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

EU Statement: United Nations Peacebuilding Commission: Impact of COVID-19 in Peacebuilding Contexts

New York, 05/06/2020 - 23:36, UNIQUE ID: 200605_17
Statements on behalf of the EU

5 June 2020, New York – European Union Statement at the Ambassadorial-level meeting of the UN Peacebuilding Commission on the impact of COVID-19 in Peacebuilding Contexts (via virtual platform)

Mr. Chair, Excellencies, I have the honor to speak on behalf of the EU.

Almost two months ago, the PBC was among the first UN bodies to address the challenge of the COVID19 pandemic. We have come a long way since the first days of April, as the entire UN system, the membership and indeed, the world has mobilized to fight the pandemic standing in solidarity. The corona virus pandemic is testing the multilateral system like never before. It is only by international cooperation and collective action that we can beat the virus, and the UN must play a central role in that global effort.

The PBC has contributed to that effort through several dedicated meetings and proved that thanks to its representative constituency and flexibility, as well as its bridging role among the pillars of the UN, it offers a useful platform for discussions on how to address the wide-ranging implications of the ongoing pandemic, help resource mobilization and boost coherent and collective action.

The EU is rallying behind the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to coordinate a UN-wide response and welcomes the comprehensive proposals enshrined in his policy papers addressing the impact of COVID-19. We are putting our full weight behind his appeal for a global ceasefire and his call for ‘building back better’.   There is a strong correlation between violent conflicts, sustainable development poverty reduction, and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. COVID-19 is increasing fragility of vulnerable countries, and aggravating already existing humanitarian crises.

The UN should lead a coordinated, collaborative and inclusive approach at all levels, based on the comparative advantages of all relevant humanitarian, development and security actors. Focus should be on addressing needs, reducing risks and vulnerabilities, and increasing the resilience of communities and states in the longer term. The humanitarian-development-peace nexus and Agenda 2030 should become the working method for the response to the pandemic.

This global crisis can go either way - 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. The crisis may also bring opportunities for advances in peace processes and for multilateralism. We have to be ready to seize these opportunities, promoting a sustainable recovery guided by fundamental freedoms and human rights, which accelerates the achievement of the SDGs and the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

As the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said, “we need a global recovery initiative that links investment and debt relief to the Sustainable Development Goals”. The EU recently adopted a significant whole-of-system targeted support package for partner countries securing an amount of over €20 billion. The Team Europe approach calls for solidarity and leadership, and promotes a coordinated multilateral response in partnership with the United Nations, International Financial Institutions and the G7 and G20.

The Team Europe 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. What happens now will be key to the success (or failure) of the international community’s ability to halt the spreading of the virus and address its wide-ranging implications.

We should ensure that vulnerable groups are not only seen as victims, but as key agents of change that should be included from the outset and be given a chance to influence and participate in the response. It is essential to stress the imperative of countering intolerance, hate speech and the dangerous spread of misinformation in line with the SG`s initiative. 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.

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. 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. We are also adapting ongoing activities to the changed circumstances on the ground.

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 including its advisory capacity to the UN Security Council, shedding clarity and raising attention and awareness on the particular threats that the pandemic is posing in specific contexts.

It could be an opportunity for the PBC to strengthen its ties with other relevant UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council, but also with civil society organisations and communities on the ground.

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. At the global level we need to address disinformation and ensure effective communications that reaches all facets of societies. Social media plays a central role in these efforts.

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 to ensure that the longer-term effect of the Covid-19 crisis is a strengthened multilateral global partnership that is prepared to respond to global health crisis. We can turn some of these unprecedented challenges into opportunities for peacebuilding and peacebuilding partnerships at all levels.

The Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund through its flexible and catalytic nature have a unique role to play in supporting a conflict sensitive international response to the pandemic, supporting efforts by local peacebuilders, and ensuring a coherent and mutually reinforcing peacebuilding response to COVID-19. Fast-moving complex emergencies such as COVID-19 require a whole-of-system response through coordination, local partnerships, and creative use of existing tools, which is why the PBC’s flexible working methods and ability to raise and sustain attention can bolster coordination, capacity-building, and enhance long-term effectiveness.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Editorial Sections: