It's a pleasure to join you today for this open debate on conflict prevention and resolution, particularly in Africa. Thank you, Mr. President, for this initiative.
I would like to officially welcome, His Excellency, Ambassador [Maurice] Ripert of France and Ambassador [John] Sawers of the United Kingdom who have joined the Council, and the United Nations, as new ambassadors. I am confident that their wide experience they will bring to the United Nations, a very valuable contribution to all the work of the United Nations, including this Council.
From the time I assumed office as Secretary-General, I have made it clear that the resolution of Africa's most difficult conflicts is a top priority. At the same time, a greater investment in prevention could save us considerable pain and expense –in Darfur, in Somalia, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Northern Uganda, in Western Sahara and elsewhere.
We must devote more resources to conflict prevention. We must also strengthen our capacity for mediation. It is only through political settlements that conflicts can be resolved.
Conflicts have grown ever more complex. Sustainable solutions, therefore, require increasingly complex, multifaceted approaches. The UN system already contributes significantly to the prevention and resolution of armed conflict. Yet the increasing complexity of the demands placed upon us has stretched the capacity of the Organization.
We need to develop new approaches. We need to address the underlying causes of conflicts. If we do not deal with the root causes of conflict -- and offer sustainable solutions -- we will be left with peacekeeping missions without end.
In 1998, my predecessor developed a plan to deal with these issues. He sought to identify the causes of conflict and to provide recommendations for the promotion of peace and development in Africa. But much has changed since then.
Shortly, I will submit to the 62nd session of the General Assembly my report on “the Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa”. In it, I will recommend a comprehensive review of the 1998 recommendations. The review will cover the commitments made, the actions taken, the progress achieved and the lessons learned.
In the next few months, I will also present proposals for strengthening the capabilities of the Department of Political Affairs, with the goal of making more effective use of my good offices. I believe in engagement and dialogue, not confrontation. It is better to respond pro-actively, before a crisis fully develops. I count on your support as we move forward in this endeavor.
Already, DPA has moved to create a standing team of mediation experts. It is establishing a comprehensive databank of peace agreements and lessons learned on peacemaking. It is undertaking proactive mediation efforts in such places as Sudan and Northern Uganda.
Regional organizations can contribute. Again, I point to Sudan, where the United Nations is working with the African Union. The goal is to strengthen our collective capacities to address Africa's peace and security challenges.
With this Council's adoption of resolution 1769 on Darfur, we have entered a new era in UN-AU cooperation. The AU-UN hybrid operation is an unprecedented undertaking. And it reflects the international community's commitment to end the suffering in Darfur. The UN and the AU are also collaborating closely in pushing forward the political process in Darfur. Again, peacekeeping is only a start. There must be a political solution.
But it has taken too long. The tragedy of Darfur reminds us how much more needs to be done before we complete our transformation from a culture of “reaction” to one of effective prevention.
In this regard, I would like to inform you that I am going to visit Sudan early September, from September 3rd to 6th. I want to go and see for myself the very difficult conditions under which our forces will operate. I also want to know, first-hand, the plight of those they seek to help. Let me emphasize, from the outset, that this is not a trip about breakthroughs. Rather, this visit is about consolidating the progress and laying the groundwork for forward movement. In Juba, I plan to underscore the UN's commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and the South - the cornerstone of peace in Sudan. I also want to show solidarity with colleagues working in very difficult conditions in the field.
In today's world, prevention must go beyond mere diplomacy. The most difficult conflicts occur when a variety of factors come together. For example, when tensions over issues of identity within a community are combined with unequal access to political and economic resources. Africa is particularly affected by these problems, perhaps because of the manner in which its colonial borders were drawn up.
To prevent or resolve such conflicts, we must promote tolerance of diversity within societies. The solutions should be as inclusive and representative as possible. This means providing advice on constitutional frameworks. It means promoting human rights and the rule of law; helping to organize elections and building democratic institutions. It means training police and pursuing efforts to stop weapons smuggling. The UN is assisting in all these areas, through its own programmes, and through support to regional organizations like the AU.
Conflict prevention and sustainable development reinforce each other. That is why it is crucial that we make progress in our race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. That means reinforcing and accelerating our efforts to reduce extreme poverty, combat diseases, promote universal primary education, ensure environmental sustainability, and advance gender equality. Empowering women is not only a means to achieving lasting development. It is also critical to the promotion of peace and security, as underlined in resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
It is important to note that we are on track to realize the Millennium Development Goals in most developing countries. But not in Africa. Why? We need fresh thinking, new approaches to lifting our poorest nations out of poverty. Part of this means dealing with the conflicts and problems of governance that affect so many African countries.
Equally crucial is the need to build peace in countries emerging from conflict –Burundi, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Liberia. In these and other fragile post-conflict countries, peace-building is in fact prevention, since it is designed to prevent a relapse into war. We are working with the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Commission to support reconciliation and confidence-building, end impunity and consolidate the peace.
By some estimates, there has been a 40 percent decline in armed conflict around the world since the 1990s. Recent research credits expanded UN peacemaking, peacekeeping and conflict prevention activities as a major factor behind this decline.
This is encouraging. But it is not good enough. Violent conflicts continue to inflict immense suffering on countless people, mostly civilians, around the world. For these victims, and for the sake of future generations, we have an obligation to take more seriously the challenge of prevention.
There must be sustained international political will to reinforce preventive action in its broadest sense. And there must be adequate resources invested for the diverse and complex tasks that prevention entails.
I trust you will have a fruitful debate on this most crucial issue, in which your Council has an essential role to play.
Thank you very much.