Statement by H.E. Rabab Fatima, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations at the UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate on “Pandemics and security”, 02 July 2020, New York

Mr. President,

 I thank you and the German Presidency for organizing this virtual High-Level Open Debate. We also thank the Secretary-General, President of ICRC and AU Commissioner for Social Affairs for sharing their valuable insights.

Covid 19 pandemic has upended the entire world. Lack of adequate and sustained response has taken the crisis beyond health and socio-economic sectors. It is affecting the political domain. The pandemic has also constrained the UN’ ongoing peace mediation and works of special political missions. Casualties of front-line responders particularly law enforcement officials and other security sector personnel, troops illness are also making its the impact felt. All these are causing disruptions in peace and security at the national and global levels.

Some of the secondary security implications of this pandemic are already visible. Violence against women and children are on the rise; cyber-crimes and online based criminal activities are growing; massive joblessness and other economic shocks are already hitting hard. Loss of jobs or income without hopes of reinstatement, could result in increased criminal and anti-social activities and often to other security threats. Work of civil society organizations providing support to women and other vulnerable communities have been disrupted. The pandemic is also bringing additional vulnerability for returnee migrant workers. Economic uncertainties are increasing the vulnerabilities of certain sections of population leading to their exploitation in the hands of organized criminal networks. Since these organized crimes are mostly transnational and cross border in nature, the impacts would not be confined within the borders of any particular country or region.

There are some context specific security implications of Covid-19 pandemic, which the Council needs to have a closer look at.

  1. In humanitarian settings: Covid-19 is exacerbating the despair and hopelessness of the people living in refugee camps or other settlements. Lack of, or limited supply of humanitarian assistance due to pandemic enforced travel restrictions is posing greater challenges. However, even bigger challenges could be caused by the slowing down of political processes aimed at a durable solution. For instance, both UNHCR and IOM have put a halt in their resettlement programmes in most situations globally. Last month, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in his briefing to the Council, referring to the Rohingya crisis said, “what worries me is that among the refugees, there is a growing sense that solutions are not coming; that solutions, especially in terms of returning to Myanmar, continue to be elusive. We see this despair, and are multiplying our mental health programmes, because people are really very desperate.”Indeed the Rohingyas, especially the youth are gradually yielding to frustration and desperation. And we all can easily presume what this desperation could lead to.
  2. In conflict settings: Due to Covid-19, civilians stuck in conflict situations are doubly victimized. While the health infrastructures are already affected by conflicts, the civilians continue to suffer from continuous threats of hate speech, xenophobia, confinements and also potential displacements. Despite the Secretary-General’s call for global ceasefire, deadly conflicts continue to raze in some parts of the world. In our neighbourhood, the ‘clearance operations’ in Rakhine State have the potential to cause sufferings of civilians and perhaps cause repeat of their exodus. The Council may like to take due cognizance of this important issue to preempt yet another possible crisis in the Rakhine State.
  3. In peacekeeping settings: Even during the pandemic, our peacekeepers are responding to the call of duty and carrying out their mandated peace operations. Besides, they are taking up additional responsibilities to support national efforts to contain spread of the pandemic. In the process, they themselves are getting exposed which is putting them at a higher risk than ever before. Embedding pandemic preparedness in future planning and mandate setting of peacekeeping Missions may go a long way in ensuring safety of peacekeepers.

This pandemic and its security implications and more so, the limited use of military solutions to such security challenges have perhaps brought to the fore the necessity of rethinking of the entire notion of security. Security has to be truly overarching.

To address the security implications of the pandemic, what we need the most is global solidarity and cooperation, and convergence of political will. Member states should be able to fix the underlying causes of insecurity. There may be a need for repurposing of resources.

The participation of all stakeholders is imperative. With the Council resolution now adopted, the Security Council should be better placed to rally support around the Secretary-General’s Global Ceasefire Appeal. It can ask all parties to the conflict for cessation of violence and hostilities.

Above all, the Council needs to step up fulfilling its responsibility by addressing the existing and traditional security challenges, before those are exacerbated by Covid-19 and translated into new security challenges.

I thank you.