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UN Security Council Fails to Support Global Ceasefire, Shows No Response to COVID-19

New York | 19 May 2020

Civil society criticises US, China role in Security Council failure; still sees hope in global ceasefire call


Civil society leaders have condemned the failure of the UN Security Council to agree a resolution on Covid-19 and to back the UN Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire.

Almost two months since the UN Secretary General issued his urgent appeal, and on the back of a campaign that has seen over 200 NGOstwo million citizens, and support from Pope Francis to Malala, the Security Council has so far failed over several rounds of negotiations to reach agreement on a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in situations on the Security Council’s agenda, and to support a wider call for a humanitarian pause in all armed conflicts in support of the bigger battle against COVID-19.   

The main cause for the Security Council’s failure rests with the US and China, and US refusal to allow any reference to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, the global death toll of coronavirus has reached nearly 320,000 and grows daily.

David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee stated "the paralysis of the Security Council in the face of COVID is shameful. To millions of people, it is also incomprehensible. The IRC has warned that up to 1 billion could be infected by the virus without an urgent, coordinated and context-appropriate response. This is a threat to international peace and security. This is not a failure that can be blamed on UN bureaucracy. It is a failure of the member states. Their leaders need to account for the failure to agree to call for a humanitarian pause in all conflicts. That this is controversial shows how far we have fallen." 

"The U.S. and China have treated these negotiations as an opportunity for a blame-game over the origins of COVID-19 rather than an opening to make a straightforward call for a reduction in violence during the pandemic," said Rob Malley, President and CEO of International Crisis Group. "Neither Washington nor Beijing seems able or willing to show leadership at the UN during a global crisis."

According to Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children “the deadly combination of war and COVID-19 is tearing families apart. Only last week, children and young mothers were brutally murdered in Afghanistan, and in Yemen a child was killed and three were wounded. These countries should not be counting their dead children but focus on battling the virus within their borders. The UN Security Council has a historic opportunity to stop the fighting globally and to ensure aid workers have full access to those most in need.”

The Security Council has also failed to date to reinforce the Secretary-General’s call for women and girls to be at the center of every COVID-19 response. According to Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA “it should have been easy for the Council to insist on women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in shaping and implementing these responses. We know their leadership makes for more inclusive and more sustainable outcomes.”

Despite the Security Council’s failure, local civil society organizations believe that the UN Secretary General’s call can still be a force for change. In the DRC for example, 139 civil society organizations have called for a complete ceasefire.

According to Maître Olivia, Coordinator for the NGO SAF (Synergy for the Empowerment of Women and Girls) “armed groups continue their attacks despite the presence of COVID-19, with serious consequences for millions of civilians, many in areas that humanitarians cannot access. This resolution would have offered global support to local peacebuilders and civil society organizations who are not only managing the novel coronavirus but are coping with new Ebola virus outbreaks and active conflict. We are disappointed by the lack of Council action, but we will continue to demand global action in support of local efforts to end conflict everywhere.”

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