In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic in late March, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, issued a call for a global ceasefire. He described it as the most challenging crisis since the second world war.
Three long months later, the UN security council has now unanimously endorsed that call. A new resolution passed on July 1 asks all armed groups to begin a “humanitarian pause” for at least 90 days to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance and medical evacuations. It also demanded a ceasefire on all conflicts it is currently discussing, such as those in Syria, Yemen and Libya. While welcome, this decision has likely missed the window of opportunity.
The agreement follows protracted diplomatic negotiations which have dismayed officials and observers alike. Some diplomats involved in the negotiations have described their “shame” over the security council’s inaction. By way of comparison, the 193 members of the UN general assembly were able to collectively agree a response in April, well ahead of the 15-member security council. By late June, the call for a global ceasefire had been endorsed by 172 UN member states.
But the security council did not even convene a meeting to discuss the pandemic until April. This led the UN director at Human Rights Watch, Louis Charbonneau, to decry it as “missing in action”.