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The Effect of COVID-19 on Peace Agreement Implementation: The cases of Colombia, South Sudan, and the Philippines

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Joshi, Madhav; Myla Jabilles Leguro; Håvard Mokleiv Nygård; Stephen Oola & Matthew Hauenstein (2020) The Effect of COVID-19 on Peace Agreement Implementation, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.

On 9 April 2020, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres raised concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic could stall peace processes and destabilize hardwon peace. These concerns are reflected in UNSC 2532. While no peace processes have collapsed due to COVID-19, several are facing implementation slowdowns. In particular, implementation processes that require mobilization of civilians and resources at the local level are facing challenges, as the pandemic has debilitated and dispersed citizen agency and diverted critical resources toward crisis response. In this paper, we look at recent peace agreement implementation data from Colombia, South Sudan, and the Philippines (BARMM). We recommend that local, national, and international stakeholders provide support for implementing peace during this pandemic and beyond.

Brief Points

  • There has been no indication of a reduced commitment to implementing the peace agreement on the signatories’ part, but delays in implementation activities are reported.

  • In Colombia, the Kroc Institute has recorded fewer implementation events for the past few months.

  • In South Sudan, the cantonment sites are near collapse, and training centers responsible for training 83,000 unified national forces have faced limitations.

  • In the Mindanao, phase three of the decommissioning process targeting 14,000 MILF combatants is yet to begin. All elements of normalization might not be complete before the 2022 elections.

Introduction

On 9 April 2020, the UN Secretary General addressed the UN Security Council on the risk of peacebuilding reversals in post-conflict situations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On 1 July 2020, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2532 echoing the Secretary General’s fear. Despite this, little is known about peace implementation processes amidst the exogenous shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers have found that natural disasters sometimes jumpstart stalled peace negotiation and implementation processes. The successful negotiation in Aceh in 2005 was attributed to the 2004 tsunami leading to reconciliation between the Free Aceh Movement leaders and the Indonesian government. In Nepal, it was only after the April 2015 earthquake that killed over 9,000 civilians that the political parties agreed to fast-track the delayed constitution drafting process outlined in the 2006 peace agreement. Both Nepal and Aceh were able to secure stable peace after natural disasters. While these two cases suggest natural disasters can sometimes open peace negotiations and facilitate the implementation process, we know little about the effect of the pandemic on peace processes. Below, we present the current state of implementation from Colombia, South Sudan, and the Philippines (BARMM) and assess the ways in which the pandemic could pose challenges to the implementation process.