In an international appeal issued on Monday March 23, UN Secretary-General (UNSG) António Guterres urged warring parties across the world to observe a ceasefire to assist the battle against COVID-19, which he called ‘the common enemy that is now threatening all of humankind.’ (Click here for his video message).
In addition, Mr Guterres tasked UN Special Envoys in conflict zones to follow up on this appeal. ‘My special envoys will be now working with the parties to the conflict to try to make sure that this global appeal is not only listened to but leads to concrete action, leads to a pause in fighting, creating the conditions for the response to COVID‑19 to be much more effective.’
The appeal appears to be having some impact – although limited so far.
On March 26, a rebel militia in Cameroon, the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces (Socadef), responded by announcing that they would observe a two week long ceasefire so that people could be tested for coronavirus without fear.
A chief mediator in the Cameroon conflict Mr Alexandre Liebeskind, said that he hoped others would follow Socadef’s example, not only in Cameroon but also in other conflicts in Africa. “Sitting in Africa, I am particularly concerned because it’s a fragile continent. The economic and social consequences [of coronavirus] could be devastating if it is not quickly contained.”
European Union and Russia support the ceasefire call
Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has supported the UNSG’s call for a ceasefire, tweeting:
‘The call for an immediate global ceasefire by UN Secretary General @antonioguterres is more important than ever. Only together and in peace can we overcome the global #coronavirus pandemic. This is the real fight we need to face today. Unity and solidarity are our weapons.’ (@JosepBorellF)
Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, released a statement on March 25, supporting the ceasefire call and highlighting key conflicts where a ceasefire is especially important.
“Of special concern are the situations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria, as well in the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip. We note separately the risks associated with the possible deterioration of the epidemiological situation in African countries, where there is a persisting armed confrontation. The localities with camps for refugees and internally displaced persons are particularly vulnerable.”
Win without War urges the United States to support
Win without War, a United States based campaign, has called on the Trump Administration and US Congress to support the ceasefire call.
‘The truth is, it’s going to take all of us, everywhere, doing our part. That’s what every doctor says, every scientist and public health official tells us. Yet in far too many corners of the world, some of us are still trying to kill one another on the battlefield. Right now, we need the entirety of the U.S. government fighting this pandemic, not endless wars.’
Win Without War appeal to President Trump and the U.S. Congress.
US residents can add their support at We Demand a Global Ceasefire.
Call to support global ceasefire by ending weapons production
World Beyond War (WBW) and Peace Brigades International (PBI) Canada, another two organisations promoting the UN call for a ceasefire, are urging campaigners in arms-producing countries to support by ending weapons production and arms transfers. See United Nations Calls For Peace During The Coronavirus Pandemic, But War Production Continues.
They note that the weapons industry is keeping factories open to keep making weapons, even in countries like Italy and the USA where many other businesses are having to close during the worst part of the pandemic. Indeed the arms industry has effectively convinced governments that the defence industry be included as “essential services, [which] may remain in operation.”
WBW has launched an online petition calling for the cancellation of Canada’ largest arms show, CANSEC, which is scheduled to take place on May 27-28 and has not been cancelled or postponed.