COVID-19 and the Impact on Local Peacebuilding

16. April 2020   ·   Conducive Space for Peace, Humanity United, Peace Direct

This article presents key findings and recommendations from a global consultation held online in early April 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on local peacebuilding. Over 400 peacebuilders in more than 60 countries participated in the debate.

As the impact of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic grows, local peacebuilders continue working to help communities break through cycles of violent conflict. During the first week of April, Peace Direct and Conducive Space for Peace held a series of consultations asking local peacebuilders how their lives and work have been affected by this unprecedented health emergency, what their communities need, and how they see their role during this time of crisis. These consultations included input from over 400 peacebuilders from more than 60 countries.

From those consultations, we took away the following key findings and recommendations that are relevant for local and international peacebuilders as well as governments around the world.

Key Findings on the Impact of COVID-19 on Local Peacebuilding Efforts

  1. The COVID-19 crisis and the response to it are exacerbating the underlying roots of conflict, particularly inequality.
    In some places, this means violence is being reignited and peace processes threatened. Government responses are not adequately conflict-sensitive.
  2. Some governments are exploiting the crisis to further their own agendas.
    Some governments are exploiting the crisis to further restrict civil society space and increase authoritarian measures. Local peacebuilders fear that it will be difficult to reclaim this space after the crisis.
  3. The crisis has also provided opportunities to advance peace.
    This has taken the form of ceasefire campaigns, local mutual aid, and community-building initiatives, as well as the chance to reconnect as a global community. Local peacebuilders are working to adapt their programs and integrate COVID-19 response.
  4. Peacebuilders are struggling to sustain their work.
    With priorities shifting to COVID-19 responses, local peacebuilders fear reductions in financial support and attention from international donors. Social distancing undermines many existing peacebuilding efforts. Local peacebuilding efforts, which often rely on in-person gatherings and people-to-people approaches, are directly undermined by necessary restrictions on gatherings and social distancing measures. Peacebuilders need support adapting their efforts to maintain social cohesion.
  5. The crisis is impacting mental health.
    Isolation, social distancing, and the stress of the crisis are contributing to increased mental health problems and trauma, which is particularly difficult for people living in conflict affected contexts.
  6. Young peacebuilders could be at the forefront of building peace and tackling the virus.
    Young peacebuilders can play a leadership role in preventing violence, training their communities and innovating new peacebuilding technologies. Young people must therefore be at the core of shaping more resilient societies for the future.

Key Recommendations for Peacebuilders and Governments

  1. Conflict-sensitive approaches are vital.
    Governments and international actors should adopt conflict-sensitive, gender-sensitive, and trauma-informed approaches to local, national, and global COVID-19 response efforts. Local and national governments should support and engage local peacebuilders as essential to help design and lead COVID-19 sensitization and response efforts to help mitigate further conflict, prevent violence, adapt and sustain peace processes, and (re)build social cohesion.
  2. Provide sustained and flexible financial support.
    Donors and international organizations should sustain financial support to and partnership with local peacebuilders during the crisis. This should include opening new emergency response funding and, where requested, supporting them in adapting their work. Donors should provide flexibility for rapid program re-design, as well as re-direction of resources to protect core operations and staff. Finally, donors should consider funding smaller networks of local peacebuilders that are forming to leverage greater impact.
  3. Support technology take-up.
    Funders and international partners should also support local peacebuilders with appropriate technologies they need during the crisis, including increased access to power, phones, internet, radio, online platforms, and other communication tools. This should include supporting the development of innovative ways of reaching local communities during distancing and lockdown. The private sector could make significant new contributions to local peacebuilding with technology support at this time.
  4. Support youth-led efforts.
    International actors, governments, and local organizations should support youth-led peacebuilding and crisis response efforts. This should include providing opportunities for youth to contribute to response efforts and continue their education through the crisis. Donors should guard against stigmatizing youth as part of the problem and engage them as leaders.
  5. Monitor human rights violations.
    International organizations should monitor and report human rights violations, restrictions on civil society, and indicators of increasing authoritarianism resulting from the crisis and the ongoing lockdowns. International leaders, governments, and the peacebuilding community should speak out against these worrying trends and take concrete steps to hold states accountable for abuses.
  6. Address the structural causes of conflict.
    The peacebuilding community, international actors, governments and donors should develop programs that address the structural causes of conflict such as inequality and discrimination, which are being exacerbated by the crisis and require long-term solutions. This includes planning now for the extensive post-crisis recovery process that will be required for communities to rebuild their economies and health systems, and to restart education and social life, in more inclusive ways.
  7. Provide increased support for recovery and trauma healing.
    Donors, governments, and international actors should provide increased support for psychosocial and trauma healing programs during the crisis and through the recovery process. They should recognize that peacebuilding, community resilience, and reconciliation will be critical elements of a post-crisis recovery process.
  8. Use this moment to promote systemic change.
    International actors, governments, funders, and the peacebuilding community should leverage opportunities to mitigate violence, advance peace processes, and promote longer-term positive transformation in societal relationships from the crisis. Supporting initiatives like ceasefires, mutual aid, and cross-community cooperation in the midst of the crisis can prevent immediate violence and contribute to more durable peacebuilding in the future.

For more details on the results of the global consultations, see the full summary report: COVID-19 and the impact on local peacebuilding.

Friedensförderung Frieden & Sicherheit COVID-19

Conducive Space for Peace

Conducive Space for Peace is an International Peacebuilding organisation based in Denmark. @CSP_Peace

Humanity United

Humanity United is a foundation dedicated to cultivating the conditions for enduring freedom and peace. @humanityunited

Peace Direct

Peace Direct works with local people to stop violence and build sustainable peace. @peacedirect @insightconflict