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.

Speakers

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

Related Publications

How the Biden Administration Can Revive U.N. Peacekeeping

How the Biden Administration Can Revive U.N. Peacekeeping

Thursday, February 18, 2021

By: Colin Thomas-Jensen; Amanda Long

When American politicians want to temper voter’s concerns over U.S. military commitments overseas, many employ perhaps the most worn-out foreign policy cliché: “The United States cannot police the world.” After all, the United States has neither the capacity nor a compelling national interest in putting boots on the ground to resolve every global crisis. But, this begs the question: Who will step forward when boots on the ground are needed?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Peace Processes

Six Challenges for the Biden Administration’s China Policy

Six Challenges for the Biden Administration’s China Policy

Thursday, February 18, 2021

By: Jacob Stokes

Last week, President Biden held a call with General Secretary Xi Jinping, China’s paramount leader. They reportedly talked for more than two hours, a length that, combined with the call readouts, suggests a weighty and potentially heated conversation. Ties between Washington and Beijing have become strained in recent years as the world’s two biggest powers locked horns over geopolitics, technology, economics, and values. Bilateral relations have entered a new and more difficult phase—even as the global environment is characterized by many pressing issues that would benefit from cooperative efforts to address them. In this context, U.S. policymakers will face six major challenges in dealing with China.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Five Ways to Set Up a Special Envoy for Success in the Horn of Africa

Five Ways to Set Up a Special Envoy for Success in the Horn of Africa

Thursday, February 11, 2021

By: Judd Devermont; Colin Thomas-Jensen

When in doubt, dispatch an envoy. That’s become an old diplomatic standby, and it is currently under consideration for the Horn of Africa, where a civil war rages in Ethiopia and has ensnared neighboring Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan. The conflict, which broke out in November 2020, has left millions in dire need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance. The U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide recently warned that “the risk of atrocity crimes in Ethiopia remains high and likely to get worse.” If the crisis continues to fester, it will have grave consequences for U.S. interests in a region situated on the crossroads between Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Biden and Washington’s Perennial Pakistan Problem

Biden and Washington’s Perennial Pakistan Problem

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

By: Richard Olson

Among the many challenges facing the Biden administration will be addressing the infamously dysfunctional U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Anyone familiar with how Islamabad and Washington have interacted over the last 74 years will resort to tired metaphors: a roller-coaster ride, a sine wave, the dynamic between an overbearing mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law. These clichés reflect the reality that the relationship has rarely been stable and usually is either declining precipitously or accelerating unsustainably. The challenge for the new administration will be to find a way to work productively with Pakistan without oscillating between peaks of enthusiasm and depths of cynicism.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Policy

View All Publications