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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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New York, 1 May 2013 - Secretary-General's opening remarks at the Inaugural Andrew Carnegie Distinguished Lecture on Conflict Prevention in Honour of David Hamburg

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to the Inaugural Andrew Carnegie Distinguished Lecture on Conflict Prevention in honour of Dr. David Hamburg.

David Hamburg has made truly important intellectual contributions to the world and to the work of the United Nations.

During his 15 years at the head of the Carnegie Corporation, he helped to transform the way the United Nations, governments, NGOs and the broader public look at a range of issues, from public health and education to nuclear non-proliferation to conflict prevention.

His work on conflict prevention has been especially notable.

When I came to office, one of my main priorities was to improve the UN’s ability to address brewing tensions before they become bigger and costlier crises. I wanted us to make greater use of the many tools available under Chapter VI of the UN Charter to prevent armed conflict.

In this endeavour, one of our major reference points has been the seminal 1997 report of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. All the key elements of that report resonate and guide us to this very day.

The focus on early action, national ownership and the critical role of civil society…

The building of effective institutions based on the rule of law…

The need to address the full range socio-economic and political factors for lasting peace to take root…

And the acknowledgement that in extreme situations, the use of force remains an important tool to prevent even greater atrocities.

The United Nations has come a long way in internalizing and operationalizing these insights.

Our special envoys are the most visible manifestations of our growing emphasis on preventive diplomacy.  These envoys can now call on rapidly deployable expertise on cease-fire negotiations, power-sharing, constitutional design, gender issues and other aspects of peace processes.

Our regional offices in West Africa, Central Asia and Central Africa act as forward platforms for preventive work.

Our electoral assistance is increasingly geared towards preventing election-related violence.

We have worked hard to bridge the gap between the political and development arms of the United Nations to more effectively address drivers of conflict.

And we have helped to solidly embed the Responsibility to Protect in the UN’s normative framework.

These efforts have yielded concrete results.  From Kenya to Kyrgyzstan and Cote d’Ivoire, we have kept tensions from escalating.  In Guinea, Yemen and Somalia, we are accompanying difficult transition processes.

At the same time, from Syria to Mali to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, we are reminded on a daily basis that prevention has limits and shortcomings.

Our efforts in preventive diplomacy are hampered by sovereignty concerns of Member States and fears of external interference.

Preventive action can only succeed when the international community speaks with one voice. Divisions in the Security Council or in approaches among organizations can undermine the effectiveness of mediators.

Early warning also remains a challenge. Social media are helping our ability to take the pulse of a country or a situation.  But we have also been caught unprepared.  And we need to improve our ability to engage preventively in fragile countries where we have only a development presence, as was the case in Sri Lanka.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations and its Member States have much work to do.  As we strive to get prevention right, let us continue to be inspired by the contributions of David Hamburg.

His work has enabled us to make quantum leaps in our approach to addressing armed conflict. As the title of his new book puts it, he is helping us all to “Give Peace a Chance”.

Mr. Hamburg, please accept our most sincere thanks for your contribution, and we look forward to your talk tonight.

Thank you very much.


Statements on 1 May 2013