The coronavirus pandemic not only threatens gains in fighting global poverty and building peace but risks exacerbating existing conflicts and generating new ones, the UN chief warned.
Speaking at a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) video conference on Wednesday on sustaining peace during the pandemic, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the “unprecedented challenges from COVID-19 clearly risk pushing things in the wrong direction”.
“The pandemic threatens not only hard-won development and peacebuilding gains, but also risks exacerbating conflicts or fomenting new ones,” he added.
Guterres said his March 23 call for an immediate ceasefire in conflicts around the world to tackle the coronavirus led to a number of warring parties to take steps to de-escalate and stop fighting, but many did not.
His predecessor as secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, told the council: “It is truly astonishing that in response to this pandemic, the world has placed billions of people under lockdown, closed international borders, suspended trade and migration, and temporarily shut down a whole variety of industries – but has not managed to suspend armed conflicts.”
Ban criticised the UNSC for wasting valuable months “in arguments over the details of the text” and not adopting a resolution until July 1 demanding an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in key conflict areas to tackle COVID-19.
“This has weakened the message that this council needs to send to all warring parties: now is the time to confront our common enemy,” Ban said.
And he said delayed council action “further aggravated the current volatile global security situations”
The impact of COVID-19 on conflict-affected settings has been much worse than initially thought,” said Ban, who is a co-chair of the group of prominent world leaders founded by Nelson Mandela known as The Elders.
He pointed to health and humanitarian ramifications, social cohesion, governance, the rule of law and threats to multilateralism that are jeopardising ongoing efforts to sustain peace, “or may even cause a reversal in hard-won peace and security gains to date”.