UN peace efforts continue despite pandemic

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COVID-19 threatens not only hard-won development and peacebuilding gains, it “risks exacerbating conflicts or fomenting new ones” UN chief Antonio Guterres told the Security Council this week.

He spoke during a briefing on challenges to achieving sustainable peace, while pandemics ravage communities worldwide.

“The concept of sustaining peace is essentially about positive peace as opposed to simply ending wars. It is the idea that the international community accompanies a country beyond the point of simply putting down guns, to the point where people feel protected and represented,” he said.

Against the backdrop of questions over effectiveness of health systems and trust in institutions and governance worldwide, he said: “All this means our commitment to sustaining peace is more urgent than ever”.

The UN chief said coherent, conflict-sensitive approaches to health and humanitarian crises will help deliver sustainable peace.

He highlighted three challenges, beginning with erosion of public trust, which can lead to disillusionment in authority at all levels.

Secondly, he raised concern over a destabilised global economic order, fuelled by the current global economic crisis, adds to heightened socio-economic vulnerabilities.

He also highlighted weakening of the social fabric.

“We have seen many peaceful protests, and in a number of countries COVID-19 has been an excuse for crackdowns and a spike in state repression”, Guterres said adding “at least 23 countries postponed national elections or referenda and almost twice as many postponed sub-national votes”.

The pandemic has created opportunities for peace, including the UN chief’s global ceasefire appeal.

Security Council resolution 2532 which demands a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations “is a step in the right direction”, Guterres said.

“More is needed to translate early gains into concrete on the ground action.”

He wants pandemic responses to be conflict-sensitive “starting with multi-dimensional analysis on how the pandemic affects underlying risks driving conflict”.

Inclusion is “critical” in humanitarian and development responses, especially with communities and marginalised groups to “rebuild trust and enhance social cohesion”.

Sustaining peace requires an integrated and coherent approach across humanitarian, development and peace actors, he told the Security Council.

“Council’s ongoing collaboration with the Peacebuilding Commission is critical” to improve collective response. The UN chief maintains flexible and tailored approaches to peacebuilding in the context of the pandemic are a necessity.