Mr. President, Excellencies, warm greetings.
I thank President Gonsalves and the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for convening this open debate and congratulate you on being the smallest nation ever to assume the Presidency of this Council.
Your Government also holds the Chairmanship of CARICOM, showcasing the important role that small countries can play in the multilateral system.
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven home that in today’s world, there is no such thing as a distant crisis.
The pandemic continues to exacerbate the risks and drivers of conflict – from cross-border insecurity and climate-related threats to social unrest and democratic deficits.
Grievances and inequalities are deepening, eroding trust in authorities and institutions of all kinds, and increasing vulnerabilities.
The crisis is reversing development and peacebuilding gains, aggravating conflicts and undermining efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
It is also having a devastating impact on human rights and gender inequalities. COVID-19 is exposing vulnerable people to new threats in pre-existing humanitarian crises. Parties to conflict are taking advantage of the pandemic to create or aggravate insecurity and impede medical care and other life-saving assistance and services.
Women are disproportionately employed in the sectors most affected by lockdowns, and are more likely than men to lack savings, social security and health coverage. Lockdowns have also led to an alarming spike in gender-based and domestic violence. How can we talk about peace and security when millions of women are at greatest risk in their own homes? And we know there is a straight line between violence against women and girls, civic oppression and conflict.
The climate emergency is a major driver of inequality, insecurity and conflict. I have personally witnessed the links between climate and security challenges in the Sahel, the Lake Chad region, the Middle East and elsewhere.
These links include the large-scale displacement of people; competition over resources; and extreme weather events like droughts and floods that destroy homes, livelihoods and communities. In some cases, the climate crisis threatens the very existence of nations.
The climate crisis is also eroding the resilience of communities and limiting the opportunities available to young people. In some parts of the world, it is draining away hope and risks creating a generation of disaffected young people, vulnerable to exploitation by extremists of all kinds.
The drivers of conflict are not static: they change and evolve.
Building and sustaining peace requires addressing these root causes as they develop and interact with each other, including the emerging threats posed by the pandemic.
Conflict, climate change and stalled progress on development reinforce each other—but too often, our efforts to address them are fragmented.
The challenges that we face are manifold—but so are the opportunities.
The pandemic has already shown that rapid change is possible, as millions of people adopt new ways of working, learning and socializing.
As we recover, we cannot go back to the failed frameworks and systems that created the fragilities and inequalities that are being exploited by the pandemic. We must build forward better.
I share the vision of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ which underpins this debate: “A better post-COVID-19 world remains within our reach”.
The pandemic has highlighted the necessity of investing in inclusive, equitable governance and institutions, as well as tackling root causes, in order to address the drivers not only of conflict but of crises and shocks of all kinds.
It has reinforced the need for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – our ultimate prevention tool.
The recovery from this pandemic must prioritize resilient, inclusive and accountable institutions that foster the rule of law, good governance, gender equality, environmental sustainability and human rights. Partnerships, including with International Financial Institutions, will be more important than ever.
The recovery must also put in place solutions to prevent and protect communities from climate-related causes of conflict. Member States and Development Banks should invest in early warning systems and resilience measures, particularly in states affected by conflict. Countries at greatest risk should be able to use new technologies and remote sensing to help them with forecasting and prevention.
We can only address these multifaceted challenges through an integrated and coherent whole-of-UN approach.
The 2016 twin resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council on the review of the peacebuilding architecture and the Secretary-General’s reforms have strengthened the Organization’s focus on prevention.
Given the critical role of this Council in preventing and resolving conflict, I welcome the increased attention that it is devoting to addressing contemporary drivers of conflict and instability.
The Secretary - General has welcomed resolution 2532, adopted by the Security Council in July, in support of his appeal for an immediate global ceasefire.
I conclude by recalling the Secretary-General’s appeal for a new push by the international community – led by the Security Council – to make a global ceasefire a reality by the end of this year.
I count on your commitment to this appeal. We must put all our energies into fighting our common enemy: the virus.
And I count on your renewed political and financial investments in prevention and solutions to stave off security and conflict risks, at a time when the world needs peace and calm more than ever before.