While the COVID-19 pandemic presents a potentially era-defining challenge to public health and the global economy, its long- and short-term consequences for deadly conflict are less well understood. Much remains uncertain, but it is already clear that the pandemic could cause enormous damage in fragile states, trigger unrest and undermine international crisis management systems. The disease is already disrupting humanitarian aid flows, peace operations and crisis diplomacy, and it could be catastrophic for civilians caught in the midst of conflict, particularly refugees and displaced people. Over the coming weeks and months, Crisis Group will offer special publications on the coronavirus and its effects on the conflict landscape.
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Conflicts have paused in much of Myanmar, opening a window for the government, military and ethnic armed groups to pursue a holistic response to the coronavirus. The parties should also work together in Rakhine State, where fighting persists, to limit the disease’s spread.
Covid-19 has laid bare the costs of confronting a global crisis with a flawed international system. The only worse outcome would be to confront the next crisis with no system at all.