New York

24 April 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at General Assembly thematic debate on "Ensuring Stable and Peaceful Societies"

I thank the President of the General Assembly for organizing this important debate. 

Our organization is built on three mutually reinforcing pillars – peace, development and human rights.

Durable peace needs inclusive development.

And sustainable development, if it is to take hold and flourish, needs peace, stability and the firm foundation provided by human rights. 

The world has many tragic examples of how conflict can rapidly wipe out decades of hard-won development gains and prevent progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

At least one fifth – twenty percent - of humanity lives in countries experiencing significant violence, political conflict and insecurity. Today’s hard reality is that both existing and emerging challenges for development happen in a context of conflict and violence.

Countries with major violence have poverty rates more than 20 per cent higher than average.

That is why it is so important that the current discussions on the post-2015 development agenda consider how best to promote stable and peaceful societies. 

Despite the bloodshed that dominates the daily headlines, the world is becoming progressively less conflict-ridden. 

The number of armed conflicts has decreased in recent decades and battle-related deaths are significantly lower today than in the early 1990s.

The nature of violent conflict is changing too.

Wars between countries are less common, but since the late 20th century, civil wars have been the most frequent – and the most lethal. 

And even these conflicts are in decline, though the suffering they cause remains appalling.

On the other hand, we are seeing the persistence or emergence of a number of intractable conflicts or insurgencies.

Growing links among rebel groups, terrorists and transnational organized crime networks pose a significant threat to international peace and security. Many disenfranchised youth are vulnerable to recruitment into criminal activity.

The causes and consequences of these conflicts do not stop at borders. 

Neither can their solutions.

Factors driving violent conflicts in the 21st century have become more complex and multi-dimensional. 

Tensions are often driven by a combination of political, economic, social and environmental challenges. 

These can include social and economic inequalities, political exclusion, human rights abuses and the failure to ensure access to justice.

Other factors include conflict over natural resources and the distribution of their benefits, weak institutions, corruption, a lack of jobs and the absence of peaceful channels for addressing grievances. 

Such conflicts can only be resolved through a comprehensive and inclusive approach. 

That is why our integrated strategies for the Sahel and Great Lakes regions in Africa span development, peace and security, human rights and the rule of law.

And it is why, whether dealing with individual crises or devising plans for development in the broadest sense, we must do more to recognize these links.

Peace and stability are fundamental development outcomes, especially in the realm of personal security and enabling people to feel safe as they go about their daily lives. 

Children need to be safe going to school.

Women need to be free of violence at home and their workplaces.

People need to feel secure in their neighbourhoods whatever their ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation.

Sadly, violence is a global phenomenon. 

Violence against women and children occurs in all countries. 

Homicide, too, is global.

The UN My World survey on the post-2015 development agenda showed that protection against crime and violence ranks high among all population groups in all regions.

Let us therefore work together to develop a post-2015 development agenda that will address the underlying causes of violence and conflict wherever they occur.

Let us use sustainable development and human rights to provide the foundations for lasting peace.

And let us build effective and trustworthy institutions, promote the rule of law and pay closer, earlier attention to human rights abuses.

By using these tools in a coherent, holistic manner, we can build stable and peaceful societies of freedom and well-being for all.

That is our challenge as we strive for a bold new agenda that fills the gaps of the MDGs, builds on lessons and successes, and guides us in new and promising directions.

Thank you.