Conflict & Resilience Monitor
Feature Articles on COVID-19
During the global crisis ACCORD's analysis will be focus on the impact of the pandemic on conflict potential in Africa
A few months ago, I warned the United Nations Security Council that the world stood on the brink of a hunger pandemic. A toxic combination of conflict, climate change and COVID-19 had threatened to push 270 million people to the brink of starvation. Famine was real. It was a terrifying possibility in up to three dozen countries if we did not continue to act like we had been acting. Fortunately, since then, the world really listened. Donors and leaders all over the world responded; they acted. Countries large and small took extraordinary measures to save the lives of their citizens and support their economies, spending US$17 trillion on fiscal stimulus and central bank support. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the G20 nations threw a lifeline to the poorest nations by suspending debt repayments. That made a huge impact. With our donors’ help, the global humanitarian community launched a huge and unprecedented global fightback against the coronavirus.
Since the negotiations for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) were launched in Johannesburg in 2015, remarkable progress has been achieved – largely because of the political will and commitment of the Assembly of Heads of States and Government of the African Union (AU) to ensure that Africa takes concrete steps towards the creation of an integrated market.
The contributions at the 14th Extra-Ordinary Summit on Silencing the Guns served to reaffirm the commitment of the current leadership of the continent to the moral and political duty given to us by our forebears to achieve an Africa free of conflict. The summit was able to answer some critical questions on the actions we must now take to advance this responsibility, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is no getting around it: the COVID-19 crisis will hit Africa’s people particularly hard. Even if the infection rate remains low, the socio-economic devastation is already being felt. Access to clean water supplies and basic health services remain a challenge throughout the continent, making the containment measures taken by most countries all the more challenging. Beyond the immediate health concerns, the pandemic is triggering a global economic slowdown, which will severely hamper Africa’s development ambitions and curtail a successful two decades of macro-economic improvements and social gains.
The African Union Heads of State and Government had marked the year 2020 with the theme “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”. As a flagship project of Agenda 2063, Silencing the Guns by 2020 was adopted in 2013 during the Organisation of African Unity/African Union 50th Commemorative Anniversary Summit of African Heads of State. The vision of the 2013 Solemn Declaration was to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa, to make peace a reality for all our people and to rid the continent of wars and civil conflicts.
COVID-19 exacerbating existing security, social and livelihood challenges in the Lake Chad Basin region
The Lake Chad Basin is faced with a multidimensional crisis, largely as a result of a complex combination of factors that include terrorist activities, extreme poverty and a changing climate. The combination of these factors has triggered significant insecurity and the displacement of populations. The area has grown into one of the most complicated humanitarian emergencies in the world, with threats to the livelihoods of over 45 million inhabitants. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region has therefore exacerbated existing challenges, making an already dire situation worse. The pandemic has significantly heightened the economic needs in the region and has presented serious challenges to the livelihoods of people in this region. These factors feed into conflict triggers, which contribute to further instability in the Lake Chad Basin.
Some of the key words in the unprecedented era of the COVID-19 pandemic are disruption, damage, change, adaptation, recovery and resilience. Against the background of these words, what is clear is that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the status quo as we knew it. In this change, the pandemic has also challenged the interdependence of economies, leading to the disruption of global and regional supply chains. Some of the countries’ early responses to the pandemic were increased protectionist measures, especially with regard to the supply of personal protective equipment.
What will governance and public service be like post COVID-19? We will not and should not revert to “business as usual” after this crisis. We should draw on the maxim from the United Nations (UN) 2030 agenda – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to “leave no one behind” in achieving a more sustainable, equitable, inclusive and secure/peaceful future. We should start a dialogue about the current and future implications of COVID-19 on governance and public service.
COVID-19 has been quite a challenge to the world. It has made us question so many of the things we took for granted. It has changed the outlook and stereotypes we had about the world and humanity. For example, nobody imagined that with the current developments in technology and medicine, a pandemic could bring the world to its knees like this one has. COVID-19 has also questioned the impression we in Africa had that pandemics kill so many of our people, because of our lack of resources in terms of knowledge and facilities. This pandemic has shown that the world realities are more complex than we thought we know and we have mastered.
During events to commemorate 75 years since the formation of the United Nations (UN), Secretary-General António Guterres repeated his earlier call to world leaders to achieve a global ceasefire. In this call, the UNSG correctly stated that it is “time for a stepped-up push for peace to achieve a global ceasefire”, because we are all confronted by “one common enemy: COVID-19”. Indeed, in a year that is so significant in many ways, there has never been such a crucial moment in our lifetime to build, consolidate and sustain peace.
Women’s meaningful participation in peace processes is a cornerstone of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of this landmark Resolution for WPS, we the Co-Chairs of the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise-Africa) want to take the opportunity to highlight the work of Africa’s conflict prevention and mediation networks and their determination to ensure that the next twenty years for WPS will not be the same.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was first reported in the Horn of Africa region in early March 2020. At first, the number of cases seemed low compared to other regions, both on the continent and around the globe; however, these figures did increase steadily. Six months into the pandemic, it is encouraging to note the downward trend in the number of cases and deaths over the past few weeks. Thus far, more than 150,000 cases have been reported in the Horn of Africa; however, testing capacity is still quite limited, making the numbers a poor indicator of the actual infection rate. As pointed out by Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), both the drastic preventative measures applied across Africa by governments in the first months of the pandemic and the continent’s young population certainly played a significant role in limiting the devastating impact of the virus, as seen elsewhere. Regional and international efforts have also helped in hampering the immediate impact of the pandemic, but a sustained and coordinated effort is needed to reduce the longer-term effects of COVID-19, particularly the effects on public health and the economy.
Like so many others around the world at the start of this year, I and members of the UN family watched with alarm the growing spread and impact of COVID-19 in Somalia and elsewhere in the world. Our biggest worry was the potential for the pandemic to spiral out of control. Somalia is rebuilding after three decades of conflict, protracted crises and repeated humanitarian emergencies. Continued insecurity makes parts of the country inaccessible to humanitarian workers.
The escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic across Africa, which began in March 2020, has gravely affected how the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) undertakes its operations. Given the multifaceted mandates of AMISOM, which include undertaking activities requiring close-quarters congregations and contact with Somali stakeholders, a balance has to be struck on how to continually discharge these mandates without putting the lives of its personnel and that of the Somali community in jeopardy.
Africa has responded swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic and, as of now, reported cases are lower than early pessimistic estimates. It is too early to know the full impact of COVID-19 on Africa. To date, the experience has been varied. Moreover, as with other regions, there is not one homogenous narrative around the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. The pandemic is affecting African countries differently, given varied strengths and vulnerabilities. There are causes for concern, but also reasons for hope. Much hangs in the balance. Vigilance and preparedness are critical.
Despite its obvious limits and constraints, the African Union (AU) has been doing its utmost to address peace and security challenges in Africa. However, over the past few years, the involvement of external powers has drastically increased at the expense of seeking African solutions to African problems. This trend has deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent reduction of meetings, field visits and peace initiatives by the AU.
Following the remarkable changes brought on by the peaceful revolution in Sudan in 2019, 2020 was set to be a year during which the country could make great strides in delivering on the aspirations of the Sudanese people for change after 30 years of autocratic rule. The sudden arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic thus fell cruelly at a critical moment, with the country having just embarked on its make-or-break transition towards a civilian-led democracy.
The general situation in the Sahel-Saharan region continues to be of concern to the African Union (AU) and the international community. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is adding an additional element to the multidimensional crisis that the Sahel has already been experiencing for a decade. This is resulting in a negative impact, to say the least, on the actions that were underway in the fight against insecurity and for the promotion of sustainable development.