Expected Council Action
In November, the UK is planning to hold an open debate on maintenance of international peace and security with a special focus on peaceful societies and conflict prevention. The debate is expected to be at the level of development ministers; Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for International Development, will preside with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expected to brief.
The last time the UK held the Council presidency, in August 2014, the issue of conflict prevention also loomed large on its agenda. The UK organised a debate on conflict prevention, after which the Council adopted resolution 2171. The resolution strove to reinforce the role of the Council in conflict prevention, stressing the importance of early warning systems, effective use of Chapter VI in peaceful settlement of disputes, accountability as a preventive measure and cooperation with other regional organisations in accordance with Chapter VIII. It requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on actions taken by him to strengthen conflict prevention tools within the UN system.
This month, the UK will revisit the issue of prevention by organising a debate focusing on the relationship of development and peaceful societies to conflict prevention. The interlinkages between conflict prevention and development have been increasingly prominent in Council deliberations. In the last several years, the Council held two debates in which the interrelationships between specific aspects of development and conflict prevention were considered. During its presidency in February 2011, Brazil organised a debate addressing interdependence between security and development, and in January, Chile held a debate on inclusive development.
The UK’s decision to consider the relationship of development and peaceful societies to conflict prevention during its presidency comes at a time when there seems to be a renewed interest in these issues within the Security Council and the wider UN architecture. In September, the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, comprising 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as targets to be achieved by 2030. The development framework set by the SDG emphasised, among other things, the promotion of peaceful societies, justice and good governance, as outlined in goal 16. The previous development framework, operating from 2000 to 2015, the Millennium Development Goals, focused primarily on overall development and poverty reduction. By adopting the SDGs, an overwhelming majority of the UN membership has recognised the special role of promoting peaceful societies in enhancing development. This could create an opportunity for greater cooperation between the Security Council, as the body responsible for maintaining international peace and security, and other UN bodies responsible for the development agenda.
Also in September, the Secretary-General published a report on conflict prevention as requested by resolution 2171. Another three important documents published this year have devoted particular attention to conflict prevention: the report of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Peacebuilding Architecture; the report by the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO); and the Secretary-General’s report responding to the HIPPO recommendations.
In his report on conflict prevention, the Secretary-General took note of the changing landscape and nature of conflicts due to the increasingly active role of non-state actors and their use of evolving tactics. The Secretary-General pointed to the increasing number of active conflicts throughout the world, with civilians bearing the heaviest burden in regard to the number of casualties and displaced persons. The report also provided an overview of the ongoing efforts by the UN to strengthen prevention tools and examined key challenges and opportunities in conflict prevention. Relevant to the context of the debate, the Secretary-General recognised an important correlation between the SDGs, especially goal 16, and prevention, stating that “peaceful, inclusive and just societies are more likely to achieve their development goals, while development fosters peace and promotes inclusion”.
In its emphasis on conflict prevention, HIPPO’s report recommended early engagement by the Council in addressing emerging threats while encouraging the Secretary-General to bring to the Council’s attention issues that could threaten international peace and security. In addition, the panel recommended bolstering the Secretariat’s mediation and prevention capacity as well as establishment of a forum that would bring in a range of actors from outside the UN system for the purpose of sharing ideas and knowledge about conflict prevention.
In outlining his agenda for implementing HIPPO’s recommendations, the Secretary-General reiterated the primary importance of strengthening the UN’s capacities for conflict prevention, specifically through engagement via regional offices, reinforcing the capacities of UN country teams, the Human Rights up Front initiative and early deployment of flexible teams that can enhance the effectiveness of an already existing UN presence.
The relevance of promotion of peaceful societies and correlation between conflict prevention and development was also emphasised in the report of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Peacebuilding Architecture. The report highlighted the relevance of goal 16 of the SDGs, by recommending that the UN ensures that goal 16 “forms a basis against which to access global and country progress towards sustaining peace”.
The main issue for the debate is the inter-connectedness between the maintenance of peace and security and development through promotion of peaceful societies.
A related issue is how the Council can improve its conflict-prevention capacities and make more effective use of the Chapter VI tools at its disposal.
An option for the Council would be to adopt a presidential statement reaffirming its commitment to conflict prevention while recognising the role development plays in prevention.
The Council could also consider enhancing its cooperation with other UN Charter bodies such as the Peacebuilding Commission and the Economic and Social Council, which could contribute to better understanding of development issues and their interlinkages with conflict prevention.
Conflict prevention is an issue for which all Council members have expressed their support. However, the Council’s recent track record on prevention, evident from recent failures in the cases of Syria, Mali, South Sudan, Yemen and the Central African Republic, among others, does not seem to match the thematic support. The indecisiveness of the Council in prevention stems from the resistance of member states to early international engagement and to political divisions, in particular among the P5, which tend to block action by the Council in cases where national interests could be at stake.
There have also been differences among members on what situations belong on the Council’s agenda and what measures might be appropriate. Some members, notably Russia, seem to be wary of the Council’s taking on issues that they perceive as beyond the Council’s mandate to maintain international peace and security. During the working methods debate on 20 October, the Russian ambassador said that any discussion of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and specifically goal 16 is not a matter for the Council. Furthermore, he said that Russia “cannot support such initiatives in the Security Council, as they gravely undermine the Charter prerogatives of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council”. This signals clear opposition from Russia even to holding this debate, which would also imply its opposition to any form of outcome.
|Security Council Resolution|
|26 August 2014 S/RES/2172||This resolution extended the mandate of UNIFIL for one year.|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|19 January 2015 S/PRST/2015/3||This was a presidential statement which underlined “that security and development are closely interlinked and mutually reinforcing and key to attaining sustainable peace”.|
|22 December 2011 S/PRST/2011/18||This was a presidential statement on preventive diplomacy reaffirming, inter alia, the responsibility of states to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.|
|25 September 2015 S/2015/730||This was report of the Secretary-General on conflict prevention.|
|2 September 2015 S/2015/682||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations’ recommendations.|
|29 June 2015 S/2015/490||This was the report of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Peacebuilding Architecture.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|19 January 2015 S/PV.7361||This was a ministerial-level open debate on inclusive development.|
|21 August 2014 S/PV.7247||This was an open debate on conflict prevention with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay providing opening remarks and a briefing.|
|17 June 2015 S/2015/446||This was the report of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.|