We issued today, 13 April 2020, our annual report on how voluntary contributions – donations from member States, mainly - helped us do much of our work to prevent violence and defuse tensions around the world in 2019. The report showcases important achievements in Bolivia, El Salvador, Papua New Guinea-Bougainville, Sudan, Ukraine and Yemen, among other situations. When we started preparing the report, many of us were only just beginning to learn what a coronavirus was. Today, everything we do, and plan to do, must be seen through the lens of COVID-19. Will the pandemic limit the ability of our partners to donate? Or does the work of conflict prevention and peacebuilding become even more important – and more worthy of support above what’s provided for in the regular UN budget -- given the ravages caused by the virus?
The annual report detailing how states responded to DPPA’s 2019 Multi-Year Appeal (MYA) for voluntary contributions, and how the Department used those funds, has just come out, highlighting a broad range of projects focused on conflict prevention, mediation, elections, sustaining peace, inclusion of women and youth and other areas globally. The report also shows that, for the fourth consecutive year, the MYA surpassed its resource mobilization target: against $30 million requested in 2019 to cover its six priority areas, DPPA successfully mobilized $35.3 million in contributions from 30 donors.
The successful funding of the MYA is a measure of the confidence donors place in the UN, and in DPPA in particular, to carry out the prevention mandate.
But, in some important respects, the world the report depicts no longer exists. In a matter of weeks, all manner of plans, projects and priorities have dramatically shifted. In the field of preventive diplomacy, in which unpredictability and complexity are part of the assumptions, COVID–19 has added a level of uncertainty never seen before. Among the unknowns is whether the MYA will continue to attract a level of support similar to what it has received in recent years. Competition for resources is intensifying, and many governments will almost certainly lower the amount of aid they provide, or redirect official development assistance (ODA) funding – which DPPA is eligible for - towards humanitarian responses.
“In our line of work, we learn to expect the unexpected,” said Delphine Bost, head of DPPA’s resource mobilization team. “But the pandemic and its impact are a whole different order of magnitude. Of course, we can’t tell yet how it will impact our resource mobilization, but COVID-19 poses serious challenges to peace and security, and the international community will need to respond to that, including as a way of stemming the pandemic itself.”
Secretary-General António Guterres listed, in a statement to the Security Council, some of these challenges, most related to areas DPPA focuses on. The Secretary-General said the economic fallout of the crisis could disproportionately affect women. The large numbers of female-headed households in conflict-settings are especially vulnerable to economic shocks.
The Secretary-General also pointed to the postponement of elections or referenda, or the decision to proceed with a vote – even with mitigation measures – and how they can create political tensions and undermine legitimacy. He added that in some conflict settings, the uncertainty created by the pandemic may create incentives for some actors to promote further division and turmoil. This could lead to an escalation of violence and possibly devastating miscalculations, which could further entrench ongoing wars and complicate efforts to fight the pandemic.
The discussion in the Security Council, which took place behind closed doors, is one of the many ways the UN system, including DPPA, is analyzing, and preparing for, the possible implications of the spread of COVID-19 worldwide.
“The Department has been quick to expand its analytical lens to include COVID-19 along other ‘stressors’ that can trigger conflict or violence,” Bost said. She added that MYA funding is already helping DPPA support initiatives by Special Representatives and Special Envoys of the Secretary-General to promote the Secretary-General’s recent call for a global ceasefire. The MYA, with its Rapid Response window, is designed to support new opportunities and crisis-related needs at short notice. DPPA continues to deploy its tools - mediation, electoral assistance, inclusive political analysis - to provide political, technical and operational support to its partners. Demand for our services might take a different form this year but is likely to remain high.”
DPPA is currently undertaking an assessment of its MYA projects to re-prioritize and re-purpose unspent programme funds. That assessment is likely to result in a new funding target for the only recently unveiled MYA 2020-2022. The current target is $135 million for the next three years.
“We will communicate the new target once we have greater clarity on how operations can be conducted in the field,” Bost said.
Title picture: Protesters gather in front of the headquarters of the Sudanese army in the capital, Khartoum. April 2019. Photo: Masarib/Ahmed Bahhar