COVID-19 and conflict: communicating for peace during a global health crisis
While the Covid-19 crisis has come to be known as a “global pandemic”, rather than bringing us all on a level playing field, it appears to have exacerbated key structural inequalities. From a political, social and economic dimension, the pandemic has made vulnerable groups more vulnerable, and often created significant disadvantages in particular groups who were previously no more disadvantaged than others. These types of dynamics fuel grievance between individuals, communities and the state.
Issues caused by the Covid-19 crisis include the disruption of peace processes, such as in Sudan’s Darfur region; the escalation of existing conflicts, such as in Libya; and the formation of contested conditions that warrant new strife, such as the postponement of long-awaited elections in a number of countries in the South. This is occurring while peacebuilders are unable to reach affected realities due to global restrictions on international mobility. Quarantine, lockdowns and travel bans are all measures that bring to a standstill the monitoring of ceasefires and also peacekeeping missions. This creates danger for local communities and provides non-state armed groups with the opportunity to progress their agenda.
In conflict-affected areas, a peacebuilding approach must be integrated into all NGOs’, UN agencies’ and even local organisations’ interventions, so that the Covid-19 response remains conflict-sensitive and more likely to succeed as a result. Within this scenario, media and communication channels must be adapted to perform the critical task of promoting health messages whilst continuing to communicate for peace.
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