Peacekeeping in COVID era presents urgent and complex challenges

UN peacekeepers from Morocco carry out a patrol in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in March 2020 UN peacekeepers from Morocco carry out a patrol in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in March 2020 Bangkok Post

30 May 2020

Increasing violence against civilians and pandemic restrictions compound each other as peacekeepers race to adapt their methods to new threats

The devastating attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul earlier in May revealed that pandemic disruption has not halted armed violence against civilians, in spite of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire. Many armed groups and some state forces have in fact increased attacks, openly taking advantage of the crisis. April witnessed a flurry of attacks in Mali, killing 12, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing 17, while early May saw 27 killed in the Central African Republic. In sub-Saharan Africa, attacks rose by 37 percent between March and April, and details of recent deadly attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso are still emerging. While violence increases amid COVID-19 restrictions, those same countermeasures impede peacekeeping efforts.

UN peacekeepers work to protect civilians in the countries mentioned here, and they are rapidly revamping their strategies. They normally rely on extensive interaction with local populations, now curtailed by the urgent need to safeguard the health of all. This is not the first time that peacekeepers have operated in a health emergency, but the range of challenges is now especially daunting, not least the prospect of funds being diverted to COVID relief. Economic constraints also endanger civilians, enhancing their susceptibility to radicalisation and recruitment by armed groups. Pre-existing tensions have been exacerbated in many countries, with minorities and other vulnerable groups being blamed for the pandemic. Misinformation and anti-UN sentiments have also been fuelled.

COVID-19 has highlighted fundamental societal fractures in many countries and with containment hampering protection efforts, the UN is eager to ensure that countermeasures are actually compliant with human rights and protection standards. They aim to continue their proactive, holistic peace-building through empowering local stakeholders. Crucially, peacekeeping missions echo Guterres’ call for local and regional agencies to push for a cessation of hostilities and violent acts, promoting protection-oriented responses to the pandemic.


To read more, please visit:



Author: Edward Jarvis

Read 638 times