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Peace is the North Star During and the Post COVID-19 Pandemic

Siddharth Chatterjee (@sidchat1) is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya. Walid Badawi (@walidbadawi) is the UNDP Resident Representative to Kenya.

A landmark handshake-former Prime Minister Raila Odinga & President Uhuru Kenyatta bridge their differences and sign a declaration of peace between the two political leaders. March 9, 2018. Credit: State House

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 21 2020 (IPS) - Amid various global conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s, the International Day of Peace (IDOP) was established to commemorate the strengthening of the ideals of peace globally. Today, peace is not just the absence of conflict, but a key prerequisite for development. It is in recognition of the crucial linkages between peace, respect for human rights and sustainable development that more than 36 indicators for peace were included across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Just like charity, peace begins at home.

Kenya stands out as a paradigm of locally crafted peace processes and cross-border initiatives with Ethiopia and Uganda that are gaining global visibility.

March 9, 2018 will go down in Kenya’s history books as one of many defining moments when the country took a step closer towards peace. On this day, on the steps of Harambee House, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Rt Honorable, Raila Odinga, shook hands. This averted a major political crisis that was characterized by calls for regional secession, economic boycotts and mobilization for civil unrest.

The theme of this year’s IDOP is ‘building peace together’ which reminds us of what has been achieved, and what remains to be done to secure a peaceful and just world. In the midst of continuing conflicts around the world, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has appealed for a global ceasefire, urging all warring parties to lay down their weapons and focus on the battle against the common enemy, the COVID-19 pandemic. This call was by no means directed merely to armed parties, but is a call to Member States, regional partners, non-State actors, civil society organizations, to return to the fundamental values of the UN Charter.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a host of inequalities and vulnerabilities in our societies that threaten human progress. For the first time since 1990, human development is on course to decline, affecting the most marginalized in our societies disproportionately, women, the elderly, unemployed youth, refugees, and other vulnerable groups, especially those in humanitarian settings. That is why it is more important than ever to work together across all sectors and at all levels to “build forward better”.

But with every crisis comes opportunity. The UN is working with countries around the world, including Kenya, to take immediate bold action to stem the socio-economic impacts and put in place recovery strategies that are sustainable, transformative and innovative. Together, we have a chance to take a bold leap forward to a sustainable, inclusive, peaceful, and resilient future, with the SDGs as our compass.

In its support to the Government and people of Kenya, the UN is not only responding to the dire health and economic needs of COVID-19, we are also engaging closely on the impact of the crisis on stability and social cohesion.

The National Peacebuilding Strategy on Covid-19, being launched during IDOP 2020, sets out an inclusive and integrated framework for the governance, peace and security sector to respond to and recover from the impacts of COVID-19. The Strategy is a great opportunity for all Kenyans to shape peace together and steer the national debate in the direction of a united, peaceful and prosperous Kenya.

The 17 SDGs provide a framework for improving the conditions which will engender peaceful societies while addressing the underlying causes and drivers of conflict. Peace enables every individual to attain their human capability, dignity and choice. It creates an environment for optimal development. The mutually reinforcing nexus between peace and development places prevention and peacebuilding at the centre of the work of the UN.

This year’s observance of IDOP is particularly special, coming as the UN celebrates its 75th Anniversary. The UN General Assembly will mark the occasion at a time of vast and unprecedented stress on people and planet under the theme: “the future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism – confronting COVID-19 through effective multilateral action.”

Kenya’s unwavering commitment to the UN and to multilateralism has received international recognition, evidenced by the recent election to the Security Council from 2021 to 2023 and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership as a global youth champion.

As Kenya continues to shine on the global stage, so must she continue to demonstrate her resolve to maintaining peace and social cohesion domestically. The inclusion of women and youth in all institutions and decision-making processes as enshrined in the constitution, must serve as the basis for governance, no matter how bumpy the road ahead may be.

Effective implementation of the National Peacebuilding Strategy is the right way forward.


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