Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement - United Nations Peacebuilding Commission: Impact of COVID-19 on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace

New York, 08/04/2020 - 21:16, UNIQUE ID: 200408_36
Statements on behalf of the EU

8 April 2020, New York - European Union Statement delivered (via virtual platform) by Ambassador Silvio Gonzato, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, at the Ambassadorial-level meeting of the UN Peacebuilding Commission on the impact of COVID-19 on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace

Mr. Chair, Deputy Secretary General, Excellencies, I have the honour to speak on behalf of the EU.

The PBC, thanks to its representative constituency, as well as its bridging role among the pillars of the UN can be an extremely useful platform for discussions on how to address the complex fallout of the COVID19 pandemic, and can also help resource mobilisation.

Besides enhancing cooperation between the membership, Governments, the UN actors, regional and sub-regional organisations, in order to forge a more coherent and efficient action, with full respect to national ownership, we need to remain attentive to civil society organisations, whose role is particularly important in the current crisis, affecting our communities in socio-economic terms, but also their longer-term stability and ability to recover.

The challenge is unprecedented and calls for leadership and bold initiatives.

As stated by High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the EU and its Member States “The fight against this global pandemic […] is an unprecedented challenge that requires global unity, cooperation, solidarity and compassion”. This is why we strongly support the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for an immediate global ceasefire.

This global crisis can go either way - on the one hand it is likely to exacerbate many of the challenges that the world was facing before the outbreak – at the local and regional levels, as well as at the global level. On the other hand it may also bring opportunities for advances in peace processes and for multilateralism; and we have to be ready to seize these opportunities.

In the first case the pandemic can tip the balance from unstable peace to violent conflict. The economic impact may rapidly translate into other threats to sustainable peace, ranging from food security to an escalation of pre-existing tensions in border areas such as between Ethiopia and Kenya, where we can already see an increase in confrontations. We are in regular contact with the UN and World Bank colleagues to prepare for Post-Disaster Needs Assessments to be carried out as part of the multilateral approach.

However, the crisis can also create the conditions which would help us engage conflict parties in talks that may provide opportunities for conflict transformation. We believe that the PBC can play a key role in this context, shedding clarity and raising attention and awareness on the particular threats that the pandemic is posing in specific contexts. As the pandemic continues to cause devastation worldwide, we cannot afford regional and international leaders turning away from existing conflict and peace processes. Unfortunately, we already see this happening. For example the Tripartite summit in Nairobi aimed to defuse escalating tensions between Nairobi and Mogadishu, Kenya and Somalia, has been postponed, for good reasons, because of COVID-19. However, we should find innovative, virtual ways to push the process forward without waiting for the pandemic to be defeated.

We all know that an effective response to the challenge will need to draw upon UN cross-pillar coherence in order to cover the full humanitarian-development-peacebuilding continuum to ensure UN as one mandate delivery at country level with full respect for human rights, gender equality and the principle of non-discrimination.

It will also call for Regional cooperation and regionalised responses, as well as innovative approaches to dialogue and mediation support.

But there is also another important element - at the global level, we need to address disinformation and ensure effective communications that reaches all facets of societies. Drawing on the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis, the EU is aware of the importance of easily accessible trusted and factual information in conflict zones.

The EU believes that the UN Peacebuilding Commission is ideally placed to address these needs together – coordinating and facilitating a coherent global response.

A few words about the action we have taken as EU, together with our Member States.

We have done our outmost to act quickly and effectively, stepping up coordination among our Member States, and making full use of available multilateral structures and this despite the sever crisis which Europe is going through.

Today, we adopted an extremely significant whole-of-system targeted support package for partner countries securing an amount of over €15 billion. The Team Europe approach (EU, EIB, EBRD and EU Member States together) calls for solidarity and leadership, and promoting a coordinated multilateral response in partnership with the United Nations, International Financial Institutions and the G7 and G20.

The response focuses on the most vulnerable, including those in fragile and conflict-affected countries and regions, and their immediate health, humanitarian and socio-economic needs. The overall aim is to ensure a coherent response that delivers swiftly, links up with the multilateral system and is supported by adequate communication. We have already started developing media and communication activities focusing specifically on conflict-prone countries and those that WHO has identified as vulnerable.

But even before the adoption of this package the EU has been adapting all the instruments at its disposal - from humanitarian aid to development cooperation, to the new challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Somalia, for example, recent stabilisation activities targeting health clinics in newly liberated areas will now equip these facilities to safely treat COVID 19 patients, offering viable treatment options in urban and peri-urban centres will help maintain confidence in the authorities and reduce tension. On the Horn of Africa, we are engaging at country and regional levels to encourage a streamlining of efforts to address the health and economic aspects of the crisis, instating on the need to focus on safety nets, targeting the most vulnerable and to allow humanitarian work to continue.

While considerable efforts will be needed on the African continent, we should not forget about fragile states elsewhere where the socio-economic repercussions of the outbreak could have severe consequences. In Central Asia, the socio-economic repercussions of Covid-19 risk not only halting, but even reversing an unprecedented period of reform and cooperation in the region. The EU, in close cooperation with the UN system, is working to step up support to the health system and counter the wider societal repercussions. Also, in the Caribbean and South America, the EU is supporting the health sector to help address the immediate needs in fight the coronavirus outbreak.

If there is a positive message to be derived from these trying times, it is that the global response to Covid-19 illustrates the power to act that lies within our respective governance systems and societies across the world. We can change policies and social interactions to respond and prevent crisis, an experience and a powerful message that we will bring with us into the post-crisis period.

We need ensure that the longer-term effect of the Covid-19 crisis is not one of protectionism, closed borders and increased surveillance, but a strengthened multilateral global partnership that is prepared to respond to global health crisis.

The EU believes that the Peacebuilding Commission has a crucial role to play here, helping the international community turn some of these unprecedented challenges into opportunities for peacebuilding.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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