August 2014 Monthly Forecast

PEACEMAKING, PEACEKEEPING AND PEACEBUILDING

Conflict Prevention

Expected Council Action

The UK, as part of its August presidency, is planning an open debate on conflict prevention with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay as briefers. A resolution or a presidential statement is a potential outcome.

Key Recent Developments

The Council has recently held several events on conflict prevention. On 15 April 2013, there was a briefing on preventing conflicts in Africa (S/PV.6946), with a presidential statement drafted by Rwanda on the root causes of conflict as an outcome (S/PRST/2013/4). On 19 June 2013, the UK organised an open debate on natural resources and conflict prevention (S/PV.6982 and Resumption 1). On 29 January, at the initiative of Jordan, there was an open debate on “war, its lessons and the search for a permanent peace” (S/PV.7105). Most recently, on 16 April there was a briefing on preventing conflict and fighting against genocide (S/PV.7155), with resolution 2150 calling upon states to prevent genocide and other serious crimes under international law as an outcome.

However, during the last few years, there have been several instances when the Council has failed to prevent the onset or escalation of conflicts, including situations that had already been on the Council’s agenda:

Underlying Problems

There are numerous possible explanations for the Council’s disappointing track record on conflict prevention, including:

Key Issue

The main issue is that despite the Council’s oft-stated commitment to conflict prevention in principle, Council performance has been chronically poor in practice.

Options

Perhaps the most likely option would be to either issue a presidential statement or adopt a resolution reaffirming the Council’s commitment to conflict prevention.

The Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa continues to be underutilised, and could be revamped to address the early signs of conflict in a more timely and meaningful way.

Another option would be for the Council to request the Secretary-General to form an independent panel to review Council conflict prevention practice and offer policy recommendations. The panel’s composition could include scholars with expertise on the Council and conflict prevention as well as former Council practitioners. The purpose would be to provide impartial analysis and fresh thinking on the subject.

Council and Wider Dynamics

In attempting to fulfil the mandate of the Council to maintain international peace and security, there is an irrefutable logic and cost-benefit analysis to preventing conflict. In principle, there is perhaps no issue on which there is greater consensus among Council members: all members are “for” and no members are “against” conflict prevention. Nonetheless, in practice the Council quite frequently fails to take sufficient action to prevent conflict. Some of this failure can certainly be attributed to political divisions, particularly among the P5, which often restrict the degree of latitude for Council action when national interests are at stake. In other cases, differences regarding how and when to pursue conflict prevention may be indicative of a broader split among members regarding what situations belong on the Council’s agenda and what measures are appropriate.

In terms of relations between the Council and UN member states, national sovereignty is perhaps the most significant factor determining the prospects for conflict prevention. For domestic political reasons, most states do not want to be on the Council’s agenda, particularly if there is not yet a situation of full-scale conflict. For many developing countries, resistance to international intervention—even in the various forms of UN conflict prevention—can also be attributed to the legacy of colonialism. On the other hand, assertions of national sovereignty seem to be shifting in other cases—such as the CAR, Mali and Somalia—where governments have requested the UN to take a more proactive role. This also suggests there may be underutilised scope for Council engagement on conflict prevention.

UN DOCUMENTS ON CONFLICT PREVENTION

Security Council Resolution
16 April 2014 S/RES/2150 This was a resolution calling on all states to prevent and fight against genocide.
Security Council Presidential Statement
15 April 2013 S/PRST/2013/4 This was the presidential statement adopted at the conclusion of the meeting on “Prevention of conflicts in Africa: addressing the root causes”.
Security Council Meeting Records
16 April 2014 S/PV.7155 This was a briefing on the prevention and fight against genocide to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda.
29 January 2014 S/PV.7105 This was a meeting, held at the initiative of Jordan, on “War, its lessons, and the search for a permanent peace”.
19 June 2013 S/PV.6982 This was an open debate on conflict prevention and natural resources.
19 June 2013 S/PV.6982 (Resumption 1) This was debate on conflict prevention and natural resources.
15 April 2013 S/PV.6946 This was a briefing on “Prevention of conflicts in Africa: addressing the root causes”.