Data reveals effect of coronavirus pandemic on war and peace around the world

The Covid-19 pandemic has not paused conflict around the world – despite calls for a global ceasefire, researchers have found. But there are positive movements that could be built on, backed by a new UN Security Council Resolution. The data comes from a new digital tracking tool jointly developed by the Political Settlements Research Programme at the University of Edinburgh.

Even in the time of a global public health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, ceasefires have proved difficult to implement and hold, a new data resource suggests.

Researchers at the Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP), based at the University of Edinburgh Law School, jointly developed a publicly available digital tracking tool to examine the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak on peace processes and armed conflict across the world.

The Covid-19 Ceasefire Tracker monitors the progress of ceasefires alongside live data on infection rates in country. The data can be viewed in a timeline format, a search browse format, and a map format which also includes live data on infection rates in country.

The Covid-19 Ceasefires Tracker has been developed by the University of Edinburgh’s Political Settlements Research Programme, together with MediatEUr (European Forum for international Mediation), The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), ETH Zurich – a research university, Conciliation Resources, and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). Further research inputs have been received by the Mediation Support Unit in the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. The tool involves a unique online collaboration across these organisations, all of whom have practice and research expertise in negotiating, monitoring and delivering ceasefires.

Ceasefires in a Time of Covid-19

Issued during the initial surge of Covid-19, on March 23rd 2020, the UN Secretary General’s call to reach a global ceasefire prompted optimistic reactions that the unprecedented threat of the virus could bring longstanding conflict parties to end hostilities. As can be seen from the data collected by our teams, the response by warring parties has been uneven and varied.

More than 170 states supported the UN’s appeal, as did other peacebuilding and religious organisations. We see the wide response, from nearly all global regions, and from a wide range of actors, as a positive outcome of the UNSG’s call, bringing attention to the needs of those affected simultaneously by the violence and uncertainty of conflict, and the public health emergency of the Covid-19 crisis.

However, the ultimate ambition of the call, putting a pause on fighting across the most violent conflicts, unfortunately has not been fulfilled, as was the case with undeterred conflict in Yemen, and the speeding up of conflict in Libya. Furthermore, the delayed passing of UN Security Council Resolution 2532 (2020) in support of the call on 1 July, three months after the initial action by the UNSG, demonstrates the challenges of reaching sustained ceasefires in conflicts where members of the Security Council are involved in complex and nested regional conflicts.

The Covid-19 Ceasefire Tracker provides a detailed insight into these various settings and allows for an overview of the armed and other actors that responded to the UNSG’s call, as well as the sequences of events that these responses prompted from their respective contexts.

This ceasefire tracking tool makes it clear that, even in a time of public health crises, ceasefires are difficult to implement, and even when proclaimed by armed actors, coordination still matters for these ceasefires to hold. We found that in most cases of initial participation in the UNSG’s call, the ceasefires lapsed, either after an agreed period had passed, or due to the lack of a reciprocal response by other actors.

Professor Christine Bell, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Political Settlements Research Programme, said:

“This ceasefire tool assists international organisations such as the UN, peacebuilding organisations, and people in-country, to monitor both the pandemic and ceasefires.”

Nancy Lindborg, President and CEO, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), said:

“With the recent endorsement of UN Security Council Resolution 2532, the world has acknowledged Secretary General Guterres’ statement that ‘the fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.’ USIP is pleased to collaborate on this timely initiative to equip practitioners and policymakers around the world with solid evidence to inform and bolster their efforts to build peace.”

Kathrin Quesada, SEO, MediatEUr, said:

“This innovative digital tool enables experts working on peace process support to track the cessation of hostilities in real-time, accurately identify where their support can be best-placed and have a critical bird’s-eye view of the interplay between ceasefire developments and the evolution of the pandemic.”

Dr Govinda Clayton, Leader of Civil Wars Ceasefires Research Programme, Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich, said:

“Developing a clearer understanding of when and why ceasefires occur, and how these arrangements influence conflict and peacemaking process, are pressing questions that can benefit from close collaboration between academic and policy constituencies. The Covid-19 Ceasefires Tracker provides a valuable tool for both communities to explore and assess the response to the United Nations call for a global ceasefire.”

Henrik Urdal, Director, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), said:

“Ceasefires in civil war is a greatly under-researched area. The Covid-19 Ceasefires Tracker allows us to identify and explore mechanisms related to humanitarian ceasefires, and to better understand the dynamic between belligerents.”

Jonathan Cohen, Executive Director, Conciliation Resources, said:

“This digital tool gives up-to-date and accessible information about how ceasefires are working and not working to help end armed violence during the Covid-19 pandemic – essential reading for anyone interested in peacebuilding.”

To access the Covid-19 Ceasefire Tracker, visit

View more PSRP Covid-19 research here.