U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Monday for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts around the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.N. chief said: “It is time to put armed conflict on lock-down and focus together on the true fight of our lives.”
Guterres said the world faces “a common enemy – COVID-19” which doesn’t care “about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.”
He said women, children, the disabled, marginalized and displaced and people caught in armed conflicts, which are raging around the world, are the most vulnerable and “are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.”
It is time to silence guns, stop artillery, end airstrikes and create corridors for life-saving aid and open windows for diplomacy, he said.
“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” the secretary-general said.
Guterres spoke as the Syrian conflict has entered its 10th year, the conflict in Yemen is in its fifth year and Libya's rival governments have been fighting for nearly a year. Africa also faces unrest from Somalia and South Sudan to Congo. The conflict in eastern Ukraine is nearly six years old, and Colombia has still not made peace with the smaller of the armed groups it had been fighting.
Guterres urged warring parties to “put aside mistrust and animosity” and take inspiration from efforts to get rivals to tackle the coronavirus together, but he stressed that much more was needed.
“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” the secretary-general said. “It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever,” he added.
The secretary-general said over the weekend that the parties in Libya had responded positively to calls for a humanitarian pause to tackle COVID-19, but he told reporters Monday that a recently agreed truce “is not holding very well, and this is one of the reasons why I believe we need a global ceasefire."
He said U.N. envoys in conflict areas will be talking to warring parties “to try to make sure that this global appeal is not only listened to but leads to concrete action, leads to a pause in fighting, creating the conditions for the response to COVID-19 to be much more effective.”
Guterres stressed that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed, “health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted,” and refugees and the displaced are “doubly vulnerable.”
“If the fighting goes on, we might have an absolutely devastating spreading of the epidemic,” he said.