Collective, conflict-sensitive responses vital to address COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout

19 November 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has not only exacted a terrible toll on human lives, health and economies, it has also exacerbated existing conflicts, a UN forum heard on Thursday, with top officials urging global solidarity in the fight against COVID-19.

At a joint virtual meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), ECOSOC President Munir Akram pointed to the impact on the poorest countries and the poorest people. 

“Obviously, our first priority is to control and defeat the virus. Some countries have done well, and others, not so well. The virus is still out of control. We must act together and we must act with urgency”, he stressed.  

At the national level, he urged governments to help the vulnerable, especially the people in the informal sector, and small and medium sized enterprises. At the international level, vulnerable countries must be provided with fiscal space to avert economic collapse, he added. 

Our first priority is to control and defeat the virus ... we must act together and we must act with urgency – ECOSOC President Munir Akram

Turning to recovery from the pandemic, Mr. Akram spoke of the need to use the crisis as an “opportunity to build forward better”, calling on the international community to demonstrate “willingness to address the structural challenges and inequalities” that are the underling causes of many of the economic challenges, and the threats to peace and security. 

The joint meeting of the two UN bodies served as a forum for Member States to exchange views on a wide range  of topics related to durable peacebuilding and sustainable development, and ways to address the challenges. This year, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on development and peacebuilding gains featured prominently in the deliberations. 

Sufficient resources critical 

Speaking alongside Mr. Akram, Bob Rae, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), outlined the specific challenges faced by post-conflict countries, where the Commission is engaged. 

“Several countries where the PBC is engaged are at risk of seeing double digit contractions in economic growth, and small and medium enterprises, which employ 90 per cent of the workforce in Africa, have suffered severe consequences,” he said. 

“This requires us to fundamentally rethink our approaches, and to put livelihoods, economic security for citizens, and inclusive economic development at the heart of peacebuilding,” Mr. Rae urged. 

Several countries where the PBC is engaged are at risk of seeing double digit contractions in economic growth – PBC Chair Bob Rae

The PBC Chair also highlighted that the need for sufficient funding to support nationally-owned and nationally-led initiatives, which address root causes of the conflict, and sustain peace and development over the long term. 

He warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened risks of fragility globally and added new pressures on already scant peacebuilding resources.

“Demand is outpacing the supply for funding”, Mr. Rae said, underlining the “urgent need” for commensurate financial support, including through increased support to the UN Peacebuilding Fund

Comprehensive and collective approach 

Inga Rhonda King, President of the Security Council for the month of November, highlighted the important roles played by the PBC and ECOSOC in assisting Member States advancing their peacebuilding priorities and for mobilizing comprehensive development responses to peacebuilding challenges at the local, national and regional levels. 

The Security Council, for its part, worked to address possible security implications related to the impact of the pandemic by adopting resolution 2532 which reinforced the Secretary-General's calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, she continued. 

Ms. King also spoke of the recent high-level open debate on the Contemporary Drivers of Conflict and Insecurity, where Security Council members were united in their calls for adequately financed, integrated and sustainable approaches to conflict prevention and peacebuilding in line with the principles of international law.  

“As we endeavor to fulfil the aspirational goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our primary blueprint for a peaceful and prosperous world, we need, more than ever a comprehensive and collective approach,” added the Security Council President. 

‘Leave no one behind’

In a pre-recorded video message to the meeting, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said Member States are currently negotiating resolutions on the next Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review and the 2020 review of the peacebuilding architecture, and that the 2016 resolutions on the matter led to greater coherence between development, humanitarian and peacebuilding actions.  

As a result, she declared:  “the United Nations system is better equipped to achieve lasting impact in contexts where development and peace efforts are integrated”.  She warned Member States that the COVID‑19 pandemic drives fragility and conflict, underscoring the need for strong collaboration between ECOSOC and PBC.  

To that end, the organs must reconcile short-term humanitarian and stabilization needs, with longer-term peacebuilding and development processes.  

“Let us seize the opportunity to increase collaboration between humanitarian, development and peace actors, at all levels, to leave no one behind,” she said.

 

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