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Preventing Armed Conflicts - UN

Preventing Armed Conflicts Requires Broad-Based Effort, Say UN Officials

With armed conflicts raging around the world, prevention is too important to be left in the hands of governments alone, senior United Nations officials told the press in New York today on the eve of a General Assembly debate on Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s recent report on the issue.

Issued five years after his first comprehensive report on the prevention of armed conflict, this 54-page document responds to resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council. Mr. Annan notes that “a culture of prevention is indeed beginning to take hold at the United Nations,” but adds that “an unacceptable gap remains between rhetoric and reality in the area of conflict prevention.

This latest report outlines a three-pronged approach to preventing armed conflict: targeting the sources of tension within and between societies, States and regions; reinforcing the norms and institutions for peace; and strengthening the mechanisms that can resolve inter-State disputes.

Briefing the press on the report today, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari said that addressing immediate political conflicts is not enough; it is also often necessary to look at issues like environmental degradation, migration, poverty, and HIV/AIDS.

“Deep down, the conflict in Darfur is about the environment, about water, about grassland for cattle,” said Mr. Gambari, referring to the violence that has raged on Sudan’s impoverished and remote western flank since 2003.

He noted that the Secretary-General’s report highlights the importance of making countries less vulnerable to conflict by addressing problems like poor governance, corruption, lack of transparency, and inequitable distribution of resources.

“No country is too far away it can’t be damaged by a small group on the other side of the world,” said David Hamburg, Chairman of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention, who also spoke at the briefing.

He added that the entire planet was awash in small arms and light weapons, recalling his visits to parts of Africa where it was possible to buy an AK-47s for five dollars or less. Incitement to hatred and violence is also easier than ever with the growth in communication capacity.

“There has to be a way to stimulate people all over the world to think about prevention,” he said. “If we don’t do that, there’s a very serious question whether this human species will get through the 21st century.”

Early intervention with preventive diplomacy is key and should be followed by long-term measures such as building democratic institutions, Mr. Hamburg added.

“Survey research shows that most people in most countries want democracy,” he said. “They may not be very clear about what it is, but vaguely it’s associated with freedom, opportunity and peace, and they want it.”

Mr. Gambari said that most parts of the UN system now saw conflict prevention as a core part of their mandate and that much work was being done behind the scenes.

He noted, too, that many UN success stories in this area were often overlooked, citing successful resolutions of conflicts between Nigeria and Cameroon over the Bakassi Peninsula, as well as Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

“The problem is that these activities are not well known and not particularly supported with the resources that they require,” he said, adding that correcting that imbalance was a key part of the report.

At tomorrow’s General Assembly session, Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown will introduce the report on behalf of Mr. Annan, who is currently travelling in the Middle East.


Ends

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