28 August 2007 Conflicts between and within nations have grown so complex in recent years that the United Nations’ capacity to deal with the world’s most difficult crises needs to be enhanced, the Security Council stressed today.
In a statement read out by Ambassador Pascal Gayama of the Republic of Congo, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, the 15-member body “notes the varied nature of conflicts, which involve not only conflicts between States and within States, but also new emerging threats, and thus reiterates its determination to strengthen its role in preventing and resolving conflict in all its forms.”
The statement, which came at the end of a meeting featuring over 35 speakers on the topic of conflict prevention and resolution, particularly in Africa, also highlighted the importance of settling disputes peacefully and promoting preventive action in response to threats to international peace and security.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for devoting more resources to conflict prevention and strengthening the UN’s capacity for mediation, stating that “it is only through political settlements that conflicts can be resolved.”
Mr. Ban stressed that the resolution of Africa’s most difficult conflicts is a top priority of his administration. “At the same time, a greater investment in prevention could save us considerable pain and expense – in Darfur, in Somalia, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in northern Uganda, in Western Sahara and elsewhere,” he noted.
There has been an estimated 40 per cent decline in armed conflict around the world since the 1990s, with recent research crediting expanded UN peacemaking, peacekeeping and conflict prevention activities as a major factor behind the decline.
While this is encouraging, Mr. Ban said it was “not good enough,” noting that violent conflicts continue to inflict immense suffering on countless people, mostly civilians. “For these victims, and for the sake of future generations, we have an obligation to take more seriously the challenge of prevention.”
Mr. Ban highlighted the important role played by regional organizations, pointing to Sudan, where the UN is working with the African Union (AU) to address the crisis in the strife-torn Darfur region and where the world body will soon deploy a 26,000-strong joint UN-AU force (to be known as UNAMID) to suppress ongoing violence.
“The tragedy of Darfur reminds us how much more needs to be done before we complete our transformation from a culture of ‘reaction’ to one of effective prevention,” he said.
Given the increasingly complex nature of today’s disputes, he called for developing new approaches and addressing the underlying causes of conflicts. “If we do not deal with the root causes of conflict – and offer sustainable solutions – we will be left with peacekeeping missions without end.”
Equally crucial, he added, is the need to build peace in countries emerging from conflict, such as Burundi, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Liberia. “In these and other fragile post-conflict countries, peacebuilding is in fact prevention, since it is designed to prevent a relapse into war.”
“Indeed, peacebuilding is an integral part of improving the UN’s capacity for conflict prevention and resolution,” said Leslie Kojo Christian, acting Chairman of the Organizational Committee of the UN Peacebuilding Commission, set up in 2005 to help countries emerging from conflict to avoid relapsing into violence.
He noted the Commission has a crucial role to play in contributing to the development of UN conflict prevention and resolution strategies by ensuring that they take into account priorities for peacebuilding. “As such, conflict prevention and resolution efforts can help to foresee and forestall the potential for relapsing into conflict.”
One of the key achievements of the Commission during its first year of operation has been maintaining international attention on peacebuilding efforts in Burundi and Sierra Leone. “This has in turn instilled a greater sense of accountability and responsibility among the national and local actors on the ground to ensure long-term peace,” Mr. Christian stated.
By establishing the Commission – whose efforts are essential to solidifying peace and preventing relapse into conflict - the General Assembly took an important step forward in the field of conflict prevention, Ambassador Léo Mérorès of Haiti told the Council.
“But this is not enough,” he said, in a statement delivered on behalf of the Assembly’s President, urging that the mediation and good offices’ capabilities of the UN be reinforced and that it be given the necessary tools to play that crucial role.
The Secretary-General is expected to submit shortly to the Assembly a follow-up to the 1998 report issued by his predecessor, Kofi Annan, on the causes of conflict in Africa and the promotion of durable peace and development. In addition, he will be presenting proposals for strengthening the mediation capabilities of the UN’s Department of Political Affairs.