The Covid-19 pandemic: a lost opportunity for world peace?
By Marta Rullán
International Desk, Apr 3 (efe-epa).- Despite UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire to fight the coronavirus outbreak being well received by armed groups, the global pandemic that has paralyzed the world has not put an end to wars.
“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” Guterres said on 23 March.
The pope joined the appeal Sunday and called for the opening of humanitarian corridors saying “the joint commitment against the pandemic can lead everyone to recognize our need to strengthen fraternal ties as members of the one human family.”
In the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison, leader of the outlawed Communist Party and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), announced a unilateral ceasefire of his troops on 24 March.
Guterres’ appeal seems to have prompted Sison to change his mind, given he turned down a similar proposal by President Rodrigo Duterte the previous week to join a unilateral ceasefire in order to focus on the response to the pandemic.
At the time, Sison dismissed the appeal as a trap to commit human rights violations.
But following the UN’s statement, Sison called for “the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to the New People’s Army (NPA),” in a statement on the National Democratic Front of the Philippines website.
A week later the government accused the group of breaking the ceasefire, something the NPA denied.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition led by the Kurdish forces that was instrumental in the fall of the Islamic State caliphate, responded to the UN chief’s call with a “humanitarian truce” to face the health crisis.
“Because of the collapse of the health sector and the deterioration of health facilities as a result of the war, the Syrian situation cannot bear more hostilities, and any renewal of hostilities will cause displacement waves that will affect the remaining health infrastructure, thereby accelerating the spread of the virus and increasing its lethality,” the SDF said in a statement.
The UN welcomed the SDF’s commitment to a truce in order to facilitate the global response to the pandemic and called on other parties to the Syrian conflict to support his appeal.
The UN said the ceasefire was important to ensure the safety of millions of people across Syria, particularly the 900,000 who are still internally displaced.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized government also welcomed Guterres’ appeal the following day, coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the Arab coalition’s intervention in support of President Abdo Rabu Mansur Hadi, marking the beginning of the armed conflict.