The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a global ceasefire related to all on-going conflicts to facilitate the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, after more than three months of painstaking negotiations, diplomats said.
UN takes its first step towards a global ceasefire
The unprecedented extent of the novel coronavirus pandemic “is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security”, it said, adding that it could also set back peacebuilding and development gains in countries emerging from conflict.
The resolution, drafted by France and Tunisia, calls for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations” on the Security Council’s agenda. It is the Security Council’s first statement on the pandemic and its first real action since the outbreak started.
Tunisia’s ambassador to the UN, Kais Kabtani, hailed it as a “historic achievement” but experts questioned whether the text would have any impact and say the paralysis undermined the Council’s credibility.
Ceasefire process halted because of dissent between US and Russia
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres raised the idea of a global ceasefire in March as a way to help united efforts against the virus outbreak in the most vulnerable countries. But it took more than three months for the council to adopt the resolution, due partly to disagreements between the United States and China.
The #UN Security Council on Wednesday finally backed U.N. chief Antonio Guterres' March 23 call for a global truce amid the #coronavirus pandemic, adopting a resolution after months of talks to win a compromise between the United States and China. https://t.co/H5oxRiy8SF
— Michelle Nichols (@michellenichols) July 1, 2020
In the resolution, the security council asked “all parties to armed conflicts to engage immediately in a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” as many countries are struggling to contain the novel coronavirus.
The proposed ceasefire will “enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance,” the council said.
Fighting against terrorist insurgent groups is excluded in the resolution.
WHO to blame? US thinks so but China disagrees
The new text makes no reference to WHO, which the US has criticized for its management of the crisis. Washington opposed any mention of WHO back in May.
The body’s paralysis for more than three months has been widely criticized, including by some members who have described their “shame” over its inaction.
During the negotiations, the United States and China, the two largest financial contributors to the UN, had both threatened to veto resolutions.
This last point of @RichardGowan1 is the most important one. Sitting on the #UNSC should carry some obligations. There is little hope for peace if those who are supposed to be its keepers are troublemakers. @antonioguterres will have to remind the council of that simple truth. https://t.co/lZBJ66GjCz
— Jean-Marie Guéhenno (@JGuehenno) July 1, 2020
According to diplomats, Indonesia, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, helped broker a compromise that saw a reference to a General Assembly commitment to supporting the World Health Organization added to the preamble.
The vague reference was deemed satisfactory to China, which wanted to emphasize the importance of WHO, and the US, which broke away from the UN body over its handling of the pandemic.
UN skeptical over effectiveness of ceasefire
On Thursday, Guterres welcomed the fact that his ceasefire request was supported by nearly 180 countries and more than 20 armed groups, but he acknowledged that it had not been followed up with concrete action.
“It seems unlikely that the ceasefire call will actually have much impact in many war zones,” said Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group think-tank.
“The Council missed the opportunity to boost the Secretary-General’s Global Ceasefire in April or May, when a resolution could have made a significant difference. “This feels like a belated face-saving device following months of difficult diplomacy,” he added.
A second meeting on the pandemic is scheduled for Thursday.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk
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