On June 26, 2020, the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network has organised a webinar on “Covid-19 and peace talks: challenges and opportunities”.
As Covid-19 has silenced half of the world’s roads, skies, waters, deadly conflicts are still ravaging several African, Asian, Middle Eastern and South American countries, albeit the virus is not sparing them. In this context, the capacity of diplomacy to act and prevent worsening situation has been highly limited by travel restrictions and preventive measures. Peace talks have been cancelled or postponed and international attention toward fragile-contexts has been diverted to the challenges that each country is facing – with significant political and financial consequences.
However, optimists have argued that the pandemic may also turn into an opportunity to fasten peace talks. The idea behind this optimism is that when a natural disaster occurs belligerents may work together in order to face the unexpected consequences of the calamity. But pity and mercy alone have never been crucial enough for conflict resolutions and most of the war-torn countries that are facing Covid-19 have already experienced deadly epidemics and natural disasters. For instance, since the beginning of war Yemen have been regularly hit by heavy rains, thunderstorms and a dramatic outbreak of cholera that has infected almost 700.000 people only in 2019.
While conflicts are likely to continue independently of Covid-19, women and girls are already paying the indirect burden of the pandemic. Yet, from a gender peace-process perspective, Covid-19 may turn into an opportunity. Since the beginning of the pandemic, women peacebuilders have been at the front-line in places where a lack of economic, security and political resources may bring the countries into a spiral of violence and disease.
With Anna Cervi, member of the MWMN and Syria Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mauro Garofalo, Head of International Relations at the Community of Sant’ Egidio, Matthew Rowan, UN Director at International Crisis Group, and Muna Luqman, chairperson of Food4Humanity Foundation and Co-founder of the Women Solidarity Network the webinar addressed important questions such as:
- Will the pandemic ease tensions in the war-torn countries?
- How is Covid-19 challenging mediation efforts?
- Is this an opportunity for women peacebuilders to emerge as a pivotal actor in conflict resolution?