The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, called on all warring parties to lay down their weapons in support of the battle against COVID-19, the common enemy that is threatening all of humankind. While the Secretary-General’s message is intended for armed parties, we all have a part to play in defeating this global pandemic.

COVID-19 has adversely affected the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, but at the same time it can endanger the young and healthy, and has the potential to kill more than any other pandemic that we have encountered in our lifetime. It shows in a stark and unforgiving way that we live in a globally connected world in which what happens in one part of the globe can impact people everywhere. But being part of a global community can also foster positive change because when we as individuals take positive action this can ripple out to our towns, states, countries and the world to change people’s lives for the better.

As the Secretary-General called on warring parties to pull back from hostilities and put aside mistrust and animosity, the global academic community, including students, educators and researchers too can and must play a part to combat this pandemic. For example, young people can practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus and save the lives of others; educators can continue to teach so that students do not lose an academic year, complete their studies and get out into the world to apply their knowledge to solve the many problems we face as a global community; researchers can continue the important work of developing a vaccine and investigating the impact of this pandemic so we can learn to better prepare and respond to future global outbreaks; and everyone can look for safe ways to help the vulnerable in their community and show solidarity with people in their time of need. Coronavirus will take not only a physical and economic toll, but a mental toll as well and we must stand together to fight against isolation and loneliness.   

The world we return to after this pandemic will be different. Stopping all activity to halt the spread of this illness has thrown the world into turmoil, but this also offers a chance to slow down and reassess how we live, what is of value to us individually and collectively and what changes we need to make to ensure future generations inherit a world that is safe, secure and protects the most vulnerable.

We must ask ourselves - what new behaviors and practices should we leave behind so that ultimately the world is a better place after this viral outbreak? In this difficult time, we can show the world that COVID-19 is not the only viral pandemic – we can unleash acts of solidarity that are contagious and create a global pandemic of kindness and compassion to help heal the world.


Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19. 

The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.  It attacks all, relentlessly.

Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world.  

The most vulnerable — women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced — pay the highest price.

They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.

Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed.

Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted. 

Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable.

The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.

That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. 

It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.

To warring parties, I say: 

Pull back from hostilities.  

Put aside mistrust and animosity. 

Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes. 

This is crucial…

To help create corridors for life-saving aid.

To open precious windows for diplomacy. 

To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Let us take inspiration from coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties to enable joint approaches to COVID-19.  But we need much more.

End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world.

It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.

That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.

Resources on COVID-19