Deputy Secretary-General: Statements
New York, 19 July 2010 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at Joint Special Event of the Economic and Social Council and the Peacebuilding Commission on the “Millennium Development Goals in Countries Emerging from Conflict” [Check against delivery]Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to address your meeting today. I am delighted that ECOSOC and the Peacebuilding Commission have chosen to focus on a particularly challenging aspect of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)-- that is, progress towards the MDGs in countries emerging from conflict.
It is highly appropriate that ECOSOC, which has been addressing the impact of conflict on development since the 1990s, and the Peacebuilding Commission, whose goal is to support sustainable peace in countries emerging from conflict, should be collaborating on this topic.
This meeting is also especially timely, with only two months to go before September's High-Level Plenary Meeting on how to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.
The devastating effects of conflict on development are evident. It is not surprising that the majority of countries lagging furthest behind in achieving the MDGs are countries emerging from conflict.
It is therefore vital to better understand the links between conflict and the MDGs. This will help us find more effective ways to reach the goals and build sustainable peace – objectives which are closely linked, but not identical.
The MDGs and peacebuilding are strongly interdependent. Peacebuilding activities encompassing safety and security, public administration, and public services such as health and education are critical for progress towards the MDGs. Likewise, progress towards the MDG can play an important role in laying the foundations for peace. I think it is this last link that is often forgotten.
I would like to suggest three areas for discussion.
First, how to measure progress towards the MDGs.
Measuring progress not only at the country level, but also across various subgroups, can reveal significant differences.
For example, there may be striking horizontal inequalities among regions that are masked when the data is aggregated at the country level. Such inequalities risk sparking conflict when certain groups feel marginalized or excluded. If the MDGs are monitored at the sub-national level, however, governments would be able to target their limited resources more effectively, directing them to the areas where they are most needed.
This type of sub-national monitoring is especially valuable in countries emerging from conflict because it helps prioritize the use of resources in an environment where everything appears important. Moreover, in these contexts severe horizontal inequalities are not simply a reflection of uneven progress towards the MDGs; they can trigger renewed violence and even a relapse into conflict.
Second, how progress towards the MDGs can build trust in local or national government and reinforce commitment to a peace process.
Governments in post-conflict societies are often weak and distrusted by the population – particularly in the early days after conflict, before new elections are held, when the legitimacy of transitional governments may be questioned.
Through efforts to reach the MDGs -- for example, by providing or through the delivery of education or health services -- governments can provide a peace dividend that increases people's confidence in, and commitment to, the peace process.
Third, how the MDGs can serve as a framework for fostering national unity.
In fractured and factionalized societies, a sense of common purpose is vital. Activities designed to achieve widely shared progress towards the MDGs can promote social cohesion. Involving communities in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of such activities can build bridges among them.
However, let me introduce one note of caution. We should not equate all progress towards the MDGs as peacebuilding. We cannot simply relabel our traditional activities as peacebuilding. Peacebuilding requires an understanding of the causes of a conflict. Only those activities that help to address the sources of conflict deserve the label of peacebuilding.
The point is that certain activities that foster progress towards the MDGs could contribute to peacebuilding as well.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I hope today's meeting will increase awareness of the links between the MDGs and peacebuilding in countries emerging from conflict. Those links offer real opportunities.
For example, in some countries, attaining a particular MDG may help to address an inequality that was a trigger for conflict. In such cases, shouldn't national peacebuilding strategies give greater prominence to the MDGs?
I hope that these and other questions can be addressed more fully in today's discussions. I am confident that the conclusions and proposals that emerge will be a constructive contribution towards building more prosperous and stable societies in countries emerging from conflicts.
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