A good time to talk peace

The pandemic could bring ‘unimaginable benefits’ if only there was the political will to seize them, writes Michael Keating.

The World Today Published 1 June 2020 Updated 28 September 2020 3 minute READ

Michael Keating

Executive Director, European Institute of Peace

It probably should come as no surprise that COVID-19 is being used by power brokers to advance their partisan and personal agendas rather than as an opening to work together to tackle the common threat. But is it too late for this crisis to be turned to the advantage of people who are most vulnerable to violence and conflict?

On March 23, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, called for a global ceasefire. This generated widespread public support, particularly in conflict-affected countries. Among others, Saudi Arabia in Yemen and armed groups such as the Kurds in Syria declared their willingness to suspend military activity.

But lulls in hostilities and renewed willingness to talk turned out to be the exceptions. In many places, levels of violence have increased, with Afghanistan being the standout example. Instead, a combination of factors may be creating a more permissive environment for parties to conflict.

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