As the world endeavours to recover from the COVID‑19 pandemic, without increased investment in development, political and peace missions will simply fail, delegates heard at a joint meeting of the Economic and Social Council and Peacebuilding Commission today.
“Saving lives and saving livelihoods are two sides of the same coin,” said Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, in her opening remarks at the joint meeting on “Promoting Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in the Context of Recovery from COVID‑19”. Highlighting the interconnected role that the Council and the Commission have to play in promoting this coherence, she stressed the need “to make every UN presence in the field a centre of prevention expertise,” not only on conflict prevention but also for natural disasters, epidemics and other vulnerabilities.
Turning to funding, she underscored the importance of a financial architecture that incentivizes collaboration and impact at scale. Such investments pay for themselves many times over in the human and financial costs that are spared, she said, also stressing the importance of women’s participation. “When women are at the table, peace has a chance,” she observed.
Collen V. Kelapile (Botswana), President of the Economic and Social Council, observed that with the resurgence of COVID‑19, the poorest and most vulnerable countries are at heightened risk of social and economic collapse. In many countries, structural racism and entrenched patterns of discrimination have led to minority and indigenous populations bearing the worst effects of the pandemic.
Also stressing that vaccines need to reach the poorest and most vulnerable, he called for debt relief and restructuring. “Conflict-affected countries are where the success of the Sustainable Development Goals will be determined,” he said, calling on the entire United Nations intergovernmental machinery to remain focused on delivering integrated, durable, and innovative solutions to address the multidimensional challenges caused by COVID‑19.
Osama Abdelkhalek (Egypt), Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, stressed the need to switch from a response-oriented system to a nationally led prevention system that will require the integration of crisis preparedness into national policies and systems. Only 18 per cent of conflict-affected countries are on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal targets, he pointed out, adding that COVID‑19 has created new pressure on already scant resources. “The crisis ushered in by the COVID‑19 pandemic, has reinforced the need for global solidarity to build durable peace and sustainable development,” he said, stressing: “We have to keep in mind that ‘No one can be safe until we are all safe’”.
Financing remains the most critical challenge facing the United Nations in peacebuilding and achieving development goals, he said, stressing the need to deepen partnerships with all relevant stakeholders including regional and subregional organizations as well as financial and development institutions. Underscoring the need for enhanced collaboration between the Economic and Social Council and the Peacebuilding Commission, he called for the designation of an informal coordinator for the relations between the two.
The meeting also consisted of a panel discussion in which development experts weighing in on the best ways to coordinate recovery, development and peacebuilding. Antoinette Sayeh, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), pointed out that while advanced economies and many emerging markets are on their path to recovery, fragile and conflict-affected States are at a significant risk of falling behind. Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank’s Managing Director of Operations, noted deepened coordination and new alliances developed over the last year in response to the pandemic.
Sirebara Fatoumata Diallo, Director of La Femme Rurale, in Bamako, Mali, pointed out that pandemic mitigation efforts cannot be carried out because of conflicts while Celestin Mukeba Muntuabu, Managing Director of Equity Banque Commerciale du Congo, detailed his organization’s comprehensive recovery strategy which is inspired by the Marshall Plan. Luisa Romero, co-founder of Get Up and Go Colombia, an organization that supports tourism capacity-building in former war territories, observed the importance of empowering the communities most affected by the region’s armed conflict.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates stressed the importance of a coordinated response to pandemic mitigation and recovery, with Liberia’s representative calling on the Council and the Commission to strengthen cooperation with regional and subregional organizations. Her country, weakened by civil war and Ebola outbreaks, has been severely impacted by COVID‑19, she said, noting the impact of this on economic development and social cohesion.
The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines called for greater access to emergency financing facilities, inclusive debt relief and concessional financing lest “our countries will fall further behind.” Striking a cautionary note, the representative of Pakistan called for clear distinctions between the mandates of the Council and the Commission, voicing concern about the opaqueness caused by the growing inclination to apply “prevention” to peacebuilding mandates.
The joint meeting convened an interactive discussion, hearing presentations by: Antoinette Sayeh, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Axel van Trotsenburg, Managing Director of Operations for the World Bank; Sirebara Fatoumata Diallo, Director, “La Femme Rurale”, Bamako, Mali; Celestin Mukeba Muntuabu, Managing Director, Equity Banque Commerciale du Congo and Vice-Chair of Board of the United Nations Global Compact Network of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Luisa Romero, Co-founder “Get Up and Go Colombia”, Colombia. All spoke via videoconference.
Ms. SAYEH said that fragile and conflict-affected States represent more than 20 per cent of IMF’s membership, and according to IMF research, their real gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 6.6 per cent in 2020, with a projected recovery of only 3.2 per cent in 2021. On inflation, IMF forecasts indicate a 10 per cent increase for those States in 2021, compared to just 1.5 per cent for poorer but non-fragile countries. Thus, while there are advanced economies and many emerging markets on their path to recovery from the crisis, fragile and conflict-affected States are, on the other hand, at a significant risk of falling behind. In that regard, support from the international community is critical to help them manage the crisis and return to a path of inclusive development.
Since the start of the pandemic, IMF has provided $7.5 billion in emergency support to fragile States, she said, adding that $16.2 billion of the recent allocation of Special Drawing Rights were directed to fragile and conflict-affected States. Stressing the importance of strong and accountable economic institutions that can implement effective fiscal and monetary policies, she said the Fund is stepping up its engagement with fragile and conflict-affected States. Work is underway on a new strategy that will articulate how IMF’s core competencies and instruments can be leveraged to help countries across the fragility and conflict spectrum.
Mr. VAN TROTSENBURG recalled that the World Bank has deepened coordination with various United Nations organs over the past year, developing new alliances. However, vaccine rollout progress has been uneven. There is a need to work with and utilize every platform and to intensify efforts to support fragile countries. It will be essential to put emphasis on preparedness and long-term engagement, he said. In Afghanistan people continue to suffer, especially in terms of food insecurity, he warned. In response, the World Bank has identified $280 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to be transferred to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) as soon as possible, he reported.
Ms. DIALLO noted that the conflict Mali has faced for years has been exacerbated by the pandemic, with women the hardest hit. In order to address those challenges, all strata of the population need to mobilize. However, insecurity limits pandemic mitigation measures, she said, noting that immunity activities cannot be carried out because of conflicts. Nevertheless, the country’s recovery plan does include measures to mitigate the effects of COVID‑19 with tax benefits for businesses and financial support for households. In that context, she called for investors and financial backers to support the most vulnerable in climate change and COVID‑19 mitigation activities.
Mr. MUNTUABU highlighted the impact of the pandemic on his region, noting that it has broken supply chains and a left huge number of people food insecure. Entrepreneurs as well as small and medium-sized enterprises have found their capacity undermined, he said, noting that his organization is working on a comprehensive recovery plan that is inspired by the Marshall Plan which fuelled post-war recovery in Europe. The Banque is working with various partners to improve credit capacity and inject oxygen into value chains, he said, adding that the organization aims to create five million jobs in five years in five different countries in the region. Also stressing the importance of scalable and integrated healthcare, he said that job creation is crucial for recovery.
Ms. ROMERO said that her organization is actively engaged in the transformation of former war-torn territories into cultural and touristic destinations. By building local capacity in tourism and English-language skills, the organization empowers the communities most affected by the region’s armed conflict. That includes indigenous people, former victims and combatants, youth and women, she said, also highlighting a project in which the local community gave up farming potentially illegal crops. “Where you used to see illegal crops, now cacao, coffee and other legal crops are growing and you can enjoy agriculture with a flavour of peace,” she said, adding that the best solutions to problems always emerge from the people most impacted by those problems.
In the ensuing dialogue with Member States, the representative of Portugal said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development must remain the blueprint for global recovery. Strengthened cooperation between the Economic and Social Council and the Peacebuilding Commission could play an important role, bridging the “global picture” of the full implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16 with the specific needs of post-conflict recovery and the necessary national ownership. Given that seven Commission members are elected by the Council, one Member State could be designated to bridge both organs, thus ensuring the flow of information and the complementarity of their work, he said.
The representative of the Republic of Korea observed that global cooperation in the field of health security is the prerequisite in collective efforts to build back better and leave no one behind. In that context, he emphasized the importance of equitable and fair access to the vaccine. For its part, the Republic of Korea has contributed $210 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment to ensure adequate distribution of vaccines for those in need. He went on to emphasize that the humanitarian-development-peace nexus and the comprehensive United Nations approach cannot be overemphasized. In that context, a holistic approach as envisaged by a meeting like the current one can substantially enhance coordination within the entire United Nations system, he said.
The representative of the Russian Federation drew attention to compounding factors affecting pandemic recovery, including development inequality and chronic poverty, and warned of attempts to shift the blame of the root causes of COVID-19. The Economic and Social Council and Peacebuilding Commission should coordinate their activities and draw attention to the resources needed for post-conflict countries to recover from the pandemic. There is a need for further investment in peacebuilding and increased cooperation between the United Nations and international financial institutions, he said, suggesting that the international financial institutions request Commission input when coming up with strategies for insecure countries. Furthermore, the Council and the Peacebuilding Commission can play an important role in addressing unlawful sanctions through objective monitoring.
The representative of Japan highlighted the role of the Council and the Commission in global recovery from the pandemic, emphasizing that there is a need to place people at the centre of efforts. Furthermore, there must be more focus on prevention, as merely responding to conflict after its occurrence or recurrence does not work. People’s trust is key, he said, noting that during the pandemic, people’s trust in their Governments has been severely affected in many countries. Partnerships should be strengthened, and United Nations entities must deliver as one in a coherent and coordinated manner, meanwhile building partnerships with non-Organization actors, including the international financial institutions, regional organizations, civil society, private sector and bilateral donors.
The representative of Liberia observed that global insecurity is at its peak. In that context, it is imperative to find every resource to ensure more coordinated responses to the pandemic. Liberia, which has been victimized by civil war and Ebola outbreaks, has been severely impacted by COVID‑19. The situation is challenging peace and security, social economic development, and social cohesion, she cautioned. There is a need for the Council and the Commission to strengthen cooperation with regional and subregional organizations. For its part, Liberia developed a national COVID‑19 preparedness and response plan, including a post-pandemic interim recovery plan and early warning mechanisms. On mitigation, the Government adopted a recovery plan that provides basis for economic recovery with investment in key sectors, she reported.
The representative of South Africa noted that there can be no development without lasting peace and stability and expressed support for the Secretary-General’s call for global ceasefire, in that regard. She called for equitable access to vaccines for all countries, especially those in Africa, where vaccination rates remain low. In that context, patent waivers are needed to boost dose supply. Emphasizing the importance of deepened cooperation between the Council and the Commission, she wondered how South-South cooperation can support economic recovery and peacebuilding.
The representative of Canada referenced the Charter of the United Nations, saying there is a need to enhance cooperation and coordination throughout the Organization’s system. COVID‑19, climate change and the digital divide demonstrate the extent of global inequalities. Efforts should now focus on how Member States can increase the efficacy of their responses. Canada, for its part, is contributing close $1 billion to humanitarian aid and the COVAX facility. It has also contributed to a hub in South Africa that will allow for more vaccine distribution in that part of the world. However, more is needed, he emphasized.
The representative of Ireland said participants to conflicts should facilitate humanitarian access and uphold ceasefires and pauses in fighting to enable humanitarian teams to undertake their vital functions, including safely delivering COVID‑19 vaccines. Since the beginning of the pandemic, his country has allocated over €200 million to addressing global health issues, including €8.5 million in funding to the COVAX facility in 2021. Having fulfilled earlier commitments on vaccine solidarity, he said that Ireland announced yesterday that it would increase its COVID‑19 vaccine donation commitments to COVAX by up to a further three million vaccine doses. Noting the importance of also supporting countries’ socioeconomic response to the crisis, he said measures to ensure adequate social protection and to stem the rising tide of gender-based violence are vital to preventing a wider destabilizing impact, which risks undermining social solidarity and peace.
The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said that in high-, middle- and low-income countries around the world, the COVID‑19 crisis has exposed the vulnerabilities of health and social systems and the fragility of economies. Calling on nations that are able, to share COVID‑19 doses globally, she underscored the need for coordination between States, relevant organizations and the COVAX facility to enhance vaccination rates. Stressing the role of the World Bank, IMF and other international financial institutions, she called for greater access to emergency financing facilities, equitable, inclusive and sustainable recovery debt relief, concessional financing. Without scaled-up development assistance, she cautioned, “our countries will fall further behind,” unable to provide social protections or safeguard the social contracts on which peace and prosperity are built.
The representative of Pakistan said there needs to be a clear distinction of the mandates of the Economic and Social Council and the Peacebuilding Commission. Peacebuilding only applies to those countries emerging from conflict or those in danger of slipping back into it, he observed. Therefore, the priorities of peacebuilding must be determined by the States concerned. There is a growing inclination to apply “prevention” to peacebuilding mandates, a move that makes those activities more opaque, he said. Therefore, it is important to ensure that actions by other forums of the United Nations, such as the Security Council, do not neutralize peacebuilding efforts. It should be up to the Governments of concerned countries as to what assistance it will seek from the Organization.
The representative of the United States said that efforts to further control the spread of COVID‑19 will require widespread vaccination. The United States has provided $4 billion to support that effort and plans to purchase and donate an addition $5 million of Pfizer doses to be distributed throughout the world. However, real economic recovery will require further measures, she said, adding that regional and subregional organizations, civil society, private sectors, and all United Nations organs have a role to play. In that context, she said it is important to distinguish between each organs’ mandates, underscoring that any attempt to expand mandates will only complicate efforts. In addition, the international community must provide both civil society and the private sector support to allow them to “do what they do best.”
Mr. ABDELKHALEK expressed deep appreciation to all the speakers and noted the common themes that emerged from the rich input coming from the floor. Highlighting the need for synergies and avoiding duplication, he said that a better division of labor is essential. It is equally crucial to enhance national ownership and give a wider sphere of participation for women and youth. “We are leaving the meeting today with a better understanding of what needs to be done systemwide,” he said.
Mr. KELAPILE, stressed the importance of adequate, predictable and sustainable financing for peacebuilding. The Commission and the Council can help mobilize donors in support of increased investments in the peace continuum, she said, noting that this should be a key aspect of the new Agenda for Peace next year. Also underscoring the importance of South-South cooperation, she said it is very important for economic recovery and peacebuilding. South-South solidarity has proven especially vital for developing countries to address the shared challenges of COVID‑19, she pointed out.