COVID – Collateral Impacts
Risk of Instability, Tension Growing, amid Glaring Inequalities in Global COVID-19 Recovery, Top United Nations Officials Warn Security Council
25 January 2021 SC/14422
The sweeping and devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are continuing to grow, and so too are the risks of instability and tension amidst glaring inequalities in the global recovery, senior United Nations officials warned today during a Security Council videoconference on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on international peace and security.
The meeting focused on the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020), adopted on 1 July 2020, in which the Council expressed its support for the Secretary-General’s appeal, made 100 days earlier, for a global ceasefire to help unite efforts to fight COVID-19 in the world’s most vulnerable countries. Through that text, the 15-member organ also called for an immediate 90-day humanitarian pause to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of life-saving assistance.
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said that the pandemic’s impact on peace and security has intensified — exacerbating inequality and corruption; breeding misinformation, stigmatization and hate speech; and creating new flashpoints for tension and increased risks of instability. It is hindering diplomatic action and complicated peacemaking efforts, without for the most part affecting the underlying dynamics of armed conflicts. The impact on women, youth and other marginalized groups is particularly alarming, she said.
In some instances, the Secretary-General’s call for a global cessation of hostilities has given new momentum to faltering peace processes, she said, pointing to ceasefires in Libya and Ukraine, ongoing Afghanistan peace negotiations and the start of a disarmament process among insurgent groups in Mozambique. Other places, however, have witnessed a dangerous escalation of tension, including large-scale fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. Without exception, United Nations missions and the Secretary-General’s special representatives and special envoys have adjusted to the changing reality, embracing new tools such as digital focus groups. At the same time, since the onset of the pandemic, the United Nations has supported 19 elections and one referendum in 18 countries.
Looking ahead, she warned that as the pandemic’s impact grows, so too will the risk of tensions and instability, magnified by inequalities in the global recovery. As rich countries get vaccinated, the developing world — including countries already trapped in conflict and instability — risks being left behind, dealing a severe blow to peace and security.
“One thing is clear: The pandemic has served as a political stress test as much as a structural and public health one,” she said. It has laid how acute crisis can become an opportunity to gain advantage on the battlefield or as a pretext to perpetuate oppression — but it has also confirmed that almost no barrier is insurmountable when there is real political will, supported by the global community, to make and sustain peace. Going forward, the collective and individual engagement of Council members will remain crucial, she said, adding that “recovering better” in the wake of the pandemic will require more political and financial investment in conflict prevention…