UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged “armed actors” around the world to put down their weapons to give people in places of conflict a better chance to battle the suffering brought by COVID-19 and to prepare for what lies ahead.
The UN Secretary-General said he was encouraged by early “positive signals” in an update to his appeal of 23 March for a global ceasefire in response to COVID-19, which he has called the greatest test the world has faced since the United Nations was founded 75 years ago.
“At this critical moment, I reiterate my appeal to armed actors around the world to put down their arms. Together, we must work to build more peaceful, resilient and prosperous societies,” the update from the Secretary-General said. In separate remarks, he said halting fighting could “help create conditions for the delivery of lifesaving aid.”
The Secretary-General said that COVID-19 risked increasing political tensions and violence and that measures and resources necessary to fight the virus also risked diverting attention away from conflict prevention and mediation.
“The severity of the crisis we face in the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the tragedy and folly of the ongoing suffering caused by armed conflict,” the Secretary-General emphasized. He noted that his renewed appeal was a “call for conflict parties to end the scourge of war and fight the virus ravaging our world.” He noted that 70 countries had endorsed the appeal and that at least 10 countries had accepted the call.
To date, nearly a million people have tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly 50,000 have died, according to figures from the World Health Organization.
The Secretary-General said that stopping fighting would allow people and countries to be better prepared to confront COVID-19 and could lay the foundations for more lasting peace.
“In this time of crisis, it is essential and urgent that we build on positive developments, even if the steps are tentative and the gains fragile,” the Secretary-General’s appeal said, asking for “good will from old adversaries” to break deadlocks.
The Secretary-General provided detail on a number of countries where steps had been taken to end fighting, sometimes in places where conflict had endured for years, and encouraged countries, armed actors, civil society and others to step up their efforts to lay down arms and work for peace.
”We need to do everything possible to find the peace and unity our world so desperately needs to battle COVID-19,” the Secretary-General said.