. The investigation, conducted by the cross-party science and technology committee and the health and social care committee, found that the UK’s pandemic preparations were far too concentrated on the flu and that officials delayed far too long to enact lockdown measures in early 2020. MPs claimed the UK’s planning was too “Narrowly and inflexibly built on a flu paradigm” that failed to learn Sars, Mers, and Ebola in a wide-ranging report.

Prof Dame Sally Davies, former chief medical officer, told MPs that infectious disease experts did not believe that “Sars, or another Sars, will come from Asia to us.”

After leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing an aide violating social distance guidelines, Hancock resigned as health secretary in June. In an interview at the time, he said: “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.”

Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director, commented on Matt Hancock MP’s appointment as UN special representative on financial innovation and climate change for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, with a focus on helping Africa’s economy recover from Covid-19: “Matt Hancock’s appointment must result in him exhibiting a genuine commitment to the human rights values that are so important for Africa’s effective recovery from Covid-19, including climate change, access to Covid-19 vaccines, significant pharma response, and the TRIPS waiver request. It’s disheartening that Matt Hancock, in his previous post as UK health minister, resisted demands to lift intellectual property restrictions on Covid-19 vaccinations, ensuring access to life-saving vaccines for billions of people. In the twelve months after the TRIPS waiver was first offered, 3.8 million people have perished from Covid-19, which the UK has continually blocked. Prompt Access to vaccines, testing, and treatments is critical for Africa’s recovery from the pandemic. Yet, only 7.4% of Africans have gotten at least one vaccine shot to date. In this post, the former Minister will be unable to ignore the impact a lack of vaccination access is having on people across Africa, and we must now see him strongly lobbying for UK support for a TRIPS waiver,” said the statement.

“We also need to see human rights-compliant messages from the next Climate Envoy as soon as possible.”

Just last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council acknowledged the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, and immediate action is needed by all nations ahead of COP26, which will be hosted by the United Kingdom next month. The new Envoy must make it clear that he supports the UN’s bold and decisive efforts in order to maintain a clean, healthy, and long-term environment for everybody.

Matt Hancock’s appointment to UNECA comes in the same week as a parliamentary committee report on the lessons learnt from the UK’s reaction to Covid-19 is released. The lack of an early reaction to the pandemic, which included choices on lockdowns and social distancing, is ranked as “One of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever seen,” according to the report.

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