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Ban's Message To Conference Of Islamic Scholars

Secretary-General, in message to Conference of Islamic Scholars, stresses priorities of strengthening conflict-prevention, mediation capacity

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the Third International Conference of Islamic Scholars in Jakarta, 29 July:

I am grateful for the opportunity to extend warm greetings to this Third International Conference of Islamic Scholars, and to convey a message on the United Nations role in peacebuilding and conflict prevention.

Since the end of the cold war, the United Nations has considerably expanded efforts to assist Member States in preventing and resolving armed conflict. This has resulted in a six-fold increase in United Nations preventive diplomacy missions and a four-fold increase in United Nations peace operations since 1990. A large number of conflicts were brought to an end in this time, either through direct United Nations mediation or by the efforts of other third parties acting with United Nations support. The list includes El Salvador, Guatemala, Namibia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Tajikistan, Bougainville, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Burundi and the North-South conflict in Sudan.

Since assuming office in 2007, I have sought to step up my use of good offices and mediation, including through quiet diplomacy -- promoting dialogue and confidence-building, facilitating meetings and agreements, and providing technical advice and expertise. I have made it one of my priorities to strengthen the United Nations capacity to prevent conflicts and to mediate or facilitate their resolution, including through a Mediation Support Unit mandated by the General Assembly.

While every situation that requires United Nations support is unique, there are a number of considerations that apply to all of them.

First, effective United Nations preventive diplomacy usually requires years of close engagement by the United Nations with national State and non-State actors, Member States, particularly Security Council members, regional and subregional organizations, non-governmental organizations, and others.

Second, the United Nations cannot and should not always be in the lead. Member States, regional organizations or other actors are sometimes better placed to play this role. This is very pertinent in Asia and the Pacific, where States often have considerable national capacities to address disputes and where international actors such as the Commonwealth, ASEAN [Association of South-East Asian Nations] and the Pacific Islands Forum are playing important roles.

Third, in places where the United Nations has a comparative advantage, the necessary political space, as well as the resources to play a meaningful role, its contribution is often significant. To achieve this, the United Nations needs mandates that are credible, achievable and accompanied by the necessary resources to implement them. This remains work in progress.

A recent Human Security Report found a drop of 40 per cent in armed conflicts since 1992, attributable directly to an increase in the UN’s work in prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. A Rand study found that the United Nations does nation-building far more cost-effectively than individual Governments. Although the annual peacekeeping budget has climbed steadily, now at approximately $5 billion, it is still dwarfed by the approximately trillion dollars spent annually on military expenditures and the arms trade. And that does not begin to take into account the massive human costs of war.

Of course, prevention is even more cost-effective. The support for the former Secretary-General’s mediation role in Kenya, for example, incurred a cost of only some $208,000.

This leads to the fourth lesson: ultimately, conflicts can be resolved only through political solutions. If the United Nations is unable to foster lasting political solutions, it will be left with humanitarian emergencies and peacekeeping without end. And these solutions need to have the support not only of the warring parties, but of the region and the big Powers. The UN is often tasked with making that happen and, once an agreement has been signed, with keeping all the stakeholders on board.

Those stakeholders include civil society, including faith leaders such as all of you. I am grateful to all of you for your commitment to our shared mission for a more peaceful world. I wish you every success in your deliberations.

SG/SM/11723

For Information Media
Not An Official Record

ENDS

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