12 August 2020, New York – At the UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate (VTC) on “Pandemics and the Challenges of Sustaining Peace” today under the Council Presidency of Indonesia, the Philippines recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the gains already achieved in finding just and lasting peace in conflict-affected areas.
“Recognizing the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work to achieve peace, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its affiliates from 19 March to 15 April 2020, days before the UN Secretary-General issued his appeal for a global ceasefire on 23 March 2020,” Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Enrique A. Manalo said.
This initiative was recognized by the Secretary-General who conveyed in late March 2020 that “upholding these commitments will be crucial to enabling an effective response to, and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis,” encouraging “both sides to build on this momentum and translate these expressions of good will into a lasting political solution”. The ceasefire demonstrated the Philippine Government’s commitment to the swift and unimpeded provision of public health assistance, especially the safe movement of healthcare workers, to stricken communities in dire need of immediate medical care.
“To bridge the gap between today’s crisis and the future we want, we must address the vulnerabilities COVID-19 has exposed. The Philippines believes that addressing the challenges of sustaining peace in a COVID-19 context is anchored on sound strategies, with a clear political vision for the UN field missions and integrated into a culture of accountability,” Ambassador Manalo added.
Towards this end, he cited a number of measures that governments and its partners, domestically and overseas, can take.
“Giving special priority to countries plagued with internal conflict in terms of financial aid, humanitarian assistance, and vaccines against COVID-19 will ensure that the gains of the peace process and peacebuilding shall be sustained,” Ambassador Manalo said.
Ambassador Manalo also described in his statement the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on the vulnerable and marginalized sectors of society, the important role of women and youth in peacebuilding, the role of regional and international organizations, in particular ASEAN and the United Nations, in helping conflict-ridden communities cope with the impacts of COVID-19, and the role of peacekeeping particularly in the humanitarian response.
“The United Nations should encourage cooperation among its Member States in addressing the fissures that were magnified by COVID-19. These are heavy on development but have lasting impacts on peace. Channeling resources to health, education, socio-economic development and environmental protection will benefit the quest for peace in the long-term must be encouraged,” Ambassador Manalo explained.
The open debate aimed at exchanging views on the impacts of COVID-19 on sustaining peace, and explored how more effective support can be harnessed for countries affected by or emerging from conflicts. Security Council resolution 2532 adopted on 01 July 2020 demanded an immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations in support of the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire to combat the pandemic.
Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Mrs. Retno L.P. Marsudi, who chaired the meeting, said that sustaining peace “must be a part of our comprehensive response to this pandemic,” and that it “requires synergy between the works of all UN system” and “smart use of resources.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in turn, stressed that “the challenges of this pandemic underscore like never before the imperative of coherent, multi-dimensional and cross-pillar responses along the integrated logic of the Sustainable Development Goals; further emphasizing that “multi-dimensional, coordinated and conflict-sensitive responses and whole-of-society approaches are crucial.”
“Given the multi-dimensional risks to sustaining peace, global leadership and cooperation, more than ever, are needed to combat the biggest test that the world has faced since World War II,” Ambassador Manalo concluded. END