Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Peacebuilding Commission’s virtual meeting on the implications of COVID-19 for peacebuilding and sustaining peace, in New York today:
I hope that you, your colleagues and families are all doing well during this trying time. I want to thank the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission for this initiative and commend all members for stepping up to the immense challenges ushered in by Covid-19. I am also pleased to see the World Bank amongst us today — our partnership will be critical as we support countries in this unprecedented global crisis.
COVID-19 is a human crisis, with far-reaching implications that cut across all aspects of human life. We are seeing a health emergency spreading across the world. We are facing humanitarian emergency causing additional stress and suffering for the world’s most vulnerable. A crisis that is also turning into a development emergency, which is amplifying the gender gap and already pervasive inequalities. And which risks reversing hard-won development gains and makes the promises of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] elusive.
The political implications are clear. Across the world, we are seeing worrying signs of political and social unrest. As health systems crumble and institutions are unable to cope with the immense socioeconomic implications, the social contract could see a further erosion. We must act now — together, and in an integrated way. There is no either-or scenario. We cannot choose to deal with the health emergency alone. Or prioritize the humanitarian response alone. Because we also cannot expect that people choose between a meal or their health.
As the Secretary-General has stated, if we do not confront the pandemic and its consequences simultaneously, the virus will continue to run like wildfire, taking lives, affecting people and threating social cohesion. And while countries in the North have greater capacities to make the necessary investments in health, social protection and injecting resources into the economy, they must ensure developing countries too can fight COVID-19.
In those countries and regions where conflict continues to rage, time is not on our side. COVID-19 has shown how swiftly it can move across borders, devastate countries and Governments and bring life to a standstill. In the end of the day, if the virus remains active somewhere, we cannot be safe anywhere.
This is why on 31 March, the Secretary-General launched a global call for solidarity to help countries suppress the transmission of the virus, while mitigating the devastating socioeconomic impact of COVID-19. Our strategy also calls on the world to build back better.
Following the Secretary-General’s call, the United Nations development system is finalizing the development of a global framework to foster an integrated and agile response by United Nations country teams. It will help ensure an effective and coherent support to countries, leveraging our global footprint.
The framework will also help orient the investments of a dedicated COVID-19 Fund that the Secretary-General is creating to ensure United Nations country teams have flexible resources for joint efforts in response to COVID-19. This will complement and leverage the action by our partners — including the World Bank — and other funding instruments of the United Nations system. We are working closely with the Peacebuilding Support Office to ensure that investments are coordinated with the Peacebuilding Fund to generate synergies.
As we face COVID-19, the Sustainable Development Goals remain our North Star. In many ways, the pandemic is a tragic reminder of the gaps we continue to face in their road towards 2030, including the insufficient progress in building inclusive economies and stronger institutions.
Covid-19 also puts the nexus back at the heart of our agenda. The effects of the pandemic cut across all sectors and demand an equally comprehensive response. It goes both ways. If not suppressed swiftly and universally, COVID-19 threatens to further exacerbate conflicts and political tensions. And as countries fight COVID-19, conflicts are a major bottleneck to any effective response.
Challenges will be compounded in humanitarian and conflict affected settings. We count on positive response to the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire — the Secretary-General’s Special Representatives are working tirelessly in countries to transform commitments to this call where they have been made into a silencing of the guns to put all efforts into fighting this virus. We also count on all actors to ensure there is humanitarian access to reach the most vulnerable. This is vital to an effective response.
I would like to take a moment here to express appreciation and convey the Secretary-General’s gratitude to Member States, regional partners, non-State actors, civil society networks and organizations, religious leaders, and all United Nations Messengers of Peace and Advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals, who endorsed and contributed to implement the Secretary-General’s appeal for an immediate global ceasefire.
We all have a critical role to play in preventing reversal or limits on peace gains due to the current COVID-19 global health crisis. This difficult time must be used wisely to reassess our responsibilities and actions in building a sustainable and inclusive future. We must do much more, together, to keep a focus on the human face of the crisis and prevent the reversal of peace and security gains.
The Peacebuilding Commission — a lynchpin sitting right at the nexus between peace and development — has a key role to play. It is uniquely positioned to help connect the dots across various United Nations bodies. It can provide a powerful voice to promote inclusive approaches in the response to COVID-19 — a global response that is anchored on human rights, strong institutions, social cohesion, greater equity and justice.
And it can help ensure a COVID-19 lens to the United Nations work on peacebuilding. We must not stop for COVID-19; but we must ensure that our actions are cognizant of the major additional demands the pandemic places on our countries.
Every single country in the Peacebuilding Commission agenda will need our support in facing the health emergency and its ramifications — economic, social, political. In some cases, this may require adjustments in our strategy. In all cases, countries will need more support, faster and at greater scale.
Today, we are all together fighting the same enemy. It is a battle against a virus. Our response to it must bring peace and pave the way for a lasting solidarity. If ever there was a time to renew our commitment to predictable financing and strong partnerships for sustainable development, human rights, humanitarian action and peacebuilding — well, this is it. Let us commit to invest in hope, solidarity, and building back better for all people on a healthy planet. Thank you.