Security Council

12 October 2021

Remarks to the Security Council Ministerial Open Debate: "Peacebuilding and Sustainable Peace: Diversity, Statebuilding and the Search for Peace"

António Guterres

[Bilingual, as delivered]

My thanks to the government of Kenya for convening today’s debate on the important issue of diversity, statebuilding and peace.  

Your theme captures a crucial but often overlooked idea.  

That peace is not found in a piece of paper.

It is found in people.

More specifically, a diversity of people from different backgrounds coming together to chart a common course for a country.

Parties to conflict can agree to end hostilities.

They can agree to begin the long process of rebuilding a country.

And they can even join forces to reconstitute a government.

But without including a wide range of diverse voices at every step of this process – without bringing all people along – any peace will be short-lived.

Longstanding grievances, inequalities, mistrust and social divisions do not simply vanish when the fighting stops.

They can easily flare up again.

And they can be worsened, if people and groups hungry for change do not see their needs and vision for the future being addressed.

We see this cycle playing out all around us.

Each week, this chamber echoes with updates on the grinding conflicts that scar our world and their devastating humanitarian toll.

One undeniable trend is the sharp increase in the number of non-state armed groups at the heart of these conflicts. Rebels, insurgents, militias, criminal gangs, and armed trafficking, terrorist and extremist groups.

Many coalesce around joint identities, or shared beliefs.

Others are opportunistic, driven by the profits of crime or the promise of power.

We’re seeing also a rise in military coups.

And as the joint UN-World Bank study Pathways for Peace found, many conflicts are deeply rooted in longstanding inequalities among groups.

People feel excluded and marginalized.

They’re denied the same opportunities and justice as their neighbours because of their culture, race, skin colour, ethnicity or income.

While inequalities exist in every country, they are particularly rampant in countries where social services like health, education, security and justice are lacking.

And where the scars of colonialism are still visible – seen in arbitrarily drawn borders, and historical advantages for certain groups over others.

Against this backdrop, the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded inequalities, and reversed development and peacebuilding gains.

These inequalities and weak governance structures create a vacuum that is easily filled by the voices of intolerance and extremism that can lead to violent conflict.

Conversely, inclusion is foundational to resilience and sustainable peace.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the linkages between women’s inclusion, gender equality and sustainable peace and security, as this Council will discuss later this month.


As countries look to build sustainable peace, they need to include and involve all segments of the population in the process of rebuilding communities and sustaining peace.

This idea is at the heart of the twin General Assembly and Security Council resolutions adopted at the conclusion of the 2015 and 2020 Peacebuilding Architecture Review.

It is also at the heart of my new Agenda for Peace, as part of the report on Our Common Agenda.

When we open the door to inclusion and participation, we take a giant step forward in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding.

I want to emphasize three areas in particular.

First — national institutions and laws must work for all people.

The proposed new Agenda for Peace includes a strong emphasis on inclusion at every step of a country’s journey – before, during and after conflicts, and as statebuilding takes hold and gathers speed. 

This means protecting and promoting human rights – including people’s rights to health, education, protection and opportunity.

It means implementing policies and laws that protect vulnerable groups – including laws against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

And it means working with all partners to develop stronger national capacities – anchored in human rights – that can serve all people, equally.

Deuxièmement, les pays devraient envisager de donner plus de place aux régions infranationales.

Les pays qui sortent de plusieurs années – voire décennies – d’instabilité ne peuvent se permettre d’ignorer l’opinion de pans entiers de la population et ainsi risquer d’attiser de futures rancœurs.

Les gouvernements doivent trouver de nouvelles méthodes pour faire avancer la population ensemble, à l’unisson, par un dialogue constant – tout en reconnaissant et en respectant les différences de chacun – et même si cela implique de déléguer certains domaines d’autorité.

C’est pourquoi, l’Organisation des Nations Unies, à travers les missions et les bureaux nationaux, s’efforce de faciliter un dialogue de chaque instant entre les institutions nationales et les populations et groupes locaux.

C’est la condition pour que toutes et tous puissent contribuer à façonner l’avenir de leur pays.

And third — women, young people and the most marginalized must be involved every step of the way.

Building and sustaining peace requires their voices and actions.

That is why our peacekeeping operations and special political missions put a strong emphasis on greater inclusion and meaningful participation of women and young people.

In Somalia, for example, UNSOM has trained young political aspirants from different political parties.

And the mission has supported the government and women leaders in fully implementing the 30 per cent gender quota in that country’s elections.

The Deputy Secretary-General recently traveled there to highlight the critical importance of women’s leadership in building and sustaining peace and security.

As a global community, we must continue encouraging and supporting the full and active participation of women and young people in this journey.


For countries emerging from the horrors of conflict and looking to a better future – indeed for all countries – diversity must not be seen as a threat.

It is a source of strength.  

An anchor of peace and stability in parts of the world that have seen too little of either.

And a rallying point for every person to contribute to a better future – for themselves, and for their societies.

As a global community, let’s find new ways to make this happen.  

My thanks again to Kenya for highlighting this important issue.

Thank you.