During the global outbreak of COVID-19, adaption, and creativity in the virtual sphere has become essential for peacebuilding professionals. Building upon work done by the University of Edinburgh’s Political Settlements Research Program in PeaceTech, mediatEUr, and Conciliation Resources have contributed their research skills to an innovative consortium. The latter has developed a publicly available digital tracking tool to examine the consequences of the pandemic on peace processes and armed conflict across the world.
This pioneering virtual tool entitled ‘Ceasefires in a time of COVID-19’ bears witness to the evolving and multi-faceted developments that have come as a response to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’continued call for a global ceasefire. The tracking tool allows users to easily navigate through an interactive timeline and map that monitors the progress of ceasefires alongside live data on infection rates by country. A search tool also permits users to dive more deeply into the details of each ceasefire and their respective texts, comparatively analyze the data through various criteria, consult relevant sources and connect back to past ceasefire agreements stored on the University of Edinburgh’s PA-X database.
So far, research has shown that COVID-19 has not led to a sustained global cessation of conflict despite an initial surge in ceasefire announcements in nearly all continents. In many contexts, the pandemic is used as a justification for both peace and increased violence depending on the odds at hand. For example, fighting persisted in Yemen despite an agreed bilateral ceasefire, and Libya witnessed a sharp acceleration of violence. The data demonstrates the stark challenges of reaching sustained ceasefires in complex conflicts that generate enough momentum to move towards a negotiated peace agreement.
The virtual tracking tool thus functions as a reliable and rich public resource of information on ceasefires that enables experts working on peace process support and beyond to track the cessation of hostilities in real-time, accurately identify where their support can be best-placed and maintain a critical bird’s-eye view of the interplay between ceasefire developments and the evolution of the pandemic.
The digital tool has been developed by the University of Edinburgh’s Political Settlements Research Program, MediatEUr (European Forum for International Mediation and Dialogue), The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), ETH Zurich, Conciliation Resources, and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). Further research inputs have been received by the Mediation Support Unit in the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.