Conflict Prevention: Presidential Statement
Today (18 January), the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a presidential statement on conflict prevention under the agenda item “maintenance of international peace and security”. The statement, which is based largely on agreed language from previous Council outcomes, passed silence yesterday.
The statement takes a holistic approach to conflict prevention. It recalls that a comprehensive conflict prevention strategy should include early warning, preventive deployment, mediation, peacekeeping, non-proliferation, accountability measures, and post-conflict peacebuilding—recognising that these components are interdependent, complementary and non-sequential.
There is a strong focus on the importance of addressing the regional dimensions of conflict, including through regional arrangements and diplomacy. The Council acknowledges efforts to strengthen cooperation and coordination in conflict prevention among the UN, regional organisations and sub-regional organisations. It commends recent efforts by the Secretary-General to strengthen the UN’s peace and security pillar, including through the use of conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy tools, where relevant, in cooperation with regional and sub-regional organisations.
Language drawn from article 33 of Chapter VI of the UN Charter calls on the “parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security… [to]…first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice”.
The statement includes an emphasis on the importance of peacebuilding. For example, it recognises the key role of the Peacebuilding Commission and UN integrated peacebuilding offices in national efforts to build and sustain peace.
The role of women and youth in conflict prevention features in the statement. The language on women was added at the request of a permanent member, while references to youth were the result of a proposal from an elected member. With regard to the role of women in prevention, the statement notes the substantial link between women’s full and meaningful participation in efforts to prevent, resolve and rebuild from conflict, while underscoring the importance of women’s empowerment and equal participation in efforts to maintain and promote peace and security. With regard to youth, the statement recognises the important and positive contribution of youth in maintaining and promoting peace and security, while affirming the positive role they can play in conflict prevention and resolution.
Emphasis on the key role that civil society can play in promoting efforts to sustain peace was added to the presidential statement as well, apparently based on a proposal from one of the permanent members.
Human rights references are incorporated in the text, although it seems that there were differences of view regarding the extent of these references. Nonetheless, in recalling that the prevention of conflict and the protection of civilians are the primary responsibility of states, the statement reaffirms the responsibility of states to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Furthermore, it recognises the interlinked and mutually reinforcing nature of development, peace and security, and human rights—i.e., the three main pillars of the UN’s work.
The most controversial aspect of the negotiations related to a proposed amendment on climate change from two elected members. This would have noted that climate change could aggravate threats to international peace and security and have adverse effects on regional stability. France and a number of other members supported this proposal. However, Ethiopia and Russia were uncomfortable with this reference to climate change, while others were also not supportive of it.
Kazakhstan, in its capacity as penholder, attempted to strike a balance between the different positions. Revised language omitted references to climate change, but noted the importance of scrutinising all adverse factors that might contribute to conflict and regional stability, and emphasised the need for the UN, where relevant, to ensure adequate risk assessments and risk management strategies. This compromise effort, however, did not go far enough to accommodate the preferences of at least one of the members supporting a reference to climate change in the document. In the final version, climate change was not mentioned, and the reference to adverse factors that might contribute to conflict and regional stability and the call for risk assessments and risk management strategies were struck entirely from the statement.
The statement looks forward to the Secretary-General’s upcoming report to the General Assembly, expected in February, on the implementation of resolution 2282 of 27 April 2016, which focuses on the review of the UN‘s peacebuilding architecture. It further encourages the Secretary-General to update the Council periodically on conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy efforts.