International Labour Organisation (ILO), World Health Organisation (WHO), Interpeace, and the United Nations Peace-building Support Office (DPPA/PBSO) in a joint report are calling for tailored and coordinated responses to build and sustain peace in countries affected by conflict.
The publication, From Crisis to Opportunity for Sustainable Peace – A joint perspective on responding to the health, employment and peacebuilding challenges in times of COVID-19 , offers ways to tackle the health crisis, create decent jobs in a conflict-sensitive manner and contribute to peacebuilding.
This is coming as the ongoing COVID-19 crisis is complicating peace and reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected countries, jeopardising public health responses and threatening peace-building efforts.
In countries affected by armed conflict or where the risk of an outbreak of violence is high, the COVID-19 crisis or the response to it can exacerbate grievances, increase mistrust, discrimination and perceptions of injustice over access to health services, decent jobs and livelihoods, says the report.
It can erode trust in state authorities and have a disproportionate impact on certain segments of the population, especially women, migrants, and displaced, marginalized and vulnerable groups.
ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, says “conflict often arises from the absence of decent work. The COVID-19 crisis has worsened already fragile situations and requires stakeholders to work together in partnership to address the root causes. ILO is more aware than ever of its responsibility to promote peace and resilience in the time of this global pandemic.”
Immediate measures in response to the public health crisis should be part of a wider, long-term vision for recovery, says the report.
Ways to build resilience in societies to both conflict and the challenges posed by the current and potential future pandemics include scaling up existing public employment programmes and social protection schemes and increasing investment in productive infrastructure, the publication emphasizes.
Such measures can help lay the foundation for more structural changes that build and sustain peace over time. Emergency public works schemes, for instance, can mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic and support the health response by upgrading infrastructure for primary health care and access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says “equitable health services strengthen community trust, which in turn contributes to strengthening health systems and peace-building efforts.”
Inclusive health and socio-economic responses can also be an opportunity to give a voice to local actors in the decision-making process and encourage local responses, which could contribute to increased trust in government institutions and among groups.
For the Assistant Secretary-General of Peace-building Support, Oscar Fernández-Taranco, “COVID-19 has exacerbated existing grievances and inequalities. Building back better requires integrated health, humanitarian and socio-economic responses that must be conflict-sensitive and do no harm.”
On his part, President of Interpeace, Scott Weber, says “we have seen that the pandemic has significantly intensified social, economic and gender inequalities, and eroded trust in institutions, increasing the likelihood of violence.
‘’If we are to tackle the multi-dimensional COVID-19 crisis, we must bridge the silos of health, employment and peace and devise a multi-dimensional response that places trust-building at the center of the recovery process.”