The COVID-19 pandemic has affected global health outcomes, economic opportunities, and social cohesion in devastating and interrelated ways. Over the past two years, over 6 million people have died from the virus, with the resulting economic slowdown and strain on the health care system affecting many more. Places where public health challenges intersect with ongoing conflict and violence are especially at risk of adverse outcomes, and peacebuilding efforts have therefore been particularly affected by COVID.What are the unique challenges to peacebuilding brought on by COVID? How are peacebuilding actors adjusting? And how does COVID affect TP's work?
COVID has both exacerbated existing problems across the globe and produced challenges of its own. One of the biggest obstacles for peacebuilders raised by the pandemic is the erosion of social contracts and norms important for conflict resolution efforts. Systems of oppression are not isolated, and therefore the unequal access to healthcare, social and economic injustice, human rights infringements, and scapegoating brought on by COVID-19 have all made peace more difficult. In addition, these challenges have had an outsized impact upon already-marginalized populations who are harmed by conflict and violence.
Another barrier to peace in the pandemic is the economic effect of COVID. Increased economic insecurity can strain existing tensions, fuel recruitment for armed groups and extremist organizations, and limit opportunities for vulnerable populations. COVID has also prompted a rise in disinformation and misinformation, especially on social media platforms. The politicization of the pandemic response, coupled with false claims and intentionally disruptive material, has eroded trust in institutions and increased polarization in many contexts. This makes the work of peacebuilding much more difficult.
Finally, the COVID pandemic has had gendered effects that hinder peacebuilding efforts. Women have experienced increased incidents of domestic violence during COVID. They have become more burdened by unpaid labor and the economic consequences of the pandemic than men have. These challenges reflect the gendered complexity of health and peacebuilding-- a complexity that has too often gone unacknowledged.
While all health and peacebuilding efforts will benefit from the end of COVID, the pandemic nevertheless offers an opportunity to rethink conflict resolution and adopt best practices for the current challenging environment. Peacebuilding actors have adapted to the new pandemic reality and taken advantage of the following:
Online peacebuilding dialogues. Virtual engagement is cheaper and easier to organize, and has therefore allowed for more inclusive dialogue with greater reach.
Localization. The COVID pandemic has necessitated that organizations transfer more and more ownership of peacebuilding programs to local staff, making progress toward equity goals and taking advantage of the unique insight that local stakeholders possess.
New partnerships. To address the pandemic, an integrated and intersectional response has been necessary. Peacebuilding efforts have become better aligned with health, economic, and other development goals, with unlikely partnerships emerging across sectors.
What is TP Doing?
Like many other organizations, Transformative Peace has had to adapt its focus and operations during the pandemic. But that has not stopped us from continuing to support inclusive peace processes and advance a human rights-based approach to preventing violent extremism. In the past few months, TP has supported the peace process in Afghanistan, conducted violence prevention efforts in Libya and Iraq, and helped build the capacity of local civil society organizations in Morocco to increase resilience. All of these activities continue to center gender equity as an essential lens for peacebuilding.
We also began implementing our Transformative Conversations series-- a way to connect with peacebuilding leaders across the globe virtually to hear more about topics as wide-ranging as gender, religion, civil society, restorative justice, and more. These conversations are especially designed to facilitate conversation among peacebuilders from the Global South.
And given the gendered effects of COVID on vulnerable populations, we are renewing our commitment to center gender equity in all our peacebuilding efforts. Current projects highlight women's diverse experiences of violent extremism, as well as the need for gender-sensitive rehabilitation and reintegration programming.
This month we are saying goodbye to our fantastic spring interns, Austin Langdon and Emily Kenward. We are so thankful for their hard work over these past few months, and wish them well in their future career endeavors!
Hear from Austin and Emily about their TP experience and lessons learned:
As always, thank you for your time. If you have any additional questions or would simply like to connect with our team, hit reply to be connected.
In Peace and Solidarity,
Transformative Peace Team