New York

29 October 2009

Secretary-General's remarks at Forum on the Food and Economic Crises in Post-Conflict Countries

Madame President, Mr. Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission, Amb. Muñoz, Madame Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Ms. Josette Sheeran,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, let me recognize and welcome His Excellency, Ferdinand Nderagakura, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Burundi and the other distinguished panellists.

I also want to thank again the President of ECOSOC, the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme for jointly organizing this topical event.

You have set an example of cooperation that I hope will be replicated across the UN system.

The past two years have been difficult for many countries. Especially those countries struggling to overcome the legacy of war, where multiple global crises threaten fragile peace.

On top of the challenges of rebuilding public administration systems, strengthening the rule of law, reforming the security sector and rehabilitating infrastructure, they have had to cope with the impacts of high and volatile food and fuel prices and a decline in international aid.

When international food prices soared in 2007 and 2008, net food importing countries, including many countries in conflict or emerging from it, were directly hit. Thirty countries saw riots and civil disturbances. At least one government fell.

Higher food prices, combined with the economic downturn and increasing impacts of climate change, have pushed millions of people into hunger. The number is projected to top one billion in 2009. Food and agriculture systems are fragile and continue to put people at risk of food insecurity.

Violent conflicts themselves have also caused or exacerbated food insecurity in some countries by causing a decline in food and agricultural production. Combatants often target the ability of populations to produce and access food.

Conflict is contributing to food insecurity in at least 20 countries classified by the Food and Agriculture Organisation as being 'in crisis'. Countries with either widespread or local shortfalls in food supply and production include those on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission: Burundi, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone.

Although battle-related deaths appear to be in decline, conflicts are inflicting more damage in terms of displaced persons and disrupted livelihoods.

As countries come out of conflict, they need basic services: water and sanitation, health and primary education, and sound food and agriculture systems. They need support for the safe and sustainable return and reintegration of internally displaced persons and refugees.

As my recent report on Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict emphasizes, a peace agreement comes with high expectations of rapid and visible dividends in these areas as well as in security.

Unfortunately, aid to post-conflict countries far too often tapers off prematurely ?and just when countries are in a better position to use it more effectively.

Sustainable peace is the most important goal for aid. It makes no sense to abandon post-conflict countries in times of budget constraints.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today's event is an opportunity to discuss the important nexus between the security and socio-economic aspects of peace in post-conflict situations.

The United Nations has taken a number of important steps to enhance its capacity to respond to these situations in a timely, coherent and integrated manner.

The establishment of the UN peacebuilding architecture in 2005 is a milestone towards strengthening collective efforts.

The Peacebuilding Commission has been critical in providing a political platform for post-conflict countries to secure a coherent approach to peace, security and development.

This is also where the role of ECOSOC will be crucial. The Council has been instrumental in drawing attention to the many socio-economic challenges facing countries recovering from conflict.

Establishing basic security and providing early peace dividends in the immediate post-conflict period is central to consolidating people's confidence in a peace process.

In too many cases this early window has been missed. Time and again, we have failed to catalyze a response that delivers immediate, tangible results.

Too often, it takes many months before essential government functions resume or basic services are available. The result can be resumed conflict.

This is why humanitarian agencies are crucial actors in peacebuilding. UN operational agencies, funds and programmes and their partners have an extensive field presence. They can move quickly to reach war-affected people.

The World Food Programme has played an important role in peacebuilding by delivering crucial assistance to populations suffering from the cruelty of violent conflicts. Such humanitarian activities provide a platform for recovery and longer-term peacebuilding.

In addition, agencies with a dual humanitarian and development mandate are well-placed to deliver early peace dividends and develop national capacity in key areas in the initial months after hostilities end.

Scaling up these capacities and operations, where relevant, can yield the fastest and most effective results.

We must find ways to close the gap between humanitarian and development funding and maintain adequate levels of humanitarian financing in the period immediately after conflict.

The Comprehensive Framework for Action produced by my High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis offers options in this regard. We need a comprehensive approach in response to food insecurity and other global issues affecting post-conflict countries.

We must also work to pre-position funding for immediate and catalytic activities, and bring development funds in earlier. My report recommends how the Peacebuilding Fund could be used to do this.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Civil conflict deeply disrupts economic and social life. It is devastating for human capital.

During the initial years after a peace deal has been brokered, urgent attention must be given to social and economic needs and rebuilding human capital, alongside much-needed interventions on security and governance.

Successful peacebuilding requires a combination of humanitarian action and efforts that enhance peace and security, human rights and development.

This event can build on work already taking place under the auspices of the organizers. All three bodies have a crucial role to play in mitigating the impact of the economic and food crises on countries emerging from conflict.

I wish you a successful meeting.

Thank you.