It was just over a year ago, in March of 2019, that the United States and coalition forces declared the territorial defeat of ISIS following the fall of its last stronghold in Baghouz, Syria. Male fighters over 15 were placed in Kurdish run detention centers throughout northeast Syria, while tens of thousands of women and children who were living among the terrorist organization streamed into the al-Hol camp, giving rise to an unprecedented mix of humanitarian and security challenges. If left unaddressed, the camp could easily serve as the breeding ground for the next generation of ISIS, which is already beginning to reemerge in parts of Syria and Iraq.
From almost the moment Myanmar detected its first case of COVID-19 on March 23, China jumped to aid its neighbor to the south. China’s army, navy, and government agencies, as well as companies, showered nearly every level of Myanmar’s government and military with health assistance. The question for Myanmar civil society groups was whether the help came with strings attached. On May 21, they got their answer: After a phone call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Myanmar’s President U Win Myint about COVID-19 response and Chinese assistance, Xi moved to a second agenda item—the implementation of 33 cooperative economic agreements signed during his historic visit to Myanmar in January. Of particular concern: co-construction of the multi-billion-dollar China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.
The United States is committed to advancing the Global Fragility Act (GFA) as part of its global response to the coronavirus pandemic, senior State Department, USAID and Department of Defense officials said on Wednesday at a virtual gathering of development and peacebuilding organizations and experts convened by the U.S. Institute of Peace to facilitate discussions on how to implement the legislation.
The health and economic implications of the coronavirus pandemic threaten to reverse decades of development progress. While the international community has mobilized substantial sums of aid and financing to address the pandemic and its impacts, the scale of the crisis demands an even more ambitious response. With the virus’s peak still ahead for many countries, there remains an opportunity to rally support for international collaboration on preventive measures that could stave off the worst-case scenario while addressing underlying sources of fragility.
While governments around the world are anxious to emerge from their pandemic lockdowns for the sake of their economies, the pressure to do so is more acute in countries like Pakistan where there were already high levels of poverty and a significant part of the population is engaged in the informal economy.
With coronavirus spreading in the Red Sea region, USIP’s Patricia Kim says Red Sea states don’t want to be forced to choose between major powers. “When things like the COVID-19 pandemic peak in fragile places,” says Kim, “this definitely requires cooperation between the United States and China.”
On March 23, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres appealed for a global cease-fire to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet over eight weeks later, the Security Council has not been able to muster consensus on a resolution to support even a humanitarian, time-limited cease-fire, despite early and repeated warnings about the potential devastation that the virus will bring to conflict zones.
Well before the coronavirus emerged, a large majority of Nigerians felt their country was “going in the wrong direction.” Polling shows Nigerians feel the government has struggled to improve the living standards of the poor and is managing the economy badly. Today, while the public health response to head off the pandemic dominates attention, calls from prominent members of Nigerian civil society have renewed debates over wider questions of economic, social, and political reform. In this article, members of the Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance express both their hopes and concerns—in the context of the coronavirus—for Africa’s most populous country.
A “mixed” response from the international community is threatening a worst-case scenario for fragile states facing COVID-19. USIP’s Tyler Beckelman says countries need to recognize “the best strategy for defeating the virus is defeating it everywhere” and cooperate on aid in fragile contexts.
As the unprecedented humanitarian and economic impacts of COVID-19 begin to be felt across poor and conflict-affected states, there is a risk that policymakers will lose focus on longer-term priorities—like conflict prevention and economic development.