Aug 13, 2020 10:25 UTC
  • Pandemic threatens peace, risks new conflicts: UN chief

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic not only threatens gains in fighting global poverty and building peace but risks exacerbating existing conflicts and generating new ones.

According to reports, the UN Chief told a Security Council meeting on the challenge of sustaining peace during the pandemic that his March 23 call for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts around the world to tackle the coronavirus led a number of warring parties to take steps to de-escalate and stop fighting.

"Yet, regrettably, in many instances, the pandemic did not move the parties to suspend hostilities or agree to a permanent ceasefire," Guterres said.

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 criticized the UN Security Council 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 conflicts including Syria, Yemen, Libya, South Sudan and Congo to tackle COVID-19.

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.

He pointed to health and humanitarian ramifications, social cohesion, governance, the rule of law and threats to multilateralism which are jeopardizing ongoing efforts to sustain peace, "or may even cause a reversal in hard-won peace and security gains to date."

Secretary-General Guterres said the pandemic has raised growing questions about the effectiveness of health systems, social services, trust in institutions and systems of governance.

"All of this means that our commitment to sustaining peace is more urgent than ever," he said.

Guterres pointed to three key dangers: erosion of public trust, destabilization of the global economic order, and weakening of "the social fabric."

"The perception that authorities are mishandling the crisis, or not being transparent or favoring political allies can lead to public disillusion in government and its institutions," he said.

The UN Chief also warned that "without concerted action, inequalities, global poverty and the potential for instability and violence could grow for years."

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