Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19. The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly. Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world. The most vulnerable —women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced pay the highest price. They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19. Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed. Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted. Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Monday for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts around the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. The U.N. chief said: “It is time to put armed conflict on lock-down and focus together on the true fight of our lives.” Guterres said the world faces “a common enemy — COVID-19” which doesn’t care “about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.”
He said women, children, the disabled, marginalized and displaced and people caught in armed conflicts, which are raging around the world, are the most vulnerable and “are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.” It’s time to silence guns, stop artillery, end airstrikes and create corridors for life-saving aid and open windows for diplomacy, he said. “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” the secretary-general said. He said U.N. envoys in conflict areas will be talking to warring parties “to try to make sure that this global appeal is not only listened to but leads to concrete action, leads to a pause in fighting, creating the conditions for the response to COVID-19 to be much more effective.” All things considered, it would be a pleasant surprise if the Secretary General’s plea finds much traction in international political circles that matter. That is because while what he says is essentially true, an “immediate global ceasefire” would run against the interests of powerful global capitals and corporations, and would hardly even come under serious consideration anywhere. Yet the coronavirus is one threat that the world, even countries that are used to controlling the fates of other countries, ignores to its peril.
The virus is still without a cure. And there’s still no telling how long the whole world will have to stay shut just so it does not spread any further. And the more the masters of the universe finance and provoke wars while such a contagious virus is spreading, the more the sow the seeds of everybody’s destruction. The last couple of months provided proof enough, if any was needed, of how quickly it could reach and entrench itself in practically all corners of the world. War and suffering will only help spread this fire. And till it is completely rooted out, nobody will be safe anywhere. Such moments are also good for reflecting on the large sums certain countries are willing to invest in weapons and wars while a lot less could deal effectively with the kind of life threatening problems that confront us today. Secretary General Guterres’s suggestion comes just when the world urgently needs a dose of reality as well as sanity. What he really meant to say, no doubt, was that the present crisis would only end when all state’s join together in fighting it, for which they will have to divert resources away from fighting among themselves. End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.