UN to focus more on conflict prevention, not peacekeeping

UN to focus more on conflict prevention, not peacekeeping
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First Published: Wed, Aug 29 2007. 11 23 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Aug 29 2007. 11 23 AM IST
United Nations:The U N spent $18 billion (Rs72,000 crore) on peacekeeping missions around the globe in the past five years. Most of this has been spent in Africa and now the feeling is that not enough has been spent on preventing conflicts from erupting in the first place.
A day-long meeting of the U N Security Council on 28August, called for stepped up efforts to address the root causes of conflicts, to develop early warning systems, mediate disputes, and coordinate efforts of UN bodies, regional organizations and others trying to prevent new wars.
The open meeting, organized by the Republic of Congo which holds the council presidency this month, focused especially on conflicts in Africa. The continent’s hotspots currently account for about 60% of the issues on the council’s agenda.
Namibia’s UN deputy ambassdor Frieda Ithete said “about half of the world’s armed conflicts and some three-quarters of the UN peacekeepers are in Africa.”
“As we speak,” she said, “there are over 6 million displaced people in the world, out of which approximately 3 million are in Africa.”
Itheke underscored the need for greater investment in conflict prevention and establishment of an early warning system that would be “cost effective in saving lives and financial resources.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that there had been a 40% decline in armed conflict around the world since the 1990s, according to some estimates, with recent research crediting UN peacemaking, peacekeeping and conflict prevention as a major factor, “but it is not good enough.”
“Violent conflicts continue to inflict immense suffering on countless people, mostly civilians, around the world,” he said. “For these victims, and for the sake of future generations, we have an obligation to take more seriously the challenge of prevention.”
Ban said “a greater investment in prevention could save us considerable pain and expense - in Darfur, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Uganda, Western Sahara and elsewhere.”
He called for improved mediation, a new focus on achieving political settlements, and new approaches to addressing the underlying causes of conflict.
But Ban said the complexity of many of today’s conflicts require that “prevention must go beyond mere diplomacy” to promoting tolerance of diversity within societies. This can require promoting human rights and the rule of law, helping organize elections, building democratic institutions, training police and taking steps to prevent weapons smuggling, he said.
China’s deputy UN ambassador Liu Zhenmin noted that while the Security Council has often underscored its determination to prevent armed conflicts, its progress has been “less than satisfactory” because of the council’s focus on conflict resolution.
World leaders decided to establish the commission at a summit in September 2005 to bring together key international players involved in ending conflicts and promoting reconstruction and economic development of countries ravaged by war.
The mood at the conference was that the Security Council needs to be engaged “long before problems turn into conflicts.” Clearly, this will require better political analysis and conflict assessment by the UN Secretariat.
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First Published: Wed, Aug 29 2007. 11 23 AM IST