Security Council Statement Stresses Conflict Prevention in Africa Must Address Root Causes — Poverty, Poor Governance, Political Exclusion

15 April 2013

Security Council Statement Stresses Conflict Prevention in Africa Must Address Root Causes — Poverty, Poor Governance, Political Exclusion

15 April 2013
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6946th Meeting* (AM)

Security Council Statement Stresses Conflict Prevention in Africa Must Address

Root Causes — Poverty, Poor Governance, Political Exclusion

Secretary-General:  Unrest Flourishes Where People Are ‘Without Hope’;

Council Also Hears from African Union, Foreign Ministers for Togo, Rwanda

Capping debate in the Security Council today on ways to anticipate, prevent and respond more nimbly to conflict across the vast and varied African continent was a presidential statement that stressed the need to address the root causes and regional dimensions of the violence and underlined the valuable contribution of regional and subregional organizations in ensuring the coherence, synergy and collective effectiveness of those efforts.

In particular, the 15-member body acknowledged the efforts of the African Union.  It also recognized the importance of a comprehensive strategy comprising operational and structural measures for preventing armed conflict and encouraged the development of steps to address its root causes — such as poverty, weak State institutions and political exclusion — and to ensure sustainable peace, reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in that regard.

Opening the discussion was United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said “conflicts breed where there is poor governance, human rights abuses and grievances over the unequal distribution of resources, wealth, and power”.  Similarly, he said, “tensions simmer where people are excluded, marginalized and denied meaningful participation in the political and social life of their countries”.  Unrest flourished where people were poor, jobless and without hope.

Whether in the Horn of Africa or the Great Lakes region, the continent was afflicted by interconnected instabilities spreading from one territory to its neighbours, he said.  The challenges were particularly acute when States were fragile and armed movements operated with impunity across porous borders, he said, citing Mali as an example where that had paved the way for transnational criminal organizations and terrorist networks to disrupt regional stability and compromise territorial integrity.

Pledging support for African organizations, he said the United Nations’ own efforts across the continent benefitted from reinvigorated regional organizations, which were playing a stronger and strategic role as key partners.  He cited, among examples, United Nations’ efforts to strengthen the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) conflict prevention and early warning architecture, as well as its 10-year capacity-building partnership with the African Union.

Also key, he said, was ensuring that agreements, once reached, were fully enforced, and that mediation efforts were not just pacts between political elites that addressed the immediate political problems, but allowed all stakeholders to participate.  Noting that 20 African countries were holding elections this year, he said the “relatively peaceful” polls in Kenya were an example of how electoral disagreements could be handled without recourse to violence.

Speaking on behalf of the African Union’s Chairperson, Ethiopian Ambassador Tekeda Alemu said that “more than any time in the past, Africa is ready to play its part for peace and stability in the continent, and it has the wherewithal to be a good partner for the United Nations and the Security Council for the realization of this objective”.  However, no one could deny that Africa still required the strong support of the United Nations and Security Council.

At the core of the conflicts, said Elliot Ohin, Minister of State, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, was the lack of structural adaptation of State institutions bequeathed by colonialism.  That had generated power struggles, which had turned into ethnic rivalries, to the detriment of national identity.  There were also economic factors, which, to a great extent, weakened the African State.  Growing poverty, difficult access to basic social services and lack of opportunities for young people also had weakened State structures.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda, Louise Mushikiwabo, whose delegation holds the Council presidency for April, said in her national capacity that there was no issue more important than tackling conflicts.  She asked whether a peacekeeping operation could truly be said to have fulfilled its mission if there was a failure to analyse what really caused the conflict in the first place.

She noted that processes adopted by the African Union promoted good governance as a conflict prevention tool, and she emphasized the importance of regional and subregional integration in conflict prevention in Africa, leading to a united, prosperous continent that was “driven by its own citizens”.  A strong, prosperous African Union, with subregional building blocks that could deal with conflict prevention without outside help, would further that goal.

She drew attention to Rwanda’s home-grown “Gacaca” court system, which had handled 2 million cases over the last 10 years.  The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had established useful jurisprudence on various issues, though it had handled only a small number of cases over its 17-year existence.  While she supported the International Criminal Court, she did not believe it was playing a constructive role in conflict prevention, as political manipulation from outside and from within conflict zones was hampering its activities.

Also participating in the discussion were the representatives of Guatemala, Argentina, Luxembourg, China, Azerbaijan, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Republic of Korea and France.

The meeting was called to order at 10:26 a.m. and adjourned at 1:14 p.m.


The Security Council met this morning to discuss “Prevention of conflicts in Africa:  addressing root causes”.  The Council had before it a letter dated 2 April from the Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations, addressed to the Secretary-General (document S/2013/204).  An annex to that letter contained the concept note for a briefing in the Security Council on “Prevention of conflicts in Africa:  addressing root causes”, on Monday, 15 April.

The context for the briefing was the prevalence of African issues on the Security Council agenda and the growing number of peacekeeping operations taking place in Africa.  The focus should be on the structural prevention of conflicts and on how Member States and their civil societies could work together to address deep-rooted conflicts.  The note proposed that the Council consider the role of national Governments and civil society in addressing the root causes of conflicts, the effectiveness of national infrastructures, measures and initiatives aimed at mitigating and forestalling the resurgence of violence in post-conflict and transitional situations, collaboration of the United Nations with regional, sub-regional and non-governmental organizations, as well as assessment of the effectiveness of various Africa-focused instruments seeking to prevent conflicts in the region.

Opening Remarks

LOUISE MUSHIKIWABO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda, speaking in her capacity as Security Council President for April, said answers were needed on how it was possible to move from a day-to-day management of conflicts to develop conflict prevention through institutions that addressed their root causes.  The African Union had identified various factors and root causes of conflict on the continent and had established institutions and mechanism to address them.  It was now the right time for the Security Council to strengthen cooperation with the African Union and subregional organizations to achieve better results in conflict prevention.

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that although the briefing focused on Africa, there were “universal lessons in conflict prevention” being discussed that applied everywhere around the world.  Poor governance, human rights abuses and grievances over unequal distribution of resources, wealth and power helped to breed conflicts, he said, calling for efforts to strengthen democracy and State institutions, to ensure adequate checks and balances, to promote the rule of law and to establish effective democratic control over the armed forces.  He added that his report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa would focus on the issue of good governance.

Kenya’s recent election showed how disagreements could be handled through the legal process without recourse to violence, he said, while stressing that in other cases, elections could be potential source of instability and noting that 20 elections would take place in Africa during 2013.  Mediation efforts needed to ensure that peace agreements were “not just pacts between political elites”, but dealt with the underlying causes of conflict and be “fully implemented, monitored and enforced”.  Violation of the Libreville Agreement had contributed to the resumption of conflict and the unconstitutional change of Government in the Central African Republic, he said.

He stressed the importance of regional action to prevent and address conflicts, pointing out that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, national, regional and international organizations had worked together to address the underlying root causes of violence there.  He was grateful that the Security Council had endorsed the approach of regional leaders, noting that the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region emphasized the need to address structural causes of instability and committed regional actors to shared responsibilities.  The new mandate for the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo sought to contribute to implementation of the framework, he said, noting the deployment of an intervention brigade to deal with armed groups.

Decades of political and economic marginalization in South Sudan had led to organized military and political resistance, he said, stressing the United Nations’ commitment to helping the country, despite the recent attack that killed 12 people, including five United Nations peacekeepers.  He strongly condemned the attack and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.  He noted “steady progress towards the resolution of post-secession issues” made by Sudan’s and South Sudan’s Governments.  Likewise, Somalia’s Government faced a number of challenges as it entered an era of peacebuilding and State-building, and the Sahel region was also beset by such issues, which stemmed from States’ limited capacities to deliver basic social services and protect human rights.  In Mali, for example, the erosion of State authority had paved the way for transnational criminal organizations.  Also, severe drought and food insecurity in many countries in the Sahel had created the conditions for instability and undermined stabilization efforts.

He pointed to the United Nations’ work with regional organizations, which were playing a “stronger and strategic role as key partners”.  The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) had reacted promptly to the crisis in the Central African Republic, he said, noting efforts made to strengthen the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) conflict prevention and early warning architecture.  The United Nations was pushing its 10-year capacity-building partnership with the African Union, and strengthening its relationship with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on peacebuilding and crisis prevention.  He also pointed to engagement on the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo with the African Union, the SADC and the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region, and on Somalia with the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD).

He said support for national Governments should focus on building the active engagement of community organizations, the private sector, civil society, women and youth in decision-making, while prevention also meant addressing the culture of impunity surrounding sexual violence, which he said was an “assault on the peace and security of entire communities”.


ELLIOT OHIN, Minister of State, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, said the root causes of conflict in Africa had resulted from multiple factors, including the legacy of colonialism and ancient struggles for certain areas perpetuated by emperors and kings.  Collectively, all such factors had negatively impacted States’ peace and stability and solutions must be sought for lasting socioeconomic development.  The redefinition of the map of Africa had seen new States emerge within the borders imposed by colonizers — external factors that had contributed to the destabilization of State institutions.  In that regard, he cited the challenge for political power and border problems.  Since independence, African States had faced the difficult choice of finding representative leaders.

He said internal conflicts often found their roots in the difficulties of learning a model of government and external political concepts that Africans had been unable to sufficiently own.  The lack of structural adaptation of State institutions bequeathed by colonialism had generated power struggles, which had turned into ethnic rivalries, to the detriment of national identity.  There were also economic factors.  “These are just as important and, to a great extent contribute to, the weakening of the African State,” he asserted.  Growing poverty, difficult access to basic social services and lack of opportunities for young people also had weakened State structures.

Another contributing factor was that the borders of African countries had been arbitrarily carved out by colonial Powers, he said, noting that those artificial limitations had brought some people together and divided others.  Their porous nature had fuelled the transfer of weapons to armed groups.  As for resource issues, he said a simple difference of agreement could often lead to tensions between States.  When those areas had important resources, their management could cause more serious misunderstandings.

Going forward, the root causes of conflict must be tackled through a comprehensive regional approach, he said, which must focus on creating a democratic culture, fairly distributing resources and implementing border demarcation programmes.  Indeed, the challenge to political power often caused conflict, and as such, the promotion of a democratic culture could provide everyone the same opportunity to participate in public affairs management.  The United Nations Fund for Democracy had been a decisive advance in that regard, while African initiatives — such as the African Peer Review Mechanism — were also major steps forward.

He went on to say that States’ ability to combat political and social vulnerabilities could promote peace only if taken alongside efforts to reduce endemic poverty, urging a “re-think” of economic governance through a change of mindset.  Economic problems in Africa were often traced to the poor management of its riches.  A fair distribution of benefits should not be limited to resource exploitation.  Land and water also must be used more effectively.  Turing to the issue of borders, he said it was important to promote peaceful coexistence between divided communities, urging the international community to support the African Union’s border programme, which sought complete demarcation throughout the continent as a means of preventing conflict.

In addition, it was crucial to promote shared management systems for cross-border natural resources, he said, and to “regroup” local populations around cross-border projects and regional integration.  Civil society groups had a crucial role to play in promoting a culture of peace and he urged strengthening their capacities for “participative development”.  Finally, he said Africa must find “at-home” structural solutions to tackle the causes of conflict.  When proposals failed, it was often because they had been imposed from the outside.  He urged the Council to use the various conflict-prevention mechanisms, which could promote early warning systems and strengthen the Council’s role in conflict prevention.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), on behalf of the Chairperson of the African Union, said that perhaps there was no better starting point for consideration of the root causes of conflicts in Africa than the analysis submitted in 1998 by the then-Secretary-General on that topic, central to which was the continent’s colonial history, the post-Second World War ideological rivalry, as well as other external and internal factors.  The latter emphasized governance issues and country-specific situations, and highlighted the centrality of development in reducing conflict in Africa.  The analysis also made clear that, while international cooperation for development was critical, Africa had the primary responsibility for its own peace and development, and today, more than ever, it must look after itself.  That was precisely what it had done, he asserted.

Many things had changed, he said, including with respect to Africa’s readiness to take the lead in conflict prevention and resolution in the various subregions.  He noted, in particular, progress in Somalia aided by African troops and the country’s security forces to keep extremists at bay.  Additionally, the wisdom brought to bear on the complex situation between Sudan and South Sudan had had a “decisive African component”.  Change across the continent was evident in institution-building, including for peace and security.

He said other gains, in the context of the African Union peace and security architecture, had included the creation of a continental early warning system; establishment of the Panel of the Wise; and the African stand-by force, which had transformed the continent’s capacity to contribute to peace and stability there.  No event better demonstrated Africa’s “feebleness” than the genocide in Rwanda, eight months after the creation in 1993 of the Organization of African Unity Mechanism for the Prevention, Resolution and Management.  Yet, “it is doubtful that the Africa of the period we are in would have allowed that to happen”, he said, adding that “at the minimum, it would have raised its voice in time and would not have sat idly by”.

Also notable was agreement by the Union on its right to intervene in a member State under grave circumstances, namely, war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.  That decision also conferred on Member States the right to request the Union to intervene.  As an indicator of how much progress had been made in Africa’s resolve to address its security challenges could only be fully appreciated when one considered how strongly the Charter of the Organization of the African Union had been opposed to any such initiative. 

More than any time in the past, he said, Africa was ready to play its part, but no one could deny that, despite progress, Africa still required the strong support of the United Nations and Security Council.  Towards that aim, consultations between the United Nations and African Union should be further developed, and United Nations Chapter VII principles respected.  Weak institution-building often was understated as a major root cause of the conflicts, and it was sometimes assumed that the weaker the State, the greater the space for democracy to blossom.  Perhaps that was not always the case and the way ahead was to strike a proper balance.  In closing, he said that tearing down those that had embarked on building successful institutions might not be good either for conflict prevention or for laying a robust foundation for good governance.


GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said “there is no question that prevention is better than cure”, noting that the average civil war could cost the equivalent of up to 30 years of missing growth in gross domestic product (GDP).  Forty-two million people were displaced today as a result of conflict, violence or human rights abuses.  The links between strong institutions and conflict prevention were well understood.  He cited in that regard Timor-Leste’s ability to withstand dual assassination attempts against its President and Prime Minister, as it had developed institutions that offered alternative “tools” to violence.  He also urged working to create — and narrow the gap of access to — economic opportunities, especially for youth, women and marginalized groups.

He went on to say that natural resources could be an opportunity for growth, and Australia was sharing its expertise with African countries in that regard.  More broadly, he called for implementing the Arms Trade Treaty, and on climate change, bolstering disaster risk reduction efforts, improving early warning and response capacities, and strengthening resource management.  Protection from atrocities was itself a part of conflict prevention.  Combating impunity for the most serious crimes also was essential.  The African Union and other regional and subregional bodies had unique comparative advantages in addressing root causes.  Australia would welcome the operationalization of the Continental Early Warning System and its integration into subregional and national systems.  As the cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations had been crisis-driven, he suggested that the Council consider conflict prevention at its next meeting with the African Union’s Peace and Security Council.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS ( United States) said the good news was that after a peak of conflicts in the 1990s across the continent, to which the Council had rightly devoted significant attention, the number and intensity of conflicts had more recently declined in sub-Saharan Africa.  The Council and subregional organizations and other partners, including the African Union, had helped to drive that trend.  The less good news was that many risk factors remained, several of which intensified risk.  Those included poverty, real or perceived inequality, lack of good governance, instability and the cycles of recurrent conflict.  The exclusion of minority groups and their deliberate manipulation by non-democratic leaders were explosive foundations of conflict.

Alternatively, he said, the capability and legitimacy of Government institutions created predictability and mutual confidence, which allowed individual communities to resolve disputes; the media and others provided transparency and allowed people to “speak up”.  A key common factor was credible and capable institutions, capable of dealing with citizens’ most pressing issues, such as jobs and access to justice.

All of that, he continued, required energizing efforts on a few key fronts, among them the need to get “much more serious” about poverty eradication.  While poverty alone did not cause conflict, it dramatically increased its risk, and for that reason the United States had spearheaded several tools in that direction.  Such national endeavours should be complemented by multilateral efforts, not just in Africa, but globally.  In that, the wider United Nations system and the private sector had a critical role.  Strengthening governance and State institutions was also critical, and United Nations peacekeeping operations, when appropriate, brought critical security and political stability, thereby giving national actors “space” to build their own institutions and carry out peaceful transitions, as well as provide foundations for economic growth.  Establishing the rule of law and rooting out corruption were other critical tasks.

Also important, he said, was to evolve innovative ways to nurture future leaders and help put them at the centre of economic and political development.  Peacebuilding must also be strengthened, as 90 per cent of civil wars since 2000 had occurred in countries that had had civil wars in the previous 30 years.  “We must do better than that”, and listen to those who had transitioned from war to peace.  United Nations peacebuilding instruments also had the potential to mobilize national and international partners around common priorities for transition.  Nations and international structures must continue to be honed, in order to anticipate, prevent and respond to conflicts, and enable a more nimble response.  All — including the African Development and World Banks and others — must deepen collaboration.  “We have much greater knowledge about what causes conflict,” he said, adding that much more effective tools must be used to combat it.

GERT ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said that from the Security Council’s perspective, Africa was a highly problematic continent, but perceived through the broader perspective of the United Nations as a whole, a much more promising image emerged.  Apart from initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the continent had achieved “notable progress” in democratic governance, economic and social performance, consolidation of peace and interregional cooperation.  While it was vital to address a conflict’s root causes, they varied from case to case and some of those causes were very resistant to short-run changes.  “Ancestral divisions” were difficult to reconcile, he said, while noting that such divisions tended to be accentuated by competition for natural resources and by demarcations of political boundaries that were perceived as favouring one ethnic group over another.  Causes like marginalization and exclusion, extreme poverty and vulnerability to human rights violations were susceptible to policies aimed directly at their mitigation.  As such, he favoured a broader concept of peacekeeping that addressed the multifaceted, complex nature of modern conflicts.  Military efforts were required to re-establish stability, but broad, concerted efforts were equally important to achieving lasting peace.  He stressed the importance of representative governance, transitional justice, establishment of the rule of law, security sector reform and strengthening of State institutions.

He emphasized the role of justice, citing progress in the fight against impunity signalled by the “simple fact that actions that threaten peace, including inciting violence, can have consequences in the framework of international jurisprudence”.  The International Criminal Court was an adequate instrument, but it was important to strengthen universal access to justice in each country.  Regional and subregional groups were prevalent in Africa and they were proactive participants in building peace and security.  Partnerships between those organizations and the Council varied from case to case, he said, adding complexity, particularly regarding jurisdictional and operational questions.  On balance, he said, the strong balance of African institutions complementing the work of the Security Council had “been a highly positive aspect for peacekeeping and peacebuilding in Africa”.  He also took up the issue of peace enforcement, which he said was “most timely”, with the establishment of an “intervention brigade” under the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) umbrella, and the proposal to create a force in Mali that would “operate under robust rules of engagement with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate”.  While there may be merit to those ideas, he was concerned over the potential erosion of the basic principles of impartiality and non-use of force in a peacekeeping operation.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) said that, while African conflicts accounted for the majority of the Council’s time, it was also true that much progress had been made by a great number of African countries and the African Union.  African countries bore the primary responsibility for achieving peace and security.  At the same time, international support must be provided in the form of multilateralism, cooperation and complementarity.  “It does not mean new forms of colonialism,” she said.  There could be no lasting peace without fighting impunity, which sent a clear message that serious crimes would not be tolerated.  The International Criminal Court had become the centre of the international criminal justice system and Argentina regretted it had not been named in the presidential statement.

Turning to arms trade regulation, she said the estimated global cost of armed conflict amounted to $400 billion annually; in Africa, it had hit $18 billion annually.  Urging a comprehensive approach to addressing conflict, she said climate change and security were related, while unsustainable patterns of consumption and production had led to an imbalance in the ecosystem.  Common but differentiated responsibilities must be borne in mind.  As for food security, solutions should hinge on greater food production.  Urging that a gender perspective be mainstreamed in peacekeeping operations, she also stressed the role of the Secretary-General’s good offices in mediation.  She reiterated the growing importance of the African Union in solving conflicts, adding that the issue of Africa’s representation on the Council was of particular importance in the Council’s reform.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that in recent years, all stakeholders had sought to identify the reasons for conflict and ways to prevent it.  First and foremost, they sought to find ways to overcome the whole range of new destabilizing threats, including cross-border illicit arms smuggling, international terrorism, organized crime and exploitation of natural resources.  There were no swift or simple solutions.  Rather, a balanced strategy must be elaborated, which took into account the link between security, social and economic development, and respect for human rights, the primary responsibility of which rested with Africans.  International solutions should never be imposed, and care should be taken not to duplicate efforts.  Additionally, competition among non-regional forces should be held to a minimum.  Conflict prevention depended on the good use of several tools, including early warning, diplomacy and confidence-building measures.

He stressed the importance of continued use of Chapter VIII, which encouraged reliance on regional and subregional initiatives for peaceful dispute settlement.  The United Nations and regional organizations should harness their comparative advantages, and with local partners’ knowledge of the situations on the ground, they were the best place to start when developing preventive mechanisms.  Indeed, Africans themselves must play a key role in adopting comprehensive measures to prevent, among others, the flows of illegal armed groups and mercenaries, and weapons, by expanding border security, combating unemployment, and rooting out corruption.  In that, he commended the African Union and subregional organizations for their work in preventing conflict in the continent.  A central role was played by the Union’s Peace and Security Council, he said, noting in particular the early warning system and establishment of the group of wise men.

Also important, he said, was the stand-by force and effective instruments for eradicating the conflict’s causes assisted by subregional organizations.  He called in particular for deeper cooperation between the United Nations and African Union.  The Russian Federation was contributing significantly to developing strategies to strengthen Africa’s peace and security, which included the provision of political support and strengthening the continent’s anti-crisis activities, including through training African peacekeeper and law enforcement personnel.  Partnership promotion helped to prevent conflict.  However, “no preached and no ideological stereotypes should be imposed from the outside”.

Noting that the overall situation in Africa had remained stable in recent years, LI BAODONG ( China) said the aspirations of the African people had grown along with their national capabilities and that of regional organizations.  On the other hand, Africa had the highest concentration of conflicts and the most fragile security situation on the world scene.  Taking effective measures to remedy the situation and address the root causes held great global significance.  The root causes involved territorial, religious and ethnic divides, left over from history and exacerbated by more contemporary problems, such as poverty, underdevelopment and weak capacity.

He said that addressing those ills called for integrated measures, among them, helping Africa to achieve economic growth and social progress and respecting the will of African countries in line with their specificities.  He also stressed that increasing investment and honouring aid commitments was essential.  African countries were “no one’s private plot”; their will and choices deserved full respect.  Regional organizations had profound influence, and he encouraged the African Union’s continued efforts.  The international community should uphold the principles of objectivity and impartiality and support the African people in addressing their problems by African means.  The International Criminal Court could be constructive, as long as it avoided double standards.

Outlining additional ingredients for success, he said resources must be mobilized, as such constraints were the “biggest bottleneck” for African countries and regional organizations.  Capacity-building should be enhanced, including in the political realm, and he hoped the United Nations would deepen cooperation with Africa and actively respond to its requests for deployment of peace operations and financial and technical support.

AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said Africa had made significant progress over the last decade, citing “serious” steps taken towards political stability, democratization, and sustainable economic and social development.  Despite such gains, the goal of peace and prosperity had yet to be reached.  The root causes of conflict were similar and inter-linked, as well as complex and multifaceted.  As such, it was not possible to define a universal one-size-fits-all solution to them.  All efforts must aim at preventing and resolving conflicts based on respect for State sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence.  Further, more resolute and targeted measures were required to end impunity.  Conflict prevention and resolution initiatives considered by the Council must ensure that peace and justice worked together.

He went on to urge that the illegal exploitation and trade in natural resources be addressed by employing a range of instruments to limit trade in conflict resources.  International assistance should be enhanced to ensure the effectiveness of national and regional initiatives to combat that activity.  Significant progress had been made in developing the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations.  African States were mainly responsible for peace and security, while the United Nations should support such efforts.  Enhanced cooperation with the African Union was among Azerbaijan’s priorities.  His country fully supported international efforts to prevent conflict and consolidate peace.  Further, it had provided humanitarian and financial assistance, and would continue its dialogue with the African Union to explore other opportunities for deepened engagement.

SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg) said violent conflict in Africa was one of the main obstacles to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, preventing millions from living in dignity and bringing efforts to achieve socioeconomic development and poverty eradication to “a brutal halt”.  It was up to the Security Council and the United Nations as a whole to strengthen action, in harmony with regional organizations, including the African Union, to tackle the root causes of conflict in Africa.  Primary responsibility for conflict prevention lay with States themselves, she said, highlighting the need to give attention to the issue of governance, including economic governance.  She called for transparent management of natural resources and the revenue they generated, because illegal exploitation and absence of land rights were conflict triggers.  Her experience with the Peacebuilding Commission strengthened her belief that a holistic approach to conflict prevention was “indispensible to prevent relapse into conflict and violence”.  Security and defence sector reform was of particular importance, as was the fight against impunity, because, she said, there could be “no sustainable peace without justice”.  National criminal justice systems were a “first line of defence” in the fight against impunity, and the International Criminal Court played a “crucial role” in ending the gravest crimes.  The Court’s existence bolstered conflict prevention because of its deterrent effect, she said.

She supported elaboration and implementation of the responsibility to protect.  She called for refinement of the principle and welcomed its inclusion in the presidential statement that the Council would adopt.  She underlined the importance of cooperation between the Security Council and regional and subregional organizations, supporting further development of the partnership between the European Union and Africa.  As well as focusing on engagement with regional organizations, she stressed the regional dimension to many conflicts, including in the multifaceted crises in the Sahel region.  It was urgent to define an integrated strategy for the region which would allow sustainable conflict prevention, she said, adding that a similar strategy could prove important for the Horn of Africa.  She welcomed the signing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, saying it represented a “unique opportunity to break the cycle of violence and tackle the root causes of the conflict”.  She added that all signatories would have to fulfil their part of the bargain, with full support from the international community vital to that.

MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan) said that, despite an impressive economic turnaround and growing ownership of its own destiny, particularly on conflict resolution and management, roughly 62 per cent of the items on the Security Council’s agenda related to Africa.  Outlining the many drivers of conflict in the region, he said Africa had responded to those challenges head on, and was determined to tackle them.  He stressed his “abiding commitment” to stability and progress in Africa, noting the “instrumental role” played by Pakistani peacekeepers, with 8,000 troops currently deployed, most of whom were in Africa.  Conflict prevention would be aided by greater reliance on the tools for preventive diplomacy in Chapter VI and on the tools for regional cooperation in Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter.  While the United Nations should help to strengthen the nexus between security, development and human rights, he warned of possible difficulties in nation-building and stressed the importance of national ownership of that process.  He praised strengthened cooperation between the United Nations Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council, and said the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa should be made more productive.  Peacekeeping missions needed to be integrated to ensure that the root causes of conflicts continued to be addressed when troops left, he said, while lauding the role of United Nations regional offices and the critical impact of the Peacebuilding Commission.

He stressed the importance of economic development to addressing the root causes of conflicts in Africa, pointing to recent improvements including GDP and foreign direct investment growth, and calling for continued flows of aid to ensure that gains continued.  Pointing to increased stability and peace consolidation of several African countries, he said regional and subregional organizations put in place a solid peace and security architecture, including the Peace and Security Council and the Panel of the Wise.  The African Union had added value to the work of the United Nations, he said, particularly to the Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  With new threats like terrorism, drug and weapons trafficking and piracy, he underlined that the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel Region must “be made to work” and called for strengthening of the African Union’s capacity for conflict prevention under the Ten-Year Capacity-Building Programme for the African Union.  He noted that 60 per cent of Africa’s 1 billion-strong population was under 25 years old and stated that harnessing that youth properly was essential, meaning that a “comprehensive and integrated approach to youth development” be taken.  In addition, the Security Council needed to identify and bring to justice those who were benefiting from the illegal exploitation of natural resources, both within and outside the concerned countries.

MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said conflict took a devastating toll on the continent, with brutal consequences, such as sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, and mass displacements, all of which prevented it from delivering on its vast potential.  Addressing the root causes was the only way to unlock that potential.  Some 800,000 people had died in the Rwanda genocide.  The United Nations had recognized with shame that it should have done more, and it had declared “never again”.  Following that, the world community had endorsed the “responsibility to protect” concept as a means of delivering on that promise.  It owed it to sovereign Governments and peoples to do so and to support States in that task.

He said that in judging the international community’s performance in tackling conflict in Africa, “we should admit we are not doing well”.  Crises in Mali, Central African Republic and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo had emerged or worsened.  Lessons must be learned from those failures and the right tools must be used at the right time to prevent such outcomes.  Representative, legitimate and inclusive political systems, along with unwavering respect for human rights, rule of law and social and economic development remained the most important factors to preventing conflict.  The crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a reminder that when those were absent, it was very difficult to break the violent cycle.

Delivering effective national institutions was also key, for which Governments should be assisted in building new capacity.  In that context, he highlighted the “new deal for fragile States”.  All Member States should invest early in those countries.  He welcomed the Group of 8 commitment made last week to deter sexual violence, and said his country would follow that up when it presided over the Security Council in June.  When a crisis was on the horizon, “we need to spot it early”.  Early warning, while vital, was only effective when it was acted upon.  Diplomacy by the United Nations was also helpful, but much more needed to be done in that regard.  Too many in the Council shied away from their responsibility to prevent conflict.  When it did break out, those responsible must be held accountable, and it must be demonstrated that impunity would not be tolerated.

Preventing conflict and addressing its root causes was a long-term and complex process, he concluded.  Work must continue to support local processes and capacities in Africa.  The African Union’s Peace and Security Council deserved support, and preventive diplomacy must be promoted.  The post-conflict United Nations response must be transformed into a pre-conflict endeavour.  All must continue learning lessons about what did and did not work and deliver on their promise of “never again”, he said.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said that in the face of major challenges to security and stability in several African States, there had been unprecedented mobilization of efforts, particularly at the subregional level, led by ECOWAS, the ECCAS and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.  “ Africa has won the day,” he declared, pointing to its economic and social development, good governance gains, and respect for citizens’ fundamental rights.  However, 50 years after decolonization, many in the continent still confronted several destabilizing crises.  While mechanisms exist to prevent and manage conflict, build peace and protect civilians, in conformity with the Charter, millions of Africans were still endangered by cyclical conflicts and separatism, with high human and development costs.

Continuing, he said that, although those mechanisms had served millions of people, the absence of action on deep-seated causes was worrying.  Internal factors involved institution-building, management of democratic transitions, and, among others, promotion of sustainable socioeconomic development.  External factors, such as international crime, also impeded progress.  All policies to prevent and resolve conflict, and to establish national and regional environments conducive to peace and stability, must also fully address deeply rooted multidimensional causes on the world stage.  He called for inclusive consultative processes that responded to populations’ needs, particularly those of women and children, and for the promotion of good governance and rule of law.  All efforts must be accompanied by full respect for the sovereignty of African countries in a way that promoted social justice.  Elimination of poverty was also essential.

Given the increasing resources and sophisticated technologies available to armed groups and terrorists, strengthening African capacities in the area of border control was vital.  African States must be supported in establishing modern security institutions able to secure their territory and protect their citizens.  He lauded efforts by the United Nations and Africa’s bilateral partners in security sector reform and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes.  States should help each other overcome the differences that obstructed effective and inclusive cooperation.  He reiterated the real yet intangible threat of terrorism to the territorial integrity of African States, stressing that cooperation between the United Nations and countries of the region and subregion was urgent.

KIM SOOK (Republic of Korea), welcoming the presidential statement, said the commitment by African leaders to preventing and resolving conflict had borne fruit, with the number and intensity of conflicts reduced over the last decade.  At the same time, African conflicts still constituted the majority of the Council’s work.  Addressing root causes encompassed social, economic, humanitarian and governance areas, and as such, sustainable development should be as important as security as a top priority.  His Government recognized the mutually reinforcing link between security and development, especially as foreign investment in Africa had tripled over the last decade.  Strong institution-building efforts should be carried out in line with principle of national ownership, as well as integrated approaches to targeted sectors, and cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations.

Ending the culture of impunity was a prerequisite for ending conflict, he said, stressing the importance of the International Criminal Court in that regard.  Among the challenges, he cited the unique diversity and complexity of the situation, and insufficient political will and resources to prevent conflict.  Focus should be placed on the implementation of existing mechanisms.  Home-grown approaches could also meet the needs for peace and reconciliation, and provide the best answers to conflicts involving diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  African States must show more commitment to conflict prevention by providing more resources to regional and subregional initiatives.  The strategic partnership between the African Union and the United Nations had been growing, but relations could be improved by building confidence and securing predictability.

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) noted that when conflicts erupted, the United Nations could use such tools as the Secretary-General’s good offices or special envoys for mediation.  The Security Council could send political messages or take preventive measures, but sometimes those measures came too late and were insufficient to stop a crisis from breaking out or recurring.  The United Nations must better anticipate conflicts by dealing as soon as possible with the root causes, which were multiple and complicated.  For example, in Mali, the holding of elections in July would be important for national reconciliation, as would a national dialogue.  In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, questions about dividing mining resources and arable land would be crucial to ending that crisis.

He went on to support the implementation of mechanisms that guaranteed women’s involvement in reconciliation and crisis alleviation, saying also that the absence of the rule of law and justice were structural causes of conflict, which led to armed groups taking control of a region or country.  In Somalia, the strengthening of the Transitional Federal Government would be critical to stabilizing the country.  He regretted that a reference had not been made in the presidential statement to the International Criminal Court, which was essential for preventing conflict in Africa.  The Council should be able to address root causes in cooperation with the African Union, in line with the Charter’s Chapter VIII.  Finally, he said the Council’s actions could be based on the responsibility to protect, as the implementation of that concept had seen progress with the 2005 adoption of a consensus definition.  When a State failed to protect its citizens, the international community had a duty to act.

LOUISE MUSHIKIWABO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda, speaking in her national capacity, said that the subject of the current meeting had been chosen because of “the unfortunate fact” that so much of the Security Council agenda related to conflicts in Africa.  There was no issue facing the Security Council more important than tackling conflicts, she said, asking whether a peacekeeping mission could truly be said to have fulfilled its mission if there was a failure to examine the factors that caused the conflict in the first place.  Each conflict was unique, but a discernible pattern was apparent and lessons could be drawn.  Causes included the legacy of colonial rule, problems of nationality and identity, the lack of democracy or rule of law, corruption and poor governance, foreign interference, poverty, famine and disease, and the exclusion of marginalized groups.  Prevention was possible if all stakeholders took responsibility to address all factors.  Such collective efforts had come a long way since the Organization of African Unity was first formed.  When the African Union had taken over in 2002, Africans had developed their capacity to work together to tackle conflicts.  There was more that the African Union needed to do, but she believed the organization was trying to do so.  She added that some of the best initiatives for conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction were emerging from Africa and that the United Nations would do well to embrace those ideas.

She took up the issue of democracy alongside political and economic governance, saying that when the Organization of African Unity became the African Union governance, democracy and human rights were made the centrepiece of the emergent agenda.  Those principles were enshrined in constitutive articles of the African Union and were considered a vital prerequisite to peace and security.  Processes adopted by the African Union promoted good governance as a conflict prevention tool and initiatives such as the African Peer Review Mechanism helped to reinforce good governance, providing advice and recommendations before crises erupted.  She suggested the Security Council take note of instruments developed by the African Union with a view to adapting them and applying them on a global scale.  She also stressed the importance of regional and subregional integration to conflict prevention, aspiring to an integrated, prosperous African continent that was “driven by its own citizens” and capable of standing as a dynamic force in the world.  Through the African Union and its subregional blocks, conflict prevention could be achieved without foreign involvement.  Collaboration and partnership between the Security Council and the African Union, as well as subregional groups, was of the utmost importance.

With Rwanda about to commemorate the nineteenth anniversary of its genocide, the issue of justice and reconciliation was of great importance and the two were inextricably linked.  She pointed to Rwanda’s home-grown “Gacaca” court system, which handled about 2 million cases over its 10-year life.  She was keen to share that unique experience with other post-conflict societies to help build reconciliation and prevent future conflict.  The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had established useful jurisprudence, particularly on the issue of genocide and on rape as a weapon of war, but it had handled only 75 cases in 17 years.  Meanwhile, although Rwanda’s history gave it every reason to support the International Criminal Court, she did not believe that the Court was currently fulfilling a constructive role in conflict prevention, pointing to political manipulation that hampered its activities.  She could not support a court that only applied its rules in some instances, because such a body would not facilitate reconciliation under those terms.

Presidential Statement

The full text of presidential statement PRST/2013/4 reads as follows:

“The Security Council reaffirms its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.  The Council recalls Articles 33 and 34 of the Charter and reaffirms its commitment to the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and the promotion of necessary preventive action in response to disputes or situations, the continuation of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.

“The Security Council recalls that the prevention of conflicts remains a primary responsibility of Member States.  As such, actions undertaken within the framework of conflict prevention by United Nations entities should be designed to support and complement, as appropriate, the conflict prevention roles of national Governments.

“The Security Council notes that, consistent with its functions in relation to international peace and security, it seeks to remain engaged in all stages of the conflict cycle and in exploring ways of preventing the escalation of disputes into armed conflict or a relapse into armed conflict.  The Security Council further recalls that, in accordance with Articles 99 and 35 of the Charter, the Secretary-General or any Member State may bring to the attention of the Council any matter which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.

“The Security Council recognizes the importance of a comprehensive strategy comprising operational and structural measures for prevention of armed conflict and encourages the development of measures to address the root causes of conflicts in order to ensure sustainable peace.  The Council reaffirms the central role of the United Nations in this regard.

“The Security Council underlines the importance of partnership and cooperation between regional and subregional organizations in accordance with Chapter VIII, in supporting conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities, as well as forging greater regional and national ownership.

“The Security Council recalls that early warning and response systems, preventive diplomacy, preventive deployment, mediation, practical disarmament measures, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding strategies are interdependent and complementary components of a comprehensive conflict prevention strategy.  The Council notes the importance of creating and maintaining peace through inclusive dialogue, reconciliation and reintegration.  The Security Council further reiterates its support for the work of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and expresses its continued willingness to make use of the advisory, advocacy and resource mobilization roles of the PBC in peacebuilding activities.

“The Security Council stresses the necessity of addressing the root causes and regional dimensions of conflicts, recalling the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General on Causes of Conflicts and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa of 13 April 1998 (S/1998/318) and underlining the mutually supportive relationship between conflict prevention and sustainable development.

“The Security Council recalls its previous presidential statements concerning the various factors and causes that play a role in triggering, worsening or prolonging conflicts in Africa, and in particular the factors and causes that have been highlighted and addressed by the Council.  The Council highlights the importance of implementation of effective security sector reform programmes, strengthening of human rights and the rule of law, protection of civilians, addressing all forms of discrimination and political exclusion, including against women and children, protection of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, ensuring accountability, supporting the reintegration and rehabilitation of former soldiers and child soldiers, promotion of reconciliation and locally driven solutions, promotion of meaningful progress in sustainable socioeconomic development, poverty eradication, support for representative electoral processes and the building of democratic institutions inter alia and effective control of small arms.  The Council recognizes the importance of strong and effective national institutions in preventing conflict in Africa, and calls upon the Secretary-General to ensure that UN efforts to support institution building promote national ownership and are taken forward on the basis of mutual commitments.

“The Security Council recognizes the important role of the good offices of the Secretary-General and his special envoys, regional UN offices, such as the United Nations Office in Central Africa and the United Nations Office in West Africa, play in conflict prevention.

“The Security Council acknowledges the efforts of the African Union to address the root causes of conflicts, including through the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance of the African Union, the African Peer Review Mechanism, the Continental Early Warning System, the African Union Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Policy and similar instruments and mechanisms in addressing the root causes of conflicts in Africa.  The Council stresses the valuable contribution of mediation capacities, such as the Council of Elders and the Panel of the Wise, and of regional and subregional organizations, to ensuring the coherence, synergy and collective effectiveness of their efforts.

“The Security Council acknowledges the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa and the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and their focus on protection of vulnerable populations.

“The Security Council reaffirms its commitment to uphold the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, including its commitment and respect to the principles of independence, unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States and emphasizes the need for States to comply with their obligations under international law.

“The Security Council reaffirms its strong opposition to impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, and emphasizes in this context the responsibility of States to comply with their relevant obligations to end impunity and, to that end, to thoroughly investigate and prosecute persons responsible for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity or other serious violations of international humanitarian law, also in the context of conflict prevention and conflict resolution.  The Council underlines the importance of raising awareness of and ensuring respect of all applicable international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights law, stresses the importance of the responsibility to protect as outlined in the 2005 World Summit outcome document, including the primary responsibility of Member States to protect their populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  The Council further underlines the role of the international community in encouraging and helping States, including through capacity-building, to meet their primary responsibility.  The Council looks forward to the 2013 UN Secretary-General report on the Responsibility to Protect.  The Council further recalls the important role of the Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and Responsibility to Protect in matters relating to the prevention and resolution of conflict.

“The Security Council emphasizes that the fight against impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide is an important element of conflict prevention.  The Security Council affirms that these grave crimes must not go unpunished and that their effective prosecution must be ensured by taking appropriate action and highlights in this regard the role of the international criminal justice system.

“The Security Council reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict and in peacebuilding, and reiterates its call to increase the equal participation, representation and full involvement of women in preventive diplomacy efforts and all related decision-making processes with regard to conflict resolution and peacebuilding in line with resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009) and 1960 (2010).  The Council recognizes the need for more systematic attention to implementation of women and peace and security commitments in its own work and, in that regard, welcomes the intention of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa to incorporate gender perspectives in its work.

“The Security Council reaffirms the importance of protecting children in armed conflict in building sustainable peace, and encourages initiatives by regional and subregional organizations and arrangements for the protection of children affected by armed conflict.  The Council further encourages continued mainstreaming of child protection into their advocacy, policies and programmes, in line with resolutions 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011) and 2068 (2012).

“The Security Council commends the critical role of United Nations peacekeeping operations in the maintenance of international peace and security, preventing and containing conflicts, promoting compliance with international norms and Security Council decisions and building peace in post-conflict situations.  The Security Council also commends the role of special political missions in assisting in the prevention of conflict in Africa, in particular through preventative diplomacy and mediation, peacemaking and providing longer-term peacebuilding support to countries in the immediate aftermath of conflict.

“The Security Council expresses its concerns at the role played by the illegal exploitation of natural resources in fuelling some past and current conflicts.  In this regard, it recognizes that the United Nations can play a role in helping the States concerned, as appropriate, upon their request and with full respect for their sovereignty over natural resources and under national ownership, to prevent illegal access to those resources and to lay the basis for their legal exploitation with a view to promoting development, in particular through building the capacity of Governments in post-conflict situations to manage their resources lawfully, transparently and sustainably.  In this regard, the Security Council encourages the continued efforts of UN organizations, in relevant country contexts and in accordance with their mandates, and acting in close cooperation with the UN Country Team, as a way of contributing to conflict prevention in Africa.  The Security Council further recognizes the importance of commodity monitoring and certification schemes, such as the Kimberley Process, and the role of voluntary initiatives aimed at improving revenue transparency, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, in preventing conflict in Africa.

“The Security Council encourages the development of peaceful settlement of local disputes through regional and subregional arrangements, provided that their activities are not inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, in accordance with Chapter VIII of the Charter.  The Council reiterates its support for the efforts of all relevant regional and sub-regional organizations, in particular, the African Union, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, the Economic Community of West African States, the Southern African Development Community, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, the Economic Community of the Central African States and the Arab Maghreb Union, in conflict prevention.

“The Security Council underlines the importance of continually engaging the UN’s existing conflict-prevention mechanisms in Africa, including UN country teams, regional and subregional organizations, as well as national Governments in preventive diplomacy and addressing root causes of conflicts as appropriate, and encourages the promotion of regional approaches to the peaceful settlement of disputes, provided that these are in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

“The Security Council encourages the Secretary-General to continue to use mediation in Africa as often as possible to help resolve conflicts peacefully, working in coordination and closely with the African Union and subregional organizations in that regard, as appropriate.

“The Security Council looks forward to the Secretary-General’s annual report on the causes of conflicts and the promotion of durable peace in Africa, making recommendations on how best to address the root causes of conflicts in Africa within the United Nations system and in cooperation with regional and sub-regional organizations and other actors.”

* *** *


*     The 6945th Meeting was closed.

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.