Regional Dialogue on Sustaining Peace
– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at Regional Dialogue on Sustaining Peace in Doha, Qatar
Excellencies, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I want to thank the State of Qatar for hosting this regional dialogue. In particular, I thank the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, for his commitment to this issue.
We have a full agenda, over the next two days. We will hear from a host of high-level speakers. Many of them will be experts in this field. Others will be practitioners, from the field. I am neither. So, instead, I will give you my own perspective on Sustaining Peace. Not in expert, academic terms – but in my own language. In doing so, I will outline some of the main elements, which demand our attention. I will also talk about my own role in supporting Sustaining Peace.
And, it will try to do this all in four brief points.
The first is that we need a new approach to peace. Because, since we designed many of our systems and mechanisms, things have changed a lot. We are no longer dealing only with tanks, planes, and uniformed troops. Other factors, such as terrorism, growing internal violence, new technology and climate change have been added to the mix. And they have transformed the faces of both conflict and peace.
Another thing that has changed is our own understanding. We have seen that conflict is not always linear. In many cases, there is no clear beginning, middle and end. And that is why we need support, and action, at all stages of the cycle.
- When there are warning signs of conflict. When political tensions are on the rise. When human rights are being violated. That is when we need to act.
- When there is some hope of peace, amid conflict. When warring parties show any kind of willingness to talk. That is when we need to act.
- When a peace deal has been signed. When infrastructure needs to be rebuilt. When a society is trying to patch itself back together. That is when we need to act.
Sometimes we separate these into stages of prevention, mediation and peacebuilding. Other times we refer to them all as the peace continuum. But the magic of Sustaining Peace is that all of them are brought together, under one umbrella, and one new approach.
Please, make no mistake. It won’t be easy to turn this new approach into everyday practice. In fact, it will take hard work. The good news, however, is that we are on our way. The Sustaining Peace resolutions, adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council in April 2016, broke new ground. Now we are trying to establish strong foundations on that ground. One milestone along the way will be the publication of the Secretary-General’s report on Sustaining Peace. Due to be released next month, it will provide us with practical analysis and concrete recommendations. Another important milestone will be a High-Level Meeting on Sustaining Peace, which I will convene on 24 and 25 April, in New York.
The second point I would like to make today is on financing.
When we think of the consequences of conflict, natural, we often first think of death and human suffering. And as I said, this is natural. Because they amount to the highest price humanity can pay. However, the financial and economic costs can also be crippling. They can set societies back by years – or even decades. And they can, in turn, contribute to human suffering.
A recent United Nations-World Bank report confirmed this. It noted that conflict can kill a chance of progress from many areas – from development and poverty reduction, to health and education. The report also pointed out that, even with cautious estimates, more investment in conflict prevention could save the international community $1.2 billion per year. And the benefits would be even more significant at the national level. Because, prevention could save countries over $34 billion in losses.
So, the case for investment in peace is strong. Actually, it is irrefutable.
But, despite this, it is still not happening. At least not enough.
At the moment, United Nations resources for peace are concentrated on military peacekeeping missions. Although they have peace in their name, many of them are operating in contexts where there is, in fact, no peace left to keep. At the same time, there is a chronic shortfall of funding to build or preserve peace. This affects activities for conflict prevention, mediation and peacebuilding. What’s more, most of the funding that is there is unpredictable. It might come one year, and not another. Which makes long-term investments for peace extremely difficult.
The Secretary-General’s report is likely to contain concrete proposals for financing. We cannot just read them, discuss them, and put them back on the shelf. They need serious consideration. And the high-level meeting in April can provide a platform for this. I hope leaders from all over the world will voice their commitment to making financing for Sustaining Peace stronger, and more predictable.
One problem, however, remains: there are not enough of them. Sustaining Peace is happening. But it is the exception – not the norm. […] The High-Level Meeting, in April, will bring together examples from all over the world. And it will allow us to commit, at the highest level, to making them the norm, and not the exception.
My third point, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that partnerships are integral to Sustaining Peace. And, if we want new and stronger partnerships, we need to start at home – within the United Nations system. In the past, UN departments, and the people in them, worked on their agendas. Social development meant only social development. Humanitarian work meant only humanitarian work. So, over the years, strong silos have formed. Now we have to tear them down. Because, development and human rights cannot take hold if war is raging around them. Similarly, peace is more likely to stick if human rights are respected, and development is inclusive.
We also, however, need partnerships between the United Nations and other actors. These must include civil society, academia, regional and sub-regional organisations, regional development banks, and international financial institutions.
The private sector must also play a role. In fact, it was clear, from a recent dialogue I convened in New York, that major businesses – such as MasterCard and LexisNexis – are aware of the links between inclusive growth, strong institutions, and Sustaining Peace. And they want a part in strengthening these links.
Finally, we can’t talk about partnerships without focusing on national stakeholders. Because no peace can last if it is not nationally owned, and nationally driven. I’m not only referring to government officials. We must also engage other national actors – like religious and community leaders. And we cannot afford to overlook the role of women and young people. They are often the peace innovators – finding new, and creative ways to overcome challenges. They must participate in any effort to support Sustaining Peace.
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
My fourth and final point today is that a new approach does not mean that we need to start from scratch.
Because, Sustaining Peace exists. It is already happening, around the world.
- It is support to peacebuilding organisations, working between different religious communities, in Lebanon.
- It is mechanisms to peacefully resolve disputes over national resources, in Kyrgyzstan.
- It is dialogue around social conflict, in Guatemala.
- It is women’s situation rooms, to ease tensions created by elections, in Liberia.
These are only some of the many best practices we have seen.
One problem, however, remains: there are not enough of them. Sustaining Peace is happening. But it is the exception – not the norm.
We need to do more to showcase these best practices. This regional dialogue provides a useful platform to do so. The High-Level Meeting, in April, will bring together examples from all over the world. And it will allow us to commit, at the highest level, to making them the norm, and not the exception.
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
We have an opportunity before us. This dialogue will act as a hub of knowledge, expertise and experience on Sustaining Peace. If you have questions, please ask them. If you have ideas, please share them. If you have stories, please tell them.
My team and I will work to feed this dialogue into the high-level meeting in April. It is time for the regional perspective to be heard – and to be heard louder – on the international stage.
Thank you again – and good luck in the discussions ahead.