Peace is under threat. In 1945, the United Nations was founded to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.’ But the steady progress that has been made towards building, keeping and sustaining peace is now threatened. While COVID-19 and its economic effects have had a direct impact on human lives, some actions by governments and others are making things worse. Responses to crisis that increase violence, injustice and exclusion, that set aside ‘the dignity and worth of the human person’ and ‘the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small,’ will exacerbate development losses and human suffering, leaving many behind. The lessons of the UN Charter are being forgotten.
Our hearts go out to those suffering today, in the sober knowledge that this may turn out to be but a foretaste of the disruptions that may arise in the years to come, including from climate change and environmental degradation, and growing inequalities and exclusion. If we are to meet the challenges of tomorrow, we must recommit to peace today.
Focus on peace, justice and inclusion, both during crises and longer-term. We must re-dedicate ourselves to the vision of a global partnership of all stakeholders to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies, so clearly articulated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This approach is not only the route to lasting gains in development, human rights and peace, but must be embraced as the foundation of an effective humanitarian and security response in times of crisis.
As organizations devoted to building peace around the world, we call on the international community to take these steps:
Mainstream peace in the response to COVID-19. It is time to explicitly embed people-centered and sustainable strategies for peace at the heart of the response to COVID-19. We call on the Secretary-General to issue guidance for the UN system to prioritize conflict-sensitive and risk-informed approaches in the planning and monitoring of all activities taken to address COVID-19, and to align these efforts with the relevant longer-term plans to foster peace, justice and inclusion within development frameworks. Furthermore, Member States should support allocating 5% of the funding for the COVID-19 response to ensuring that conflict sensitive and risk-informed approaches are mainstreamed. It is particularly important that support is given to fostering social resilience, including strengthening local, national and international mechanisms for addressing difference and grievances.
Building peace is never more important than at times of crisis.
Prioritize inclusion in analysis and action. Prioritizing the meaningful inclusion and public participation of all groups, including women and girls, youth, and local communities, is vital to our peace and development efforts.
Recent months have starkly demonstrated the disproportionate impact of entrenched and systemic patterns of exclusion at times of crisis. Increases in gender-based violence and race-based abuses (as highlighted in the recent Human Rights Council resolution on people of African descent), are evidence of this. Additionally, civic space must be protected and guaranteed. Inclusion is just as important in the midst of crisis as in longer term efforts, and critical to developing more effective approaches that can have a lasting impact.
Make space for building peace. We support the Secretary-General’s call for a global cease-fire to enable humanitarian access and make space for building peace. But governments and other international actors can do more to step aside from the machinery of war. Cease-fire efforts can be expanded to make the choice to avoid all forms of violent coercion. Military spending should be reduced, and nuclear weapons eliminated, freeing up critical resources to save lives and support the most vulnerable. Within countries, governments must avoid using state violence as a response to large-scale unemployment and displacement, and state and nonstate actors alike should eschew violence as a shortcut to achieving political and economic ends.
Reaffirm multilateralism and international norms as a safeguard for the most vulnerable. At times of global crisis, in an environment of increasing fragility and fragmentation, it is vital to reaffirm international norms, to support responsible trade, reduce arms flows, promote constructive financial, tax and investment practices and bolster adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law. In crisis, more than ever, states should seek to uphold a rules-based system, the underpinning of an enabling environment that privileges the long-term development, peace and dignity of all people and communities.