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Conflict actors exploiting current uncertain climate through misinformation: India at UN

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United Nations:  India at the UN said that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted initiatives that contribute to peacebuilding and exacerbated conflict situations, stressing that some conflict actors are exploiting the current uncertain climate to press their agendas through misinformation and even sponsor opportunistic terrorist attacks.

“We are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused global disruption on a scale that has not been experienced before by this generation,” India said in a statement to the High-Level open debate of the UN Security Council on ‘Pandemics and the Challenges of Sustaining Peace’ on Wednesday.

The pandemic has “impacted adversely almost all initiatives which usually go on to contribute to peacebuilding. In some ways, it has served to exacerbate conflict situations to the extent that we now have to tackle more strife and conflict as well as a growing humanitarian crisis rather than address some of the other important issues relating to peacebuilding,” India said.

“This is where our current challenge lies. How do we prioritize between various needs?”

India recalled that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had outlined several trends related to the pandemic with implications for conflict prevention, including erosion of trust in public institutions and rise in societal tensions associated with national government’s response measures.

“Some conflict actors are also exploiting the current climate of uncertainty to press their agendas, including through spread of misinformation to foment discord and violence and even sponsor opportunistic terrorist attacks,” India said.

India further stressed that peacebuilders must mobilize to identify and counter misinformation. “Community engagement and effective communication are critical to combat the ‘infodemic’ of false information that often drives fear and division,” the statement said.

In the context of the pandemic, India suggested that the immediate focus of the international community should be on ensuring that the humanitarian needs of the community which are in a conflict are met so that lack of availability of minimum needs itself does not become a matter of greater conflict.

“National governments should support and engage local peacebuilders to help design and lead COVID-19 sensitization and response efforts to help mitigate further conflict, prevent violence, adapt and sustain peace processes, and rebuild social cohesion,” India, among the largest Troop Contributing Countries to the UN peacekeeping operations, suggested.

India also called for donors and international organizations to sustain financial support to and partnership with local peacebuilders during the crisis, adding that they should also provide flexibility for rapid program re-design, as well as re-direction of resources to respond to emergency situations.

In his remarks, Guterres said the international community’s responses to the pandemic must be conflict-sensitive, starting with a multidimensional analysis that looks at how the pandemic affects underlying risks that drive conflict.

India underlined that if peacebuilding has to endure then it should rest on institutions and not on individuals. “It is only when institutions are strong can other factors, like addressing equitably the needs of the conflicted communities and strengthening of human rights, can be effective.”

India stressed that need of the hour is human-centered and cooperative approaches, which are at the core of peacebuilding work. “We also need resilience approaches that can enhance local capacities, skills, and attributes, and enable communities to not just ‘bounce back’ but ‘build back better’.

“These locally owned, conflict-sensitive, gender-sensitive and trauma-informed peacebuilding approaches are highly cost-effective and sustainable. They must not be sacrificed due to short-term reallocation of funds to what is deemed as ‘immediate’ pandemic responses. Short- and long-term responses to COVID-19 must be aligned.”

As the world grapples with the pandemic, India said it is equally essential to ensure performance in peacekeeping.

“Troop Contributing Countries should entail adherence to training plans, including pre-deployment and in mission training, so that key mission tasks are not left to ‘learning on the job’.”

Underscoring that ensuring women’s participation in peacebuilding is not only a matter of women’s and girls’ rights, India said women are crucial partners in shoring up three pillars of lasting peace: economic recovery, social cohesion and political legitimacy.

“Gender capacity should be deployed in peacebuilding initiatives, gender-responsive analysis of key issues mainstreamed across mediation work and gender-inclusive language incorporated in peace agreements.”

India noted that national efforts at peacebuilding and addressing the various facets of peacebuilding have been “weakened” since national resources are being diverted to tackle more immediate humanitarian issues of life and death and the scope for finding innovative solutions have also shrunk.

“While we are still in the early stages of adapting to the new reality of peacebuilding during a global pandemic, we must build back better to regain stability and spur peace and prosperity in a world that is perhaps changed forever,” India said.

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