What's In Blue

Posted Mon 16 Nov 2015

Open Debate on “Security, Development and the Root Causes of Conflict”

On Tuesday morning (17 November), the Council will hold a ministerial level open debate on “security, development and the root causes of conflict”. UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening will preside over the debate. Briefings are planned by: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Permanent Representative of Sweden Olof Skoog, in his capacity of Chair of the Peacebuiding Committee; and Ouided Bouchamaoui, President of the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts and a member of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a collection of four civil society organisations awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy” in Tunisia after the 2011 revolution.

The initial title of the debate was “peaceful societies and conflict prevention”, which made a direct connection between conflict prevention and goal 16 (the promotion of peaceful societies, justice and good governance) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the General Assembly in September 2015. Russia however made clear its view that any discussion of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and specifically of goal 16 was not a matter for the Council. It seems that the change to the wider theme of “security, development and root causes of conflict” may have been an attempt to address Russia’s concerns.

Nevertheless, the UK circulated a concept note (S/2015/845) for the debate on 5 November which set the context for the debate by highlighting the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), noting the recognition by heads of state and government during the high level segment of the General Assembly that “sustainable development cannot be realised without peace and security; and peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development”. The concept note invites the participants to explore the connections between peace and security and development, in the context of supporting the Council’s prevention agenda and working to better understand the root causes of conflicts. In addition, it suggests that the Council could play a role in supporting prevention by helping to break down silos between the three pillars of the UN: development, security and human rights.

In his briefing, the Secretary-General is expected to cover the analysis in his most recent report on conflict prevention (S/2015/730), and to highlight the areas related to conflict prevention contained in his report on the implementation of the recommendations of the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (S/2015/682). Skoog is expected to base his briefing on the report of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Peacebuilding Architecture Review (S/2015/490). Both the Secretary-General and Skoog are likely to highlight the need for the UN system to strengthen its conflict prevention and peacebuilding work. Bouchamaoui is expected to provide the Council with a firsthand account of a successful effort in conflict prevention, from which the Council as well as the wider UN system could benefit.

Among the areas that Council members and other speakers may cover include how the Council can support sustainable development, as well as what more it can do to address root causes that lead to conflict. Speakers may also note that the Council’s recent track record on prevention, with regard to situations such as Syria, Mali, South Sudan, Yemen and the Central African Republic, does not match its thematic support for conflict prevention, and may suggest a more effective use of the range of conflict prevention tools at its disposal.

The UK would like the Council to adopt a presidential statement following the debate which would reflect its conclusions. However, at press time, it was unclear if this would be possible. While there is consensus among Council members on the importance of conflict prevention, some members, most notably Russia, are uncomfortable discussing development issues in the Security Council. Any presidential statement coming out of this debate would require a compromise between those who want to reflect the connection between peace and security and development, and those who are opposed to discussing these issues in the Council. It may therefore be difficult to agree on a presidential statement that reflects the key points made in the open debate.