Issued by Ambassador Martin Bille Hermann on the occasion of the High-Level Open Debate of the UN Security Council on “Pandemics and the Challenges of Sustaining Peace” 12 August 2020
Members of the Security Council
I have the pleasure to submit this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries: Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Today’s debate on peacebuilding and pandemics comes timely, as we are about to embark on the formal phase of the 2020 review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture.
The impact of the pandemic constitutes an additional threat multiplier that risks reversing hard-won peacebuilding gains. For many communities in conflict-affected countries, the pandemic is a catastrophe on top of a crisis. Fragile and conflict affected countries face the challenge of having to address the urgent health and humanitarian impact of COVID- 19, while continuing to implement peacebuilding efforts in increasingly complex conflict scenarios. We have also seen how the pandemic and its devastating socio-economic repercussions can deepen the root causes of fragility and conflict, such as inequality, food insecurity and the consequences of unmitigated climate change. In combination with growing human rights violations and abuses, racism and discrimination, rising incitement of hatred and violence, as well as countless examples of the spread of misinformation and disinformation about the pandemic, this risks escalating ongoing conflict and displacement, fomenting new tensions, and reversing humanitarian, development and peacebuilding progress.
We – members of the United Nations - must therefore resolve to take immediate and coordinated action to effectively mitigate the escalatory potential of the pandemic, while strengthening long-term foundations for lasting peace. Sustaining peace is one of the core tasks of the United Nations and it must be a shared responsibility that flows across the entire peace continuum and all three pillars of the United Nations’ engagement.
We encourage especially the Security Council to leverage all the tools at its disposal to support an integrated and coordinated UN response to different phases of often complex conflicts, including prevention and peacebuilding. In particular, we hope to see even closer and more timely cooperation between the Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission..
We welcome the recently convened Informal Interactive Dialogue between the PBC and the Security Council and encourage continued engagement between these two bodies going forward. The PBC can offer valuable advice, including during the early stages of mandate formulation through to review and drawdown strategies. The impact of the ongoing pandemic on conflict dynamics has underlined the need for peace operations’ mandates to be adaptable to changing political and operational challenges through the various stages of UN missions' engagement. Member state commitment, solidarity and flexibility are essential for peace operations to deliver on their mandate. We therefore reiterate our support to the Secretary General’s Sustaining Peace Agenda, as well as the Action 4 Peacekeeping Agenda.
UN special political missions and peacekeeping operations play an important role at the country level in addressing root causes of conflict, by building capacity an fostering continued progress on peacebuilding processes, thereby increasing resilience to ongoing and future crises. What we do today has bearing for the longer term. We encourage renewed commitment to integrate efforts of UN peace operations with responses by the UN Country Team and to ensure coherence between humanitarian, development, human rights and peacebuilding efforts under the stewardship of an empowered Resident Coordinator. This includes engaging all relevant actors in the design of the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks, as well as adopting a conflict sensitive approach to humanitarian and development programming. These are crucial efforts to reinforcing the link between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustaining Peace Agenda.
Human rights must not become a casualty of the pandemic. The obligation to respect, protect and fulfil human rights must be front and center in our response. Democracy and the rule of law must be upheld. The Secretary-General’s February 2020 Call to Action for Human Rights is a tool at our disposal that we must apply in order to ensure that efforts to address the ongoing crisis do not exacerbate existing inequalities and root causes of conflict, but rather contribute to strengthening resilience and sustaining peace. We welcome the recent convening of an informal exchange between the Security Council and the Human Rights Council and hope to see similar exchanges happen more frequently.
From its onset, women have been at the frontlines of the pandemic, as responders, caregivers and leaders in their communities. Alongside the COVID-19 crisis, a pandemic within the pandemic is happening with increased abuse and sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated against women and girls. Making sure that women are included in decision making, and that a gender transformative approach is applied in all stages of peacebuilding must be our common priority. Now we have an opportunity to constructively advance the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda as part of the short-term and long-term response to the pandemic. To ensure effective and context specific advances on the WPS agenda on the ground, we urge the Security Council to further utilize the recommendations provided by the Informal Expert Group on WPS. We also welcome the recent brief from DPPA and UN Women on COVID-19 and conflict. Ensuring a holistic multi-stakeholder approach that advances inclusive and meaningful participation for women, youth, indigenous peoples and persons belonging to marginalized groups, such as minorities and persons with disabilities, is key to sustainably addressing the long-term implications of the pandemic in conflict-affected settings, while sustaining momentum on peace processes.
Partnerships are essential, both in dealing with the immediate consequences of the current pandemic in the context of sustaining peace, and in working to strengthen resilience to future crises. To this end, it is important that both the Security Council and UN peace operations harness a broad range of capacities and expertise through collaborating with local peace actors as well as regional and sub-regional organizations. These entities have proven critical in the face of access restrictions imposed during the pandemic and provide a long-term presence, remaining well beyond mission drawdown. In a similar vein, we would like to see the UN and the World Bank deepen their alignment of capacities, tools and resources, in support of national governments. There is a need for integrated analysis and joint strategies. Such a reinforced UN-IFI partnership could be leveraged to reduce the risk of conflict, sustain peace and mitigate the long-term negative impacts of the pandemic, by building back better and greener from the crisis, in line with the commitments of the Paris Agreement.
The economic fallout from the pandemic combined with the reversal of peace gains makes it as important as ever to galvanize efforts to leverage new financing and foster collaboration with new partners. We need to think innovatively about ways to increase sustainable, predictable, more coherent and better coordinated financing for peacebuilding. On the one hand, we need to mobilize additional funding for the UN Peacebuilding Fund, which plays an important role as a catalytic and flexible tool for peacebuilding. But there is also an opportunity to engage the private sector more, where relevant, in conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts. Beyond funding, the private sector can also support entrepreneurial action in communities to recover better from the crisis, while mobilizing support for peacebuilding efforts. As countries emerge from the crisis, it is critical to support skills development and create opportunities for decent jobs in more resilient and less vulnerable sectors and industries.
In closing, the ongoing pandemic serves as a stark reminder of the need for global solidarity and reinvigorated multilateral cooperation, not least in support of the peacebuilding agenda. Our collective response will determine how fast and how well the world recovers. In recent years, the international community has made important progress towards a shared commitment to the sustaining peace agenda. The different branches of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture must now be adequately empowered to urgently do their part to translate these principles into tangible results on the ground. The only way to emerge stronger from this crisis and prevent future ones is through a cross-pillar approach, which prioritizes conflict prevention and addresses the root causes of conflict.