U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Friday renewed his call for a global cease-fire, urging all warring parties to lay down arms and allow war-torn nations to combat the coronavirus pandemic. "The worst is yet to come," Guterres said, referring to countries beset with fighting like Syria, Libya and Yemen. "The COVID-19 storm is now coming to all these theatres of conflict."
Guterres said there had been some progress following his March 23 call for peace but that fighting still rages in a number of countries, hampering officials' ability to put into place plans to combat the virus.
"The need is urgent," Guterres said at a U.N. press conference. "The virus has shown how swiftly it can move across borders, devastate countries and upend lives."
He said parties in the conflict in a number of countries, including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen, have expressed support for his call. "But there is a huge distance between declarations and deeds – between translating words into peace on the ground and in the lives of people," Guterres said. "In many of the most critical situations, we have seen no let-up in fighting – and some conflicts have even intensified." While expressing gratitude for the support of his earlier call from some 70 countries, nongovernmental organizations and religious leaders worldwide, including Pope Francis, Guterres said more concrete work was necessary. "We need robust diplomatic efforts to meet these challenges. To silence the guns, we must raise the voices for peace," he said.
Tunisia earlier proposed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would call the coronavirus pandemic “a threat to humanity and to international peace and security” and called for an immediate global humanitarian cease-fire to respond to “the unprecedented threat posed by COVID-19.”
The draft resolution, which diplomats say has support from the 10 nonpermanent council members, stresses the importance of “urgent international action to curb the impact of COVID-19.” It underscores “that combating this pandemic requires greater international cooperation and solidarity, and a coordinated, comprehensive and global international response under the leadership of the United Nations.” In calling for a global cease-fire, the proposed resolution “demands that all efforts emphasize fighting the pandemic and saving lives.” It would also express the council’s “commitment to take special measures to provide protection for the most vulnerable in conflict zones, especially refugees, displaced populations, women, children and persons with disabilities.”
The Security Council has twice previously addressed public health emergencies, first the HIV/AIDS pandemic and second the swiftly spreading Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, which it called a threat to international peace and security.