General Assembly Security Council

High-Level Open Debate of the UN Security Council 


“Pandemics and the Challenges of Sustaining Peace”


12 August 2020




We thank the Permanent Mission of Indonesia, as the President of the Security Council, for convening today’s important discussion on the agenda item “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace” on the theme “Pandemics and the Challenges of Sustaining Peace”


2. The briefings by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, former Secretary General H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon and Ms. Sarah Cliffe, Director of Center on International Cooperation, New York University have provided us useful insights into the various dimensions of the challenges we face today.




3. We are in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic that has caused global disruption on a scale that has not been experienced before by this generation. The pandemic is still raging, and its implications, though hard to foretell in exact terms, is certain to be profound and multidimensional. We do however, need to remember that while pandemics can exacerbate the humanitarian consequences of any conflict situation and present obstacles to traditional tools for conflict resolution and maintenance of peace and security, including UN peacekeeping operations, COVID-19 is a health crisis with far-reaching economic and humanitarian implications. 


4. In a meeting of the Security Council on 9 April 2020, the UN Secretary General outlined several trends related to the pandemic with implications for conflict prevention. These include erosion of trust in public institutions, a rise in societal tensions associated with national government’s response measures, conflicting public health risks posed by governments desire to contain spread of virus and softening the impact on the economy by easing lockdowns etc. Some conflict actors are also exploiting the current climate of uncertainty to press their agendas, including through spread of misinformation to foment discord and violence and even sponsor opportunistic terrorist attacks.


5. Peacebuilding as a concept, essentially involves a range of initiatives which include, inter alia, conflict prevention, peacekeeping, reconciliation, institution building, strengthening democratic framework, protection of rights and development. It is a combination of several factors which finally ensures the success of any peacebuilding effort. It is in this paradigm that we need to look at peacebuilding in the context of the pandemic.


6. COVID-19 has impacted adversely almost all initiatives which usually go on to contribute to peacebuilding. In some ways, it has served to exacerbate conflict situations to the extent that we now have to tackle more strife and conflict as well as a growing humanitarian crisis rather than address some of the other important issues relating to peacebuilding. This is where our current challenge lies. How do we prioritize between various needs?


7. National efforts at peacebuilding and addressing the various facets of peacebuilding have been weakened since national resources are being diverted to tackle more immediate humanitarian issues of life and death. The scope for finding innovative solutions have also shrunk. For example, the use of digital solutions to bring communities closer together especially in sharing life-saving information on how to survive the pandemic, involvement of women and youth to strengthen social cohesion etc. need to be enhanced in the current situation but cannot be done without strong international support.


8. However, COVID-19 has also impacted internationally driven support for peacebuilding approaches due to stoppage of international travel, interruption of global trade and decreasing resources of even the wealthiest nations. Consequently, it is important for international players to look at a model of international development and humanitarian action which will strengthen not just the national response to COVID-19 but also promote essential pillars of peacebuilding. Prioritization is therefore essential when the resources are dwindling, both nationally and internationally. 




9. Let’s not forget that conflict and violence are the single biggest impediments to development and to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If tensions over scarce food, a breakdown in civic trust, or rumors about the virus fuel violence and discord then the core efforts to stem the spread of the virus will be undermined, and progress towards the SDGs will be reversed. According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020, an estimated 71 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020. 


10. India has been a positive contributor to international peace and security.  We are a major Troop Contributing Country to the UN Peacekeeping Operations, including through women Peacekeepers. As a responsible stakeholder in global health supply chains and despite the pressures to guarantee medical supplies domestically, India has ensured timely access to essential drugs, medical services and medical equipment for over 150 countries to combat the pandemic. India has also responded to the Secretary General’s immediate requirement for upgrading the medical facilities of UN peacekeeping missions, by agreeing to deploy additional medical personnel and equipment to the military hospitals in Goma (MONUSCO) and Juba (UNMISS). 


11. Given the context of the pandemic, India has the following ten suggestions to offer:


One, our immediate focus should be on ensuring that the humanitarian needs  of the community which are in a conflict are met so that lack of availability of minimum needs itself does not become a matter of greater conflict. 


Two, national governments should support and engage local peacebuilders to help design and lead COVID-19 sensitization and response efforts to help mitigate further conflict, prevent violence, adapt and sustain peace processes, and rebuild social cohesion.


Three, if peacebuilding has to endure then it should rest on institutions and not on individuals. Consequently, strengthening of national institutions combined with strengthening of democratic structures should not be compromised in the face of the crisis brought about by the pandemic. It is only when institutions are strong can other factors, like addressing equitably the needs of the conflicted communities and strengthening of human rights, can be effective. 


Four, it is clear that human-centered and cooperative approaches which are at the core of peacebuilding work are needed. We also need resilience approaches that can enhance local capacities, skills, and attributes, and enable communities to not just ‘bounce back’ but ‘build back better.’ These locally owned, conflict-sensitive, gender-sensitive and trauma-informed peacebuilding approaches are highly cost-effective and sustainable. They must not be sacrificed due to short-term reallocation of funds to what is deemed as “immediate” pandemic responses. Short- and long-term responses to COVID-19 must be aligned.


Five, donors and international organizations should sustain financial support to and partnership with local peacebuilders during the crisis. They should also provide flexibility for rapid program re-design, as well as re-direction of resources to respond to emergency situations. 


Six, ensure performance in peacekeeping. The UN Secretariat needs to carry out realistic assessment of contingents being selected and deployed in the mission areas. Troop competencies need to be a critical requirement of selection criteria. Troop Contributing Countries should entail adherence to training plans, including pre-deployment and in mission training, so that key mission tasks are not left to “learning on the job”.


Seven, it is of vital importance that our efforts are focused towards preventing a lapse and relapse into conflict. Poverty and lack of opportunity pose some of the most formidable barriers to sustainable peace. Development is, therefore, critical and should have the attention of the international community. 


Eight, ensuring women’s participation in peacebuilding is not only a matter of women’s and girls’ rights. Women are crucial partners in shoring up three pillars of lasting peace: economic recovery, social cohesion and political legitimacy. Gender capacity should be deployed in peacebuilding initiatives, gender-responsive analysis of key issues mainstreamed across mediation work and gender-inclusive language incorporated in peace agreements.


Nine, peacebuilders must mobilize to identify and counter misinformation. Community engagement and effective communication are critical to combat the “infodemic” of false information that often drives fear and division.  


Ten, provide increased support for psycho-social and trauma healing programs during the crisis and through the recovery process. 




12. While we are still in the early stages of adapting to the new reality of peacebuilding during a global pandemic, we must build back better to regain stability and spur peace and prosperity in a world that is perhaps changed forever. 


13. Ensuring a strong social cohesion and peacebuilding focus on how societies and institutions recover from this crisis is at the heart of turning the tide on the greatest reversal of human development into a decisive leap forward.


Thank you.