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 A woman named Mary at the Mangaten IDP Camp in South Sudan holds up her hands, which bear the message, "Peace will give us our home back."

A woman named Mary at the Mangaten IDP Camp in South Sudan holds up her hands, which bear the message, "Peace will give us our home back." (Photo: Robert Fogarty/Oxfam)

Oxfam Report Details 'Catastrophic Failure' of Efforts to Coordinate Global Ceasefire During Covid-19 Crisis

"Managing coronavirus is hard enough when a country is at peace but fueling conflict on top of a pandemic is reprehensible."

Jessica Corbett

Despite efforts from diplomats and world leaders—including United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres—the international community has failed to establish a global ceasefire during the coronavirus pandemic, which advocates argue is essential to help protect two billion people from Covid-19, according to Oxfam International.

Conflict in the Time of Coronavirus, an Oxfam report released Tuesday, explains that "at the very moment where we need all of our resources to overcome the virus, wars continue to increase food insecurity, destroy healthcare systems, drive displacement, and deny people their livelihoods."

"To compound this, the global economic devastation caused by coronavirus is going to be felt most acutely by the people already living in the margins, including the two billion people living in fragile and conflict-affected states," the report adds. "We simply cannot afford to waste the valuable resources needed to build back better on fueling wars."

Oxfam declares in the report that "the international community needs to work collectively, channel appropriate funding to address the root causes of crisis and conflict resolution, and show the necessary political will to address the highly toxic and dangerous interplay between coronavirus and conflict."

Guterres had demanded a global ceasefire in late March. "Our world faces a common enemy: Covid-19," he said at the time. "The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly. Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world."

Although fighters in at least a dozen nations had temporarily complied with Guterres' call to "silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes" by early May, the United States blocked a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution last week that urged a global ceasefire during the current crisis.

The Oxfam report blasts UNSC members for failing to broker a deal and continuing to supply support and weapons to warring parties:

Instead of uniting to face the coronavirus crisis, the UNSC continues to be hamstrung by a crisis of power, relevance, and legitimacy. This inability to recognize the shared threat to peace and security is emblematic of the failure of UNSC members, particularly permanent members, to unite to address situations of global impact.

Oxfam interim executive director Jose Maria Vera said in a statement that "we expected leadership from the council as well as many of those countries who say they support a ceasefire, but who nevertheless remain active participants in conflicts around the world, conducting military operations, selling arms, and supporting third parties."

"Arms exporting countries must stop fueling conflict and instead make every effort to pressure warring parties to agree to a global ceasefire and invest in peace efforts that can bring a meaningful end to conflict," Vera continued.

"Decades of conflict have devastated the health systems and economies of war-torn countries, leaving two billion people vulnerable to diseases like coronavirus," he added. "Managing coronavirus is hard enough when a country is at peace but fueling conflict on top of a pandemic is reprehensible."

The report details current conditions in several countries impacted by violence, including Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Colombia, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Yemen. Although some ceasefires have been brokered, continued fighting impedes efforts to contain the virus and serves as a barrier to healthcare and other necessities.

Fatimata Gansonré, whom Oxfam helps support in Kaya, Burkina Faso, said Tuesday: "Since the onset of the Covid-19, everything has been blocked. We can no longer go out; we can no longer regroup; we have stopped our small activities. Life has become harder. I'm scared. There is a double fear: insecurity and the virus itself. Before Covid-19, we struggled to find something to eat. Now it's worse."

Oxfam proposes investing in peace via the U.N.'s $6.7 billion Covid-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan—designed to provide relief from the pandemic to people in the world's poorest countries, particularly those in vulnerable communities—and promoting locally led action to secure a global ceasefire.

Demands for a halt to fighting "will remain of little value for people trapped in conflict zones if the ceasefires that follow are just elite bargains negotiated between those who are otherwise spoilers of peace," the report says. "A global ceasefire has the potential to stop the immediate hostilities and protect populations affected by violence, but only if it is implemented locally. Grounded in local realities, it could create space for national and local dialogue."

Germany and Estonia on Tuesday submitted a UNSC resolution to replace the one drafted by France and Tunisia that was blocked by the U.S. delegation. Agence France-Presse reported the five-point resolution "demands a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda."

Echoing the blocked resolution, the new one proposes a "humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days" to allow for delivering aid to communities in need. Unlike the previous resolution, it makes no mention of the World Health Organization, which is essential for potentially securing U.S. support, due to President Donald Trump's hostility toward the U.N. agency.

"We must find a way out from this deadlock," Estonia's ambassador to the U.N. Sven Jurgenson, told AFP. "It is [a] real shame that we, the Security Council, have not been able to fulfill our responsibility on this matter."

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