By Rebecca Crall

It is easy to see the health crisis created by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. What’s not as easy to see are the long-term impacts of the crisis on peace, particularly in states with government and public health infrastructures weakened by violence or unrest.

Fortunately, Rotarians have an amazing capacity to use their ingenuity to address the world’s most pressing challenges. And the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. As the Area of Focus Manager for Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention, I have been spending some time thinking about the pandemic in terms of peacebuilding and human resiliency.

Earlier this year, Rotary and the Institute for Economics and Peace, held the inaugural Positive Peace Activator training in Ontario, California. This event trained 30 Rotarians, Rotary Peace Fellows, and Rotaractors on how to “activate” Positive Peace in communities around the globe.

The framework of Positive Peace provides a valuable tool for this time. We have used the pillars to analyze ways communities can develop in order to sustain peace or to recover from conflict. But it’s also a tool that helps communities become more resilient and recover from shocks, such as the novel coronavirus outbreak.

With Positive Peace, we can conceptualize peace as an interconnected system. Strength in all eight pillars can help countries, regions and communities better prepare, prevent and respond to shocks. We can also think about the system as an interconnected web. Strong, interdependent fibers can absorb and respond to a shock, whereas tears or weakness in the connections start to quickly unravel the whole system under stress.

During this crisis, we have seen the eight pillars at work. We are reminded that these pillars are crucial, not only to preventing violence but allowing our society to weather both internal and external shocks.

Here are ways the pillars have or can respond to the COVID-19 outbreak (Information adapted from initial Positive Peace + COVID-19 research conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace):

A well-functioning government can

  • coordinate responses internally and across international platforms
  • legislate economic relief packages to keep economy afloat
  • Implement new and amended policies to flatten infection curve
  • Redirect resources to communities most in need

Equal distribution of resources can ensure

  • Access to care and testing for all individuals
  • Support to unemployed people experiencing rent stress and supporting failing businesses.

Free flow of information helps

  • Increase information flows allowing for triangulation of data and informed responses
  • Frequent and accurate public announcements

Good relations with neighbours at the international level facilitate

  • Intercountry resource sharing particularly personal protection equipment, drugs, and medical equipment
  • Intercountry knowledge transfer of data, analysis, research, and technology

Good relations with neighbours at the community level

  • Community organizing to support more vulnerable community members
  • More open and understanding interpersonal communications
  • We are all in this together and like campaigns fostering community cohesion

High level of human capital facilitates

  • Industry shifts as needed
  • Manufactures and engineers being repurposed for hospital equipment and medical supplies
  • Upskilling of medical and allied health professionals 

Acceptance of the rights of others allows

  • Individuals to accept the rights of others in communal areas through social distancing
  • Individuals balance their personal fears and needs with carer and community responsibilities. (Nurses, teachers, parents, police, aids)
  • Families care for isolated and vulnerable elderly parents 

Low levels of corruption ensure that

  • State and Federal governments flow information to citizens to remain accountable and transparent
  • Provides the trust between citizen and state required for societal stresses not to escalate.

Sound business environment provides

  • Businesses adopt flexible work arrangements (work from home) to remain viable
  • Finding ways for individuals to support local business. (Home delivery)

Applying this framework to discrete situations, provides us with a critical lens to see the importance of building Positive Peace within our communities. As we move from response to recovery, I am hopeful that our Rotary community will continue to invest in the training and implementation of programs related to Positive Peace. Rotary’s 100+ year track record of encouraging international cooperation and understanding across borders has never been more important than it is today.

For more information on how to get more involved with Rotary’s Positive Peace work, please contact the Rotary-IEP Partnership coordinator Summer Lewis: