Countering divisive narratives and building bridges across divides

The ‘othering’ and stigmatisation of certain groups – often those already marginalised – has intensified in multiple settings throughout the pandemic.

The recording of a radio programme in Nigeria to disseminate messages of tolerance and patience.
The recording of a radio programme in Nigeria to disseminate messages of tolerance and patience. © International Alert

This trend demonstrates one of the early negative impacts of COVID-19 and has occurred at all levels of society, in some cases fuelled by those in power and proliferated both online and offline.

There is a potential for this division and polarisation to become even further pronounced, as the economic downturn creates increased competition for dwindling resources.

COVID-19 emergency responses and long-term recovery interventions must focus on accurate information sharing and countering stigmatisation, alongside equal service delivery, to ensure that tensions are not further exacerbated.

This work in action

Radio shows to promote tolerance and patience in Nigeria

Our Nigeria team has adapted their successful media peacebuilding work to the pandemic context.

The team has used radio shows to disseminate messages of tolerance and patience, using community and religious leaders to counter false information and stigmatisation.

The work has helped to restore public confidence in health directives and elevate community voices on the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on women survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, internally displaced people and people with disabilities.

Engaging religious leaders in COVID-19 responses in Kyrgyzstan

Our Kyrgyzstan team is working to reduce the vulnerability of religious communities to COVID-19 and prevent conflicts relating to religious tensions.

The team are helping to conflict-sensitise messaging around the pandemic and supporting the State Commission on Religious Affairs and religious figures to mitigate secular–religious tensions.

They are carrying out this work through virtual spaces, bringing together government representatives, inter-faith groups and experts in joint dialogue sessions.

In doing so, they are helping to connect religious communities to wider, secular society in the country and to address existing and potential community conflicts that might be exacerbated or created by the pandemic.

They are also helping to increase access to accurate information about COVID-19 sanitary rules, promoting religious diversity and tolerance, and raising awareness of the issue of gender-based violence during the pandemic.

Other ways to build positive peace in pandemic responses

This is just one of the ways to build positive peace in pandemic responses. You can read the other ways below.

(Re)building trust and accountability between citizens and states

Reducing gender inequalities through responding to COVID-19 and its impacts

Supporting conflict-sensitive public health and humanitarian responses, alongside long-term recovery interventions

Using evidence to inform short- and long-term responses to COVID-19 and conflict