The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will turn upside down the world geopolitics and impose a new lifestyle on humanity. While this health crisis is in full swing, thirteen peacekeeping operations, under the aegis of the United Nations (UN) and involving 95.423 staff from 121 countries, continue to be conducted worldwide.
China, France, the United States and Great Britain, which represent four fifths of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and which, besides, are considered to be the biggest financial contributors to peacekeeping (PK) operations, are among the countries most affected by the coronavirus disease. Worse, almost all of the States providing troops to the PK operations suffer the consequences relating to the fight against the pandemic. The global geopolitical context is such that from now on, each country redirects its priorities on its populations by developing national strategies specific to its realities with a view to efficiently fighting against COVID-19. Thus, some countries have withdrawn their soldiers from certain PK operations, such as the United Kingdom in Iraq. Does this crisis throw us back to nationalism so it’s "every man for himself"? The World Health Organization (WHO) isn’t it paying the price for the Sino-American conflict of interests? Against this background, what will be the future of PK operations: continuing or putting them on hold?
Though Covid-19 has turned all of the world's priorities and policies upside down, it has failed to end deadly conflicts and attacks. In such a context, the UN PK operations appear as responses to those deleterious security situations. In this period of an unprecedented health crisis, putting PK operations on hold would result in creating a security vacuum in some areas. Such a situation could have serious consequences for international peace and security. We must not forget that security must be analyzed under the concept of human security.
The suspension of PK operations in this period of health crisis could, for example, be a windfall for the rise of certain terrorist groups in the Sahel area, more particularly, in countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Without the presence of armed forces like MINUSMA, the Barkhane Operation and the G5 Sahel, this region could, in a few months come under the control of terrorist groups well-established in these countries. The withdrawal of PK operations during this period could also be the cause of the escalation of violence in certain areas and even could accelerate the contamination with COVID-19 of the people who live there. We believe that despite the global health situation, there is a real need for the UN PK operations to continue.
In this period marked by the health crisis, it is paramount that the PK operations continue in all the theaters where they are on-going at the moment. Better still, they appear as an opportunity for certain countries in crisis or in post-conflict situations. Quite often those countries do not have any infrastructure, even less any technical and health facilities that can help control the spread of the disease.
With their extended mandates, PK operations should be able to support those countries at different levels. It is by doing so that the international community can effectively contribute to the preservation, or restoring of lasting peace and security in those regions at stake. However, these missions can only be meaningful in strict compliance with the health standards imposed by the WHO to fight back the disease. This implies an adaptation of each mission to the political context that prevails in the different operation theaters, given the extent of the disease in each area.
Jean-Jacques KONADJE, Ivorian, is an international expert in security, defence and strategy. He is a professor and researcher in communication, geopolitics and international relations.