United Nations: India at the UN said on Wednesday that some conflict actors are exploiting the current uncertain climate to press their agendas through misinformation and even sponsor opportunistic terrorist attacks.
The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted the initiatives that contribute to peacebuilding and exacerbated conflict situations, India said in a statement at a high-level open debate of the UN Security Council on ‘Pandemics and the Challenges of Sustaining Peace”.
“We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused global disruption on a scale that has not been experienced before by this generation,” it said.
“The pandemic is still raging and its implications, though hard to foretell in exact terms, is certain to be profound and multidimensional,” it said.
India recalled that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had outlined several trends related to the pandemic with implications for conflict prevention, including erosion of trust in public institutions and rise in societal tensions associated with national government’s response measures.
“Some conflict actors are also exploiting the current climate of uncertainty to press their agendas, including through the spread of misinformation to foment discord and violence and even sponsor opportunistic terrorist attacks,” India said in the statement.
India further stressed that peacebuilders must mobilise to identify and counter misinformation.
“Community engagement and effective communication are critical to combat the ‘infodemic” of false information that often drives fear and division,” the country said.
India, which is among the largest troop-contributing countries to the UN peacekeeping operations, highlighted that the pandemic has impacted adversely almost all initiatives which usually go on to contribute to peacebuilding.
“In some ways, it has served to exacerbate conflict situations to the extent that we now have to tackle more strife and conflict as well as a growing humanitarian crisis rather than address some of the other important issues relating to peacebuilding.
“This is where our current challenge lies. How do we prioritise between various needs?” it said.
India underlined the need for national governments to support and engage local peacebuilders to help design and lead COVID-19 sensitisation and response efforts “to help mitigate further conflict, prevent violence, adapt and sustain peace processes, and rebuild social cohesion.”
Also of “vital importance” is that efforts are focused towards preventing a “lapse and relapse” into conflict.
“Poverty and lack of opportunity pose some of the most formidable barriers to sustainable peace. Development is, therefore, critical and should have the attention of the international community,” it said.
In the context of the pandemic, India suggested that the immediate focus of the international community should be on ensuring that the humanitarian needs of the community, which are in a conflict, are met so that lack of availability of minimum needs itself does not become a matter of greater conflict.
Further, India underlined that if peacebuilding has to endure then it should rest on institutions and not on individuals.
“Consequently, strengthening of national institutions combined with strengthening of democratic structures should not be compromised in the face of the crisis brought about by the pandemic,” the country said, adding that “it is only when institutions are strong, and other factors, like addressing equitably the needs of the conflicted communities and strengthening of human rights, can be effective.”
India stressed that the need of the hour is human-centered and cooperative approaches, which are at the core of peacebuilding work.
“We also need resilience approaches that can enhance local capacities, skills, and attributes, and enable communities to not just ‘bounce back” but ‘build back better”.
“These locally owned, conflict-sensitive, gender-sensitive and trauma-informed peacebuilding approaches are highly cost-effective and sustainable. They must not be sacrificed due to short-term reallocation of funds to what is deemed as immediate pandemic responses. Short- and long-term responses to COVID-19 must be aligned,” the country said.
As the world grapples with the pandemic, India said it is equally essential to ensure performance in peacekeeping.
The UN Secretariat needs to carry out realistic assessment of contingents being selected and deployed in the mission areas and troop competencies need to be a critical requirement of selection criteria.
“Troop contributing countries should entail adherence to training plans, including pre-deployment and in mission training, so that key mission tasks are not left to ‘learning on the job”,” it said.
Underscoring that ensuring women’s participation in peacebuilding is not only a matter of women’s and girls’ rights, India said women are crucial partners in shoring up three pillars of lasting peace: economic recovery, social cohesion and political legitimacy.
“Gender capacity should be deployed in peacebuilding initiatives, gender-responsive analysis of key issues mainstreamed across mediation work and gender-inclusive language incorporated in peace agreements,” it added.
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