After the failure of peace talks at the UN, hopes of a resolution of the military conflicts in Libya and Yemen are dwindling. Long-riddled with international intervention and proxy-centric tactics, violent breakouts in the Middle East have infamously been subject to various power plays of large Western and Eastern countries. The Libyan conflict is no different; after President Erdogan of Turkey announced an aggressive military strategy in December, the internationalization of the civil war has only increased. The UAE began to back coalitions in the area, leading to rising tensions throughout the region. All the while, the Libyan people continue to experience the negative domestic effects that al-Qaddafi’s regime left, most notably the deep social divides that led to the eruption of aggression between factions within the country.
Yet, with the outbreak of COVID-19, things are most likely going to go from bad to worse. COVID-19 has created a unique domestic challenge that doesn’t discriminate by strength of economy, meaning that the ability to focus on international relations is greatly diminished. With Western countries shifting their attention to domestic issues, decreasing their ability to mediate, the situation has made it easier than ever for warring groups to ignore developed countries’ guidance and the UN’s declaration of a global ceasefire. With domestic conflicts in Yemen and Libya already on the upturn prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, it seems now that the international powers in both conflicts have dismissed any notion of peaceful de-escalation in favor of the goal to annihilate the opposition. Problematically for the soldiers themselves, with poor health and precautionary standards in warzones and camps, both militia and governmental encampments of soldiers are highly prone to virus outbreaks among the ranks, only further complicating the intersection between health concerns and military conflict.
With both conflicts increasingly polarizing among major powers in the UN, it is inherently difficult for the organization to decide how aid is directed. At that point, it may be in the UN’s best interest to focus on the groups of people that are most deeply affected by this conflict when they may not be playing a part to propagate it. Specifically, UAE-backed forces in the Libyan conflict have begun establishing focus points with significant civilian populations. As with any war-torn area, women and children that are often detached from the turmoil still pay the price of regional instability. Collectively trying to work above the divisions formed by these conflicts to foster resources for innocent civilians should be fortified as a priority for the UN.
As for the conflict, with many developed and developing nations finding it difficult to focus on international affairs and cooperation to quell domestic outbreaks, it seems that the UN’s capacity to peacefully stabilize these internationalized civil wars may be declining. The collective implication of the conflicts remains uncertain, but, in the meantime, it is up to the members of the international community to do all they can to look out for their neighbors.