5 February 2001
PEACE-BUILDING DONE WELL A POWERFUL DETERRENT TO VIOLENT CONFLICT,
SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
Following is the text of a statement to the Security Council on peace-building, delivered today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
It gives me great pleasure to join you today for this open debate on peace-building. I would like to thank you, Mr. President, for your initiative on this key aspect of international peace and security. I am confident that it will contribute to our efforts to arrive at a shared vision of peace-building with which all of us can move forward.
Peace-building in the broadest sense is about helping a country to put back in place the rudiments of normal life after a period of conflict.
Peace-building is about the resumption of economic activity, the rejuvenation of institutions, the restoration of basic services, the reconstruction of clinics and schools, the revamping of public administration, and the resolution of differences through dialogue, not violence. The overarching challenge is to move societies towards sustainable peace.
Peace-building done well is a powerful deterrent to violent conflict. But it is not powerful in the way an army can be powerful; rather, it is the sum of many initiatives, projects, activities and sensitivities. Peace-building is not the dramatic imposition of a grand plan; rather, it is the process of building the pillars of peace from the ground up, bit by bit.
The instruments of peace-building are as varied as the United Nations system itself. Indeed, virtually every part of the United Nations system, including the Bretton Woods institutions, is currently engaged in one form of peace-building or another.
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; human rights education; the repatriation of refugees; the promotion of conflict resolution and reconciliation techniques -- this is just a short list of activities. We are also promoting cultural exchanges designed to link States in networks of enterprise and opportunity, not in webs of mutual antagonism.
And to ensure the coherence of these efforts, we are also trying to improve our own internal arrangements, so that peace-building is not only comprehensive, but done in an integrated way.
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With an increasing number of United Nations entities establishing peace-building units and funds, we will need a major effort of coordination if we are to reinforce one another's efforts and avoid duplication and confusion.
We tend to think of peace-building as taking place primarily in post-conflict settings. Here, the goals are to consolidate peace, to reinforce an often hard-won and fragile stability, and, above all, to prevent a slide back into conflict.
But I also see peace-building as a preventive instrument, which can address the underlying root causes of conflict and which can also be used before the actual outbreak of war. A society on the brink of breakdown is as much in need of them as one where disaster has already struck. Their timely deployment at that stage could save many lives and avoid much misery. The political, economic and human logic of such an approach is impeccable. The problem is that we don't practise prevention as often as we could or should.
Whether started before, after or during the eruption of conflict, peace-building must be seen as a long-term exercise. At the same time, there is an unmistakable element of urgency -- a need to achieve tangible progress on a number of fronts in a short period of time.
Peace-building must be, above all, the work of the society which is threatened by conflict or has succumbed to it. International efforts to promote peace or development must support -- and not supplant -- national ones.
Peace-building is an extremely difficult undertaking. All too often, countries emerging from prolonged conflicts are starting almost from ground zero, under clouds of bitterness and loss. It requires persistence and vision, as well as the courage to pursue reconciliation in societies still fractured by suspicion and mistrust.
Here, I would like to say a word about the fundamentally political character of peace-building, which makes it distinct from normal development activities in non-crisis situations. When a country is sliding into conflict, or emerging from war, its needs are qualitatively different from those of a stable society.
This requires a reordering of normal developmental, humanitarian and other activities, so that their first objective is to contribute to the paramount goal of preventing the outbreak or recurrence of conflict.
Some have described this as looking at developmental and humanitarian work through a "conflict prevention lens". Others have spoken of "peace-friendly" adjustment programmes, with the flexibility to take account of the exceptional needs of countries emerging from, or on the verge of, conflict.
Indeed, at times, peace-building may mean giving preferential treatment to some groups in a society, in order to redress pre-existing inequalities that may have bred explosive tensions. And, in turn, this may involve allocations of resources that might not be optimal from a purely economic point of view.
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During the last decade, both the General Assembly and the Security Council have recognized the importance of peace-building and the need to work with a range of partners, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
The Council has rightly recognized that peace-building can be a vital component of peacekeeping missions, and that it needs to include such preventive tools as early warning, diplomacy, preventive deployment and disarmament.
In countries as diverse as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Liberia and Mozambique, peace-building has helped to smooth the implementation and prevent the breakdown of peace agreements. In countries like Haiti, Guinea-Bissau or the Central African Republic, peace-building activities have contributed to the maintenance of fragile stability.
In response to growing demand, the United Nations has opened, on a pilot basis, peace-building support offices in the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Tajikistan.
Although these outposts are relatively new, and are constrained by limited resources, they have helped governments to destroy weapons, build institutions and mobilize international support for their societies' needs. As you know, we are now exploring the possibility of establishing a peace-building presence in Somalia.
This Council has a prime role to play. Among the major challenges of peace-building is the mobilization of sustained political will and resources on the part of the international community. A number of good ideas have been put forward in key areas such as the implementation of peace agreements and the design of peacekeeping operations, which the Council could incorporate into its future mandates.
Further contributions can be expected from our meeting with regional organizations tomorrow and Wednesday. I am delighted that the Presidents of the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the Economic and Social Council will be attending this event, and I am confident that the Council will want to lend its full support to the outcome.
Peace-building presents complex and diverse challenges. I will do my utmost operationally -- to improve the peace-building projects in which we engage, and exploit to the best possible effect the expertise that exists in the United Nations system and among our many partners.
But I will also ask the members to do more politically -- to give peace-building a higher priority and a higher profile, by bringing it closer to the forefront of your awareness.
Peace-building must not be seen as an add-on or afterthought, something to save for later when conditions or resources or politics permit. It is a central tool of proven worth. Let us, together, pledge to develop and improve it, and then let us use it in good time.
Thank you very much.