European Union External Action

EU Statement – United Nations Security Council: High-Level Open Debate on Pandemics and the challenges to sustaining peace

New York, 12/08/2020 - 17:25, UNIQUE ID: 200812_8
Statements on behalf of the EU

12 August 2020, New York - Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States at the United Nations Security Council High-Level Open Debate on Pandemics and the challenges to sustaining peace

Mr. Chair, 

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, and Albania*,  the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

Let me start by thanking Indonesia for organizing this High-Level Open Debate of the UN Security Council on ‘Pandemics and the challenges to sustaining peace’ in continuation of the high-level debate organized last month by Germany on 'Pandemics and security' and the very welcomed adoption of resolution 2532, signalling the continuity of the engagement of the Security Council on this issue.

The EU and its Member States have been staunch supporters of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture since it was first established in 2005, and of subsequent UN reforms to ensure that institutions, structures and instruments are fit for purpose. The Peacebuilding Architecture has come to play a key role in enhancing the integrated cross-pillar approach and bringing together political, security, humanitarian and developmental partners. Today’s discussion is timely, as Member States are about to embark on the formal part of the review of the Peacebuilding Architecture. 

The EU is committed to the 2016 twin Resolutions on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace understood as “an inherently political process aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, recurrence or continuation of conflict”. While progress has been made towards what is set out in the 2016 twin Resolutions, concerted efforts must continue to ensure their full implementation, with a comprehensive approach to sustaining peace.

The UN Peacebuilding Architecture needs to adapt to the new type of challenges that the world is facing such as the consequences of Climate Change, environmental degradation and global public health crises, as well as emerging challenges and opportunities associated with new technologies.

We are witnessing by the day the direct and secondary consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic interacting with pre-existing crises. The pandemic adds another layer of complexity to already fragile situations affected by years of conflict but engaged in peacebuilding processes. It is creating new and amplifying existing problems exacerbating existing human rights concerns and socio-economic and gender-based inequalities, increased insecurity for women and girls and for persons in vulnerable situations, as well as mental health and psycho-social concerns. Fast-moving complex emergencies such as COVID-19 require a whole-of-system and whole of society response through coordination, partnerships, and efficient use of a combination of multilateral tools.

There is a strong complementarity between working towards sustainable development, poverty reduction, the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and preventing violent conflicts. The EU is rallying behind the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to coordinate an 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 call for action for human rights, his appeal for a global ceasefire and his call for ‘building back better’, as reaffirmed by the High Representative Josep Borrell.

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 and respect for human rights reducing risks and vulnerabilities, and increasing the resilience of communities and states in the longer term. The humanitarian-development-peace nexus, applied with attention to conflict prevention, and Agenda 2030 should become the working method for the response to the pandemic. Indeed, a strong humanitarian-development-peace nexus in the design and implementation of the response, in line with the UN reform, is indispensable. This should be reflected also in the work of the Executive Boards of the UN Funds & Programmes.

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 insecurity to an escalation of pre-existing tensions. We are in regular contact with UN and World Bank colleagues to prepare for Post-Disaster Needs Assessments and Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessments to be carried out as part of the multilateral approach. We are also adapting ongoing activities to the changed circumstances on the ground.

This global crisis 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 and green recovery guided by human rights, fundamental freedoms and gender equality which accelerates the achievement of the SDGs and the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

In that respect, we believe that the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) can play a key role including in 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 peacebuilding and sustaining peace contexts.

We also see this as an opportunity for the PBC to strengthen its ties with other relevant UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council, as well as with civil society organisations and communities on the ground. We welcome the recently convened Informal Interactive Dialogue between the PBC and the Security Council, as well as the informal meeting between the Human Rights Council President and the Security Council. We all know that an effective response to the challenge will need to draw upon UN cross-pillar coherence 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.

Respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights, gender equality, democracy, the rule of law and transitional justice play a central role in ensuring security, stabilisation and sustainable peace. The consolidation of political and social institutions and core government functions is essential. The Peacebuilding Architecture should more systematically integrate human rights and protection of civilian structures, tools and actors for conflict prevention purposes.

We need to ensure that the longer-term effect of the Covid-19 crisis is a strengthened multilateral global partnership that is better prepared to respond to global health crises and their aftermaths, while taking into account measures taken at the national level,  We can turn some of these unprecedented challenges into opportunities for peacebuilding and peacebuilding partnerships at all levels.

However, we also need to ensure sustainable, predictable and coherent funding to UN peacebuilding activities and peacebuilding efforts in general.  The Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund - through its flexible and catalytic nature - have unique roles 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. PBC’s flexible working methods and ability to raise and sustain attention can bolster coordination, capacity-building, and enhance long-term effectiveness.

The EU and its Member States have been at the forefront of the global response to the new pandemic. Under the ‘Team Europe’ approach, we have mobilized a package of over 36 billion EUR, combining contributions from the EU, its Member States and financial institutions, for the global COVID-19 response and recovery. This package supports and will continue to support partner countries to address the immediate humanitarian consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the health and socio-economic impact, strengthening health systems, preparedness and response capacity of partners, including for the benefit of  populations already affected by conflict and displacement. Beyond the immediate emergency, this response is also tailored to help sustain peacebuilding processes of fragile societies in the long run.

We are adapting existing programmes to help communities cope with the consequences of the crisis and mitigate its security impacts, but also support them to maintain their efforts to sustain peace. For instance, the EU recently launched a EUR 10 million project to maintain and reinforce child protection mechanisms in Sub Saharan Africa during the COVID-19 crisis. In this regard, it is fundamental to continue ensuring humanitarian access and working together to remove access obstacles related to COVID 19.

Women - who represent the majority of health workers - have been at the forefront of the response and will be the backbone of recovery in communities. Their role needs to be further recognised and promoted. At the same time, women and girls have been more prone to immediate risks linked to sexual and gender-based violence, but also to their sexual and reproductive health and rights or the unequal sharing of responsibilities.  This is a major challenge to sustaining peace processes. Closure of schools during COVID-19 hinders the development of quality education.

We also echo the SG’s call for action on mental health and psychosocial support, to ensure full integration of this component in the COVID-19 response to help people better cope with the crisis and foster sustaining peace processes. At the global level we also need to address disinformation with due respect for citizens’ freedom of expression, as well as public order and safety, while also ensuring that effective and factual communication reaches all facets of societies. Social media plays a central role in these efforts.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, we commend the UN Secretary General’s leadership and multiple initiatives to address the multi-faceted COVID-19 pandemic. We reiterate our full support for the coordinating, normative and operative role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the global public health response and in its role to ensure  implementation of the International Health Regulations as well as in supporting the most fragile and vulnerable countries.

The EU and its Member States reiterate the need to ensure full respect of international law, including International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and International Refugee Law.

In matters of sanctions and restrictive measures, the EU’s targeted approach reflects key principles guiding the EU in the use of sanctions, in particular compliance with international law and human rights, and proportionality. In principle, when sanctions include export restrictions, such prohibitions do not cover the export of food, medicines or medical equipment. In addition, the EU policy of targeted measures is underpinned by a system of exemptions. This exemption system applies also in the context of a crisis like the current one caused by COVID-19. The EU will continue following closely the matter and is always open to listen to observations of experts on the ground, also with regard to any need for mitigating measures.

Global health and sustaining peace go hand-in-hand. Efficient response to outbreaks is possible through proper coordination and leadership, respect of International Health Regulations, comprehensive public health response and inclusiveness.

We can recover from the hazards that create health emergencies and insecurity, but only with a coordinated “UN as one” approach. The EU remains a strong supporter of multilateralism and a rule-based order with an effective and efficient UN at its core. You can count on our continued support.

Thank you.


* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

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