Breathing Space: Vaccination Ceasefires in Armed Conflict

About: In March 2020, as people worldwide grappled with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) called for a global ceasefire “to help create corridors for life-saving aid. To open precious windows for diplomacy. To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19” (UN News, 2020). Following this call, and positive responses from several conflict parties, researchers and practitioners questioned whether these so-called “Corona Ceasefires” could fulfil all these objectives at once. In February 2021, almost a year on from the UNSG’s call and following the successful development of multiple vaccines for Covid-19, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2565, which demanded that “all parties to armed conflicts engage immediately in a durable, extensive, and sustained humanitarian pause to facilitate, inter alia, the equitable, safe and unhindered delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations in areas of armed conflict” (UN Security Council, 2021).

We wanted to understand how ceasefires could potentially support Covid-19 public health responses, including vaccination campaigns. In pursuit of this goal, in this report we examine past experiences of using ceasefires to facilitate vaccination campaigns in contexts as diverse as El Salvador, Afghanistan, and the Philippines, and consider how these experiences might help us to better understand the conflict-peace-Covid-19 nexus. In our analysis, we rely on our original dataset of vaccination ceasefires, the VaxxPax Vaccination Ceasefires Dataset, which covers vaccination ceasefires across the world from 1985 to 2018, as well as a comprehensive review of the available literature.

The authors are grateful to Hannah den Boer for research assistance in an earlier phase of this research.

The Communication Initiative Network has published a summary of this report.