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Combatting the corona virus: information is the greatest tool

14.05.2020

Never Again Rwanda

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge that is facing communities around the world. Governments, organizations and individuals from all sectors across the globe are coming together to help to devise responses and tackle this global outbreak. This collective challenge has induced global solidarity and support. From a peacebuilding perspective, the virus does not only present various challenges but also provides conditions that have the potential to advance peacebuilding processes.

Opportunities created by COVID-19

In past experiences with health crises such as the Ebola outbreak, the lack of information about the disease further exacerbated the situation and hindered fast response in some remote communities. Information is the greatest tool when it comes to combatting the corona virus; therefore, it can be an opportunity for peacebuilders and donors. Peacebuilding donors can support local information campaigns and online tools that allow people to gain access to information about the virus including symptoms, updates on its spread and locating the nearest testing center or emergency services.

Spreading messages of hope, peace, unity and tolerance digitally

Peacebuilders’ efforts often rely on face-to-face gathering and employ people-to-people approaches when fostering peace initiatives. These efforts have been undermined by social distancing measures. Opportunities can still emerge from this restriction as it allows the peacebuilders to adapt. For instance, the virus encouraged peacebuilders to find new ways of facilitating local communities and individuals and building and maintaining peace without in-person gatherings. One way of adapting to the situation could entail using social media as a tool for peacebuilding. Taking advantage of digital platforms allows peacebuilders to reach a wider audience. This range can be used to promote information campaigns and spread messages of hope, peace, unity and tolerance. These messages are especially important as they combat the ‘infodemic’ of false information and counter divisive narratives that target particular minorities and vulnerable groups, specifically those that are already marginalized. It is important to note that these narratives can occur online as well as offline. Because such narratives are a common feature of many conflicts and can negatively impact societies, peacebuilders must mobilize themselves to identify and counter these narratives manually and digitally.

bridge divides and address the structural drivers of conflict

With the global ceasefire in effect, first responders, healthcare, social workers and other humanitarian actors especially in conflict-affected areas continue to work tirelessly under difficult conditions with limited resources. Both peacebuilders and donors can also take advantage of the opportunity that lies in humanitarian aid and work with other actors to ensure that assistance is provided in an inclusive and equitable way. Promoting conflict-sensitive aid delivery can bridge divides and address the structural drivers of conflict.

COVID-19 on the future of multilateral and bilateral peacebuilding

International cooperation is extremely crucial in the fight to contain COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on our society. Now that we are facing a global threat to peace and security that has no respect for borders, multilateral and bilateral peacebuilding efforts are more necessary than ever.

The global pandemic has forced these local and international multi and bilateral peacebuilding organizations to repurpose and shift their work from longer-term projects to emergency relief. For the future, this could mean that peacebuilding organizations will have to incorporate humanitarian crisis relief into their interventions, devise new mechanisms for joint action, and even form an emergency committee to accelerate the decision-making process for them to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Additionally, the global pandemic has pointed to the importance of working across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus (HDP). The HDP helps governments in countries impacted by conflict to manage the immediate health needs of the people while strengthening governance to deal with the longer-term impact of the crisis. For the future of peacebuilding, this implies that joint action between governments and multilateral and bilateral peacebuilding organizations will be essential in sustaining peace while simultaneously mitigating the risks linked to COVID-19 and other future potential crises. 

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Authors

Never Again Rwanda is a peace building and social justice organization that aims to empower Rwandans with opportunities to become active citizens through peace building and development. GIZ supports Never Again Rwanda through its Civil Peace Service program, which focuses on the development and creation of dialogue structures and non-violent conflict resolution mechanisms.