“To silence the guns, we must raise the voices for peace”
Ten days ago, I issued an appeal for an immediate ceasefire in all corners of the globe to reinforce diplomatic action, help create conditions for the delivery of lifesaving aid, and bring hope to places that are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This call was rooted in a fundamental recognition: There should be only one fight in our world today: our shared battle against COVID-19.
We know the pandemic is having profound social, economic and political consequences, including relating to international peace and security.
We see it, for example, in postponement of elections or limitations on the ability to vote, sustained restrictions on movement, spiraling unemployment and other factors that could contribute to rising discontent and political tensions.
In addition, terrorist or extremist groups may take profit from the uncertainty created by the spread of the pandemic.
Nonetheless, the global ceasefire appeal is resonating across the world.
The call has been endorsed by an ever-growing number of Member States, some 70 so far, regional partners, non-state actors, civil society networks and organizations, and all UN Messengers of Peace.
Religious leaders — including Pope Francis — have added their moral voice in support of a global ceasefire, as have citizens through grassroots mobilization online.
Just to mention one example, an appeal launched by Avaaz has already gathered support from more than one million people. To all, I express my deep gratitude.
Today, I am releasing an update on the impact of the global ceasefire appeal.
A substantial number of parties to conflict have expressed their acceptance for the call.
As the update details, these include parties to conflict in the following countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.
But there is a huge distance between declarations and deeds — between translating words into peace on the ground and in the lives of people.
There are enormous difficulties to implementation as conflicts have festered for years, distrust is deep, with many spoilers and many suspicions.
We know that any initial gains are fragile and easily reversible.
And in many of the most critical situations, we have seen no let-up in fighting — and some conflicts have even intensified.
We need robust diplomatic efforts to meet these challenges.
To silence the guns, we must raise the voices for peace.
In all these situations, my Special Representatives and Special Envoys – and in some countries, the Resident Coordinators — with full support from Headquarters and whenever required my personal involvement—are engaging with conflict actors to help move towards ceasefires on the ground as a prerequisite to lasting peace.
Allow me to give four examples of this intense diplomatic push.
In Yemen, despite expressed support for a ceasefire by the Government, Ansar Allah and many other parties — including the Joint Forces Command — the conflict has spiked.
My Special Envoy is working on preparations to convene the parties to discuss COVID-19 crisis management and a nationwide ceasefire mechanism.
I call on all governments and movements involved and their supporters to put an end to this catastrophic conflict and humanitarian nightmare – and come to the negotiating table.
In Syria, where the first COVID-related deaths have now been reported, my Special Envoy appealed for a “complete and immediate” nationwide ceasefire in the country to allow for an all-out-effort against COVID-19.
The Idlib ceasefire previously negotiated by Turkey and the Russian Federation is holding.
But it is essential that a permanent nationwide ceasefire take effect to allow for expansions in humanitarian access to all those suffering for the last decade.
In Libya, the Government of National Accord and Marshal [Khalifa] Haftars Libyan National Army welcomed calls to stop the fighting. Yet clashes have escalated drastically on all frontlines, obstructing efforts to effectively respond to COVID-19.
I urge both parties — and all others directly and indirectly involved in this conflict — to immediately halt hostilities to allow authorities to effectively address the COVID-19 threat, ensure unhindered access to humanitarian aid and realize the ceasefire they have been discussing under the auspices of the United Nations.
Finally, in Afghanistan, while fighting increased, on 26 March, it was announced that a 21-member team, which includes five women, was formed for direct negotiations with the Taliban.
The Government and the Taliban have also established technical contacts for an initial prisoner release.
I believe the time has come for the Government and the Taliban to cease hostilities as COVID-19 looms over the country. I pledge my full support.
In all these enormously difficult circumstances, as in others, I make a special appeal to all countries with influence on parties waging war to do everything possible for the ceasefire to become a reality.
I call on all those that can make a difference to make that difference: to urge and pressure combatants around the world to put down their arms.
There is a chance for peace, but we are far from there. And the need is urgent. The COVID-19 storm is now coming to all these theatres of conflict.
The virus has shown how swiftly it can move across borders, devastate countries and upend lives.
The worst is yet to come.
And so, we need to do everything possible to find the peace and unity our world so desperately needs to battle COVID-19.
We must mobilize every ounce of energy to defeat it.