What's In Blue

Posted Tue 21 Jul 2020

Informal Interactive Dialogue with the Peacebuilding Commission on Implications of COVID-19 in Conflict-affected Countries

Tomorrow (22 July), Security Council members will hold an informal interactive dialogue (IID) with representatives of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) on the impact of COVID-19 on conflict-affected countries. Louise Blais, chargé d’affaires of Canada, which chairs the PBC, and Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support are expected to brief. The PBC’s Vice-Chairs Ambassador Guillermo Fernández de Soto (Colombia) and Ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane (Japan) have been invited to attend. The meeting will be held in a closed videoconference (VTC) format.

Germany, as the informal coordinator between the Council and the PBC, Indonesia, Niger, and the UK are organising the IID to follow up on resolution 2532—which the Council adopted on 1 July to support Secretary-General  António Guterres’ global ceasefire appeal to fight the pandemic in conflict situations. On peacebuilding, the resolution recognised that peacebuilding and development gains made by countries in transition and post-conflict countries could be reversed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

The concept note for the IID highlights the multidimensional challenges faced by conflict-affected countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It notes that the pandemic is placing additional pressure on already vulnerable institutions, health care systems, fragile security, political, socio-economic and humanitarian environments, and exacerbating existing inequalities and grievances. It suggests that the PBC is well placed to address such challenges given its bridging role across the UN system, as well as its early engagement in response to the pandemic.

The PBC first discussed the pandemic in an 8 April meeting where it considered the multi-faceted impacts in conflict-affected countries such as on food insecurity, employment and livelihoods and underlying tensions. A PBC press release after the meeting welcomed the Secretary-General’s global ceasefire appeal and, notably, recognised the efforts of the World Health Organisation (WHO), whereas differences among Council members about referring to the WHO held up agreement for months on a Council resolution. The PBC has since held meetings on the pandemic’s effects in West Africa and the Sahel, Central Africa, and on immediate socio-economic responses to COVID-19. The crisis has also featured prominently in the PBC’s country-specific meetings and other thematic discussions.

According to the concept note, the IID is an opportunity for members to be updated on the PBC’s efforts to respond to the pandemic, as well as receive information on UN-supported peacebuilding activities, including the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), in response to the pandemic. It also suggests the session is an opportunity to discuss how coherent and coordinated action across all pillars of the UN system can be achieved in the current context.

The concept note includes a set of guiding questions:

  • What impact has COVID-19 had on peacebuilding priorities and the peacebuilding dimensions of Council-mandated missions in countries engaging with the PBC?
  • What concrete advice and expertise from the PBC would Security Council members find helpful in their attempts to address the peace and security risks posed by COVID-19 challenges?
  • What good practices pertaining to specific conflict situations in relation to previous health crises can be applied or used? For instance, what can be derived from past efforts during the Ebola crisis considering the potential impact of the COVID-19 crisis on peacebuilding gains?
  • How can the PBC support an integrated and coordinated UN response to COVID-19 across the UN’s humanitarian, development and peace pillars?
  • Is there an opportunity to effectively integrate measures to address cross-cutting issues and risks, such as climate change, in the respective COVID-19 responses?
  • How can coordination between the UN, international financial institutions, and other partners be further enhanced in order to ensure a joined-up and conflict-sensitive response to the pandemic?
  • What good practices from the COVID-19 response could inform the 2020 review of the peacebuilding architecture?

The Council has held two VTC’s on the pandemic—a 9 April closed VTC meeting on the pandemic’s impact on Council agenda situations, and a 2 July open debate via VTC. At tomorrow’s IID, Council members might recall the Secretary-General’s warning that the pandemic could increase “the potential for instability and violence”, especially in countries affected by conflict or emerging from it. In this context, Guterres cited, among others, stressors created by the economic fallout, discontent with institutions and the exacerbation of existing grievances. Regarding how the PBC may support the Council in its advisory role, members may encourage PBC recommendations to take into account the pandemic’s effects, including the socioeconomic dimensions, the integration of UN system activities and institution building. More broadly, some members may suggest that Council mandates draw on conclusions from PBC discussions of the pandemic’s multi-faceted impacts, possibly applying them to peace operations in countries not specifically discussed by the PBC.

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