In March, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for a global cease-fire to combat the spread of COVID-19. Though initially dismissed as unrealistic, the secretary-general’s call was surprisingly well-received: Nearly 70 countries, hundreds of nongovernmental organizations, and eminent persons joined in repeating the call for a humanitarian pause to address the growing pandemic. In response, several conflict parties announced unilateral cease-fires, including the National Democratic Front in the Philippines, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and the National Liberation Army in Colombia. Two months later, the U.N. Security Council adopted resolution 2532, calling on conflict parties across the world to support a 90-day humanitarian cease-fire.

However, since then, it has been challenging for any bilateral or multilateral cease-fires related to the pandemic to materialize, despite the spread of COVID-19 to numerous conflict zones, including Yemen and Syria. 

On September 23, USIP held a timely discussion on the strategies needed to pursue effective cease-fires in conflict zones. Drawing from recent reports, including the recent USIP publication “Searching for COVID-19 Cease-fires: Conflict Zone Impacts, Needs, and Opportunities,” panelists considered the correlation between political willpower and conflict resolution, how the secretary-general’s cease-fire appeal was perceived on the ground in conflict zones, and whether international pressure could make a difference in advancing the secretary-general’s call. 

Continue the conversation on Twitter with #COVIDCeasefires.


Roxaneh Bazergan
Senior Political Affairs Officer and Team Leader, Mediation Support Unit, U.N. Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs

Christine Bell
Professor of Constitutional Law and Assistant Principal, The University of Edinburgh School of Law

Ashish Pradhan
Senior Analyst, U.N. Advocacy and Research, International Crisis Group 

Tyler Thompson
Senior Expert, Negotiations and Peace Process Support, U.S. Institute of Peace

Dr. David Yang
Vice President, Applied Conflict Transformation Center, U.S. Institute of Peace

Tyler Beckelman, moderator
Director, International Partnerships, U.S. Institute of Peace

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