GPPAC calls for an inclusive, people-centered peacebuilding response to the COVID-19 pandemic
As peacebuilders from around the world, united as the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), we stand in solidarity with all those affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The pandemic is causing physical and psychological suffering, as people and communities experience illness, loss and economic hardship, as well as isolation, fear, and despair. It is not just a challenge to human health, but to human dignity, and the values that we hold dearest as peacebuilders.
At a time like this, strengthening peacebuilding, human security and global cooperation as well as creating innovative, responsive, inclusive and multilateral conflict prevention strategies is more essential than ever.
We call upon governments, civil society, businesses, communities and individuals to put inclusive peace and human rights at the centre of all responses to the outbreak.
We call for:
- A global ceasefire, to prevent a multiplication of suffering as the pandemic and armed violence intersect.
- A unified response, without discrimination, racism, xenophobia and political division; and with protection of vulnerable and marginalised groups, including those now at greater risk of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
- Protection of civic space and human rights, this health crisis must not be used as an excuse to erode them.
- International solidarity, including economic solidarity, in response to this crisis.
- A transformative vision of a post-COVID-19 world, which centres people, prevention, peace, cooperation and human security.
A global ceasefire
We add our voices to the call of UN Secretary-General António Guterres for a global ceasefire. We are dedicated to preventing and ending violent conflict, as its staggering human cost is always unacceptable, and will be further exacerbated by the virus. Its impact will be greatest on societies where healthcare systems have collapsed or are already overburdened by war; on those who are fleeing or living in refugee camps, where physical distancing is near impossible, and access to clean water, good sanitation and healthcare is limited.
As peacebuilders, we are here to help support dialogue and mediation, and to seek a peaceful way forward together. We call for a permanent lockdown on war!
Unity over division
Governments, political, religious and community leaders, media and civil society: Do not allow this pandemic to be used as an excuse for xenophobia, racism, discrimination, stigmatisation, toxic nationalism, or perpetuation of international political divisions.
No-one is to blame. There is an urgent need for us to come together and work across divides to limit the spread and impact of the virus.
We call on governments to respond to the crisis in a non-discriminatory way, ensuring that support reaches all parts of society, in rural areas and cities, and includes marginalised and vulnerable groups. This includes the protection of those at increased risk of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence; and the protection of health workers. Equally important is the need to ensure that communication surrounding the disease and measures to address it is accurate, equal and accessible, taking into account language, literacy and disabilities, as well as access to communications media.
We encourage regional inter-governmental organisations to convene virtual dialogues and to invite civil society leaders, including women peacebuilders, young people, traditional indigenous leaders and faith community leaders to provide recommendations on response and recovery. Now, more than ever, we need a multi-stakeholder approach.
Protect human rights and civic space
We support temporary measures to slow or halt the spread of COVID-19. However, we call on governments in the strongest possible terms to respect human rights and to not abuse this moment to restrict civil rights and civic space or further militarize communities.
- Do not violate people’s rights to privacy.
- Address the spread of hate speech and false health information, but do not broadly restrict freedom of expression and speech and access to information.
- Do not limit freedom of peaceful assembly any longer than is strictly necessary to halt this virus.
- Do not use a state of emergency to bypass democratically elected bodies in policy making and legislation unrelated to the disease.
- If events where civil society ordinarily has a voice are cancelled or taken online, ensure that civil society voices can still be heard.
Any measures taken should be necessary, proportional, and time bound. Emergency powers must have clear limitations and oversight and grievance mechanisms in place.
The UN and regional organizations must work to ensure that the response to the pandemic is progressive, peace-oriented and inclusive rather than authoritarian and exclusive.
As civil society, we are here to help limit the spread of the disease and its consequences: We can help convey accurate information, prevent panic, support community cohesion and assist in humanitarian response. We can contribute to a recovery strategy. We can help assess the human rights and conflict impact of measures taken. Do not silence us.
Solidarity at every level - but don’t divert funding
We stand in solidarity with all those affected around the world. We have seen and applaud beautiful examples of solidarity in communities, in countries and between nations. We call on governments, especially those of wealthy countries, to extend that solidarity across the world.
This pandemic impacts us all. However, in poorer countries the effects will be more intense, multiplied by weaker healthcare systems, malnutrition, lack of access to water, sanitation and information as well as a lack of opportunity for many to stay home without going hungry. The poor will also be hit in wealthy nations, for many of the same reasons.
We call on governments and wealthy nations in particular to address these inequalities on principle, but also because this virus is not restricted or confined by borders or gates: We need a global pandemic “Marshall Plan” to protect people, economies, and our collective future. A unified, coordinated strategy and pooling of resources is needed for just and inclusive recovery. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an integrated framework to help rebuild, and particularly to address the needs of marginalised and vulnerable populations more quickly and comprehensively.
At the same time, we call on donors and donor countries not to divert funds from other issues: it remains as important as ever to build peace, address gender inequality, protect human rights, mitigate the climate crisis, fight hunger, and much more. Instead, lets create new aid packages to halt this pandemic, protect the vulnerable from its economic effects, and bolster healthcare systems around the world.
Local peacebuilders are first responders. Their work is critical and should be supported. We also call on donors to be flexible in allowing grantees to adjust their programmes to respond to this crisis, and to extend grants as a result of many planned activities having to be postponed.
A moment of opportunity
We have a shared responsibility to shape the world we want to live in once this pandemic has passed. As a community of peacebuilders we have bigger dreams than a return to the pre-pandemic status quo. As humanity, we have a chance:
To end wars and build peace.
To contribute to achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals.
To (re)build the public good and public institutions.
To recommit to international cooperation for the benefit of humankind, and advance reform of the international institutional architecture, including the UN system.
To realise a true shift to prevention – in healthcare, in conflict, in creating healthy environments and more – and the transformative approach societies deserve.
To refocus on what is most important to us.
To protect and expand human rights and civic space.
To show that human instinct leans towards kindness and caring, not hatred and violence.
To support people and the planet over money and markets.
To recognise our critical workers - those in healthcare, teaching, cleaning, food production and more - with better wages and conditions.
To build our collective infrastructures for peace and resilience to this and future challenges.
To be able to look back one day and say: 2020 was the year we chose to change the whole world for the good.