Photo: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Security Council. On his left is Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom. UN Photo/Loey Felipe - Photo: 2015

UN Chief Pleads for Peace, Development and Human Rights

By Ramesh Jaura | IDN-InDepthNews Analysis

BERLIN | NEW YORK (IDN) – While Europe and the United States are engrossed in a highly emotional debate and punitive military actions against perpetrators of terrorism – with President Francois Hollande declaring that “France is at war” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s pronouncements reflect an approach characterised by robust reasoning.

In fact he is known to be working on a comprehensive Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which he intends to present early next year to the General Assembly.

Addressing the growing threat posed by violent extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Da’esh, goes to the heart of the mission of the United Nations and requires a unified response, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed at a high-level event New York on September 29.

Opening the United Nations Security Council’s day-long debate on ‘Security, development and the root causes of conflicts’ some six weeks later, on November 17, Ban said: “Today’s violent conflicts and violent extremism are often rooted in a mix of exclusion, inequality, mismanagement of natural resources, corruption, oppression, governance failures, and the frustration and alienation that accompany a lack of jobs and opportunities.”

Yet the responses of the international community on the whole have not caught up to these realities. “We are not yet properly integrating United Nations action across the inter-dependent pillars of our work: peace, development and human rights,” he added.

The Security Council debate on conflict prevention was already scheduled but acquired added importance because of most recent terrorist attacks.

Referring to the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad, apparent bombing of a Russian plane over Egypt in October, and the mounting threat from Da’esh, which controls large strips of Syria and Iraq, Ban warned against taking reprisals against Muslims.

“No grievance or cause can justify such acts,” he said of the terrorist attacks. But, he added: “I am especially concerned about reprisals or further discrimination against Muslims, in particular Muslim refugees and migrants. This would just exacerbate the alienation on which terrorists feed.”

Four principles

Ban laid out four principles for preventing conflict and terrorism, stressing the crucial importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which calls for achieving peaceful and inclusive societies that provide access to justice and build accountable institutions. The agenda comprising 17 goals was endorsed by the General Assembly on September 25.

Goal 16 sets out 10 targets taking into account that among the institutions most affected by corruption are the judiciary and police. Corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion cost some US $1.26 trillion for developing countries each year. This huge amount of money, says the 2030 Agenda, could be used to lift those who are living on less than $1.25 a day above $1.25 for at least six years.

According to the UN, the rate of children leaving primary school in conflict affected countries reached 50 per cent in 2011, which amounts to 28.5 million children, showing the impact of unstable societies on one of the major goals of the post 2015 agenda: education as enshrined in Goal 4.

The rule of law and development have a significant interrelation and are mutually reinforcing, making it essential for sustainable development at the national and international level, states the 2030 Agenda.

With this in view, Ban told the Security Council, well-targeted development assistance is needed to address risk factors such as inequality and marginalization, and is especially critical when societies are emerging from conflict and risk lapsing back into it.

Heightened prevention means a sharper focus on human rights, violations of which are often the best early warning signs of trouble, embodied in the ‘Human Rights up Front’ (HRuF) initiative, Ban said.

The HRuF initiative was launched by the UN Secretary-General in late 2013 with a view to ensuring that the UN system takes early and effective action, as mandated by the Charter and UN resolutions, to prevent or respond to large-scale violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.

It seeks to achieve this by realizing three types of change within the UN system: cultural change, to ensure staff recognize prevention as a core responsibility; operational change to deploy teams to assist national authorities before crises emerge; and earlier and more transparent engagement with national authorities and other Member States on deteriorating situations.

Ban declared that greater coherence is needed among all actors, with the United Nations system pooling its strengths to bring strong analysis to the Security Council and UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), an intergovernmental advisory body that supports peace efforts in countries emerging from conflict, and is a key addition to the capacity of the international community in the broad peace agenda.

The Peacebuilding Commission plays a unique role in (1) bringing together all of the relevant actors, including international donors, the international financial institutions, national governments, troop contributing countries; (2) marshalling resources and (3) advising on and proposing integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery and where appropriate, highlighting any gaps that threaten to undermine peace.

Ban also stressed the vital importance of an adequate, predictable financing for UN mediation work, country teams, and the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) for post-conflict peacebuilding initiatives established in October 2006. It is currently supporting 222 projects in 22 countries “by delivering fast, flexible and relevant funding” for post-conflict peacebuilding initiatives.

A new Marshall Plan

He proposed a global recovery plan for the Middle East similar to the multi-billion dollar Marshall Plan with which the United States rebuilt Western Europe after World War Two (1939-1945).

He spoke of the need to “be bold when necessary – for example in rebuilding Syria and supporting the countries generously hosting large numbers of refugees, including Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey”.

“There is a growing global call for a recovery plan for the region perhaps akin to the Marshall Plan in scale. I urge you to give this idea due consideration when the day arrives, as I know we hope it will soon,” he said.

Turning to the human costs of the UN’s failures, Ban said these could be seen in all-too-many places. “The suffering and setbacks weigh heavily on my conscience, as they should on yours. At the same time, we have the tools with which to do better. Let us use them,” Ban added.

Preventing a lapse or relapse into conflict

Peacebuilding Commission Chairperson Olof Skoog, of Sweden, urged “three shifts”, which he said were needed to prevent a lapse or relapse into conflict.

First, Skoog said, one of the most effective ways to sustain peace is by building national capacity, strengthening domestic institutions and supporting good governance and standard 3-5 years programme cycles in this field should be expanded to a 15-30 year framework.

Equally important, he said, is inclusive national ownership that is crucial to the process. “We cannot address inclusivity without mentioning the importance of including women as actors in all aspects of our work,” Skoog stressed.

In fact PBF recognizes that systematic inclusion of women in peacebuilding is essential to the just reconstruction of political, legal, economic and social structures, and to the advancement of gender equality goals. This is not only a matter of women’s and girl’s rights, but of effective peacebuilding, according to the Fund’s website.

Skoog considers greater collaboration essential and pleads for avoiding “short-sighted turf wars”. He said: “Responding to challenges of conflict and post-conflict countries demand of all of us to do more and better within our respective mandates. But above all, in order to effectively address root causes of conflict, international actors need to start acting more coherently.”

Ban had called for “coherent action” also at the Leaders’ Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, hosted by United States President Barack Obama on September 29 on the margins of the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate.

The meeting brought together representatives from more than 100 nations, more than 20 multilateral institutions, some 120 civil society groups from around the world, and partners from the private sector.

Addressing the Summit, Ban said: “Violent extremist groups – including Da’esh and Boko Haram – pose a direct threat to international security, mercilessly target women and girls, and undermine universal values of peace, justice and human dignity.”

“That threat is growing,” he warned, noting that recent data shows a 70 per cent increase in foreign terrorist fighters from over 100 countries to regions in conflict.

Against this backdrop, he pleaded for five key priorities: the need to engage all of society; the need to make a special effort to reach young people; to build truly accountable institutions; respect for international law and human rights; and the importance of not being ruled by fear – or provoked by those who strive to exploit it.

“We have a major challenge before us – one that will not disappear overnight – but one that we can address concretely by forging societies of inclusion, ensuring lives of dignity, and pursuing this essential endeavour inspired at all times by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 November 2015]

Photo: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Security Council. On his left is Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

2015 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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