The UN’s deputy secretary – general on Tuesday called on the Security Council to do more to encourage fighters around the world to put down their guns and instead focus on fighting “our common enemy” – the coronavirus.
“I trust in your commitment to this profession,” Amina Mohammed told the meeting via video conference on factors that are driving civil disputes worldwide. “And I rely on your renewed political and financial investment in prevention and solutions, to ward off security and conflict risks, at a time when the world needs peace and tranquility more than ever before.”
She said the pandemic continues to exacerbate the risks and drivers of conflict, “from cross-border insecurity and climate-related threats, to social unrest and democratic deficits”.
“Grievances and inequalities deepen, weaken confidence in authorities and institutions of all kinds, and increase vulnerability,” she said.
Millions of women at risk
The Deputy UN Chief mentions the divergent effects of the pandemic on economic and social inequalities, as well as on the promotion and protection of human rights, especially for women.
“Parties in conflict are taking advantage of the pandemic to create or exacerbate insecurity and impede medical care and other life-saving assistance and services,” she confirmed.
At the same time, women are excessively active in the sectors most affected by lockouts – where there is a ‘worrying increase’ in gender-based and domestic violence – and are more likely to have savings, social security and health coverage than men.
“How can we talk about peace and security when millions of women are at greatest risk in their own homes? And we know that there is a straight line between violence against women and girls, civil oppression and conflict,” she said. Mohammed said.
Regarding the link between climate change and security challenges, she calls the climate crisis ‘an important driver for inequality, uncertainty and conflict’.
She told her own fact-finding missions in the Sahel, Lake Chad and the Middle East, noting how they relate to the large-scale displacement of people and ‘extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods destroying homes, livelihoods and communities’.
“In some cases, the climate crisis threatens the existence of nations,” she said. Mohammed said.
The UN official also pointed out that ‘progress with development’ is being captured which is constantly being addressed in a ‘fragmented’ way.
While she notes that ‘the drivers of conflict are not static: they change and evolve’, so too are the opportunities, including new means of learning and growing, too, she goes further.
“The pandemic has already shown that rapid change is possible as millions of people use new ways of working, learning and socializing,” the deputy chief said, urging everyone to “build better forward”.
She also claims that the restoration of COVID ‘strengthened the need for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – our ultimate prevention tool’, including on gender equality, and the maintenance of the rule of law and good governance.
She called for an ‘entire UN approach’ to the current challenges and drivers of conflict, which should include all member states.
‘Unequal world order’
Munir Akram, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), attributes the UN’s failure to meet ‘the ideals of collective and cooperative security’ to an ‘unequal world order’.
The root causes of conflict “range from the internal struggle for scarce resources; external struggles for precious natural resources, and interventions that suppress the struggle of people to regain their own political and economic fortunes.”
And because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world economy will shrink by 5-10 percent, depending on when the virus can be brought under control, according to the ECOSOC chief.
He noted that more than a hundred million people would be driven back into poverty, and he noted that “as usual”, the poorest countries and people “would suffer the most”.
Unless they receive financial assistance, Mr. Akram said many developing economies – with lost revenue and burdened with unplayable debt – are likely to experience economic collapse, which will ‘spread chaos and further fuel regional conflicts and global tensions’.
A poisonous brew
Ibrahim Mayaki, Head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), painted a picture of African populations migrating to cities, including large parts of rural countries, and warns that conflict only contributes to the problems facing the state in faces to provide services to rural residents.
He noted that some African border areas were virtual magnets of violence perpetrated by armed groups, and warned that global warming in the Sahel was causing ‘extreme climatic events’.
The chairman of the assembly – his island nation in the Caribbean holding the presidency of the Council in November – reminded Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, that most of the region’s problems do not have military solutions and reject all solutions that meet the needs and aspirations of local people.
He stressed the urgent responsibility of the government to end the suffering, especially in conflict situations, and added that current gaps could not be overcome with ‘baby steps’.