COVID-19 as a Threat to International Peace and Security

by Maria Stephanie C. Garcia*

3 June 2020

The concepts of peace and security are inextricably linked. The broadening scope of security as well as the conceptualization of human security made peace and security to be an inseparable dimension, where one is not possible without the other. The new concept of security encompasses the freedom of fear or peace ( i.e. conflicts, violence, crime), freedom from want or development (i.e poverty, infectious diseases, environmental degradation), and freedom of indignity or human rights (i.e discrimination and exclusion).

Simultaneously, peace is not only limited in the mere absence of war, but its realization requires the creation of conditions that eliminates the causes of violence including the direct, cultural, and structural causes (Galtung, 1964), which then constitutes the concept of security in the 21st century. 

With these into consideration, it can be inferred that global challenges and crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, is a grave threat to international peace and security. This is mainly because it becomes a source of threat to the survival and total well-being of humankind and undermines the vital aspect of state security such as peace, development, and human rights. As further declared by the United Nations (2004), “any event or process that leads to large-scale death or lessening of life chances and undermines States as the basic unit of the international system is a threat to international security.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread to over 200 countries, infecting 5.3 million people, and claiming more than 300 thousand of lives, and causing suffering, especially those in already vulnerable situations (WHO, 2020). Significantly, it also put immense damages to future scenarios of political, social, and economic structures that negatively affect growth and equality. That, in turn, may eventually trigger and increase the likelihood of conflict around the world. 

In order to avoid the furtherance of threat, an individual sovereign state has the responsibility to take measures and actions to protect its population and contain the spread of the virus. They are responsible to ensure that a well-functioning public health system is at hand in order to offer the appropriate treatment and to provide the necessary care for those who will be diagnosed and infected. Most importantly, they should also identify sectors of society who will be hard hit and disproportionately bear the socio-economic impacts. In this way, proper response and effective interventions can take place.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic is a transnational crisis that knows no borders, an individual government has inherent duties to consistently foster cooperation and communication with other states, actors, and international institutions. As history aptly tells us, no state can achieve a degree of containment of the disease in isolation.

The United Nations, as a custodian of international peace and security, is responsible to initiate collective strategies and actions for all states. It shall work closely with governments, experts, and other non-state actors to further expand the scientific knowledge in regards to the virus and vaccination, to provide data and surveillance worldwide, and to advise states on appropriate actions in order to prevent and further spread the virus. Notably, the organization has an essential role to take strong initiative in encouraging states to vigorously build and establish improved public health defenses where infectious disease monitoring, detection, response, and security planning can be operationalized.

Sovereign states and the United Nations should, therefore, work hand in hand in taking the necessary measures to decisively put an end to the pandemic towards the maintenance of international peace and security.

*The author is a Graduate Student at the Department of International Studies, Miriam College, the Philippines. Email tephaniegarc13@gmail.com.

Photo Credit: US Food and Drugs Administration

PIPVTR publishes this essay to encourage graduate students to share their scholarly thoughts on the topic. This essay articulates the personal view of the author and not the position of PIPVTR and Miriam College.

References:

Galtung, J. (1964). An Editorial. Journal of Peace Research, 1 (1). 1-4.

United Nations (UN). (2004). A More Secure World: Our shared responsibility. United

Nations Department of Public Information

World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Dashboard. Retrieved from https://covid19.who.int/

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