NEW YORK (IDN | GIN) – Using every fibre of his being, track star Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia made a dash across the finish line at the just-ended Olympic Games in Rio but it wasn’t to be the end of his run.

Lilesa used his high profile silver medal victory to make a sign of solidarity with the Oromo people who are locked in a decades-long struggle with the government of Ethiopia. In a photograph seen worldwide, 26-year-old Lilesa stands with his arms crossed over his head – a gesture of defiance used by Oromos in recent months.

- Photo: 2021

UN Chief Points to Fragility and Conflict as Major Obstacles to Sustainable Development Goals

By Santo D. Banerjee

NEW YORK (IDN) – “Challenges of Maintaining Peace and Security in Fragile Contexts” were the focus of Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Security Council virtual open debate on January 6. The debate was organized by Mr Kais Saied, the Security Council’s Presidency for the month of January.

He called for a Global Ceasefire, which he said, goes hand-in-hand with a flagship initiative of the African Union. The United Nations also remains committed to supporting the African Union’s ambitious Agenda 2063.

“In this context,” he said, “we have decided to establish a Joint UN-AU Group on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda and Agenda 2063, including with regard to COVID-19 recovery.”

Fragility and conflict are among the greatest obstacles to implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs), Mr Guterres added. Addressing the links between fragility and conflict is an essential component of international peace and security.

He pointed out that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict landscape was deteriorating. In fact, conflicts have become more complex, fuelled by greater regionalization, the proliferation of non-State armed groups, and their linkages with criminal and even terrorist interests.

Besides, they last longer and become more difficult to resolve.

According to the World Bank Fragility and Conflict Report, one of every five people in the Middle East and North Africa lives in close proximity to a major conflict. As a consequence, humanitarian needs have multiplied, reaching the highest levels since the Second World War.

Referring to some appalling facts, the UN Chief said: the number of people at risk of starvation has doubled and international conflict management mechanisms have been stretched to the breaking point.

“These trends have placed a number of countries in a vicious cycle. Conflict continues to breed poverty and foster institutional fragility, which in turn decreases the resilience of these societies and the prospects for peace.”

The World Bank estimates that by 2020, two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor will live in fragile or conflict-affected countries, states Mr Guterres, adding:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these trends.

In 2020, and for the first time in 22 years, extreme poverty was on the rise.

The contraction of economic activity in fragile and conflict-affected settings is expected to push an additional 18 to 27 million people into extreme poverty.

The gender equality gap is widening, and women’s labour force participation – a key driver for inclusive growth – has been set back decades.

The climate emergency is a further driver of insecurity.”

Against this backdrop, it is no coincidence that of the 15 countries most susceptible to climate risks, eight host a United Nations peacekeeping operation or special political mission.

From the Sahel and Central Africa to the Horn of Africa, variability in rainfall patterns is disrupting long-existing patterns of transhumance, resulting in tensions and recurring clashes between communities, including across national borders.

“If we are to break the cycle of poverty and conflict, we need a more ambitious approach based on two principles enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals,” accentuates the UN Chief.

First, interdependence.

The 2030 Agenda recognizes that there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.

A holistic approach to building and sustaining peace, with targeted and tailored investments across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, is essential.

In the Sahel, for example, the UN Integrated Strategy has sought to close the gap between humanitarian needs and development imperatives.

It has focused on helping reassert State authority throughout the Sahel countries, thereby reversing the pattern of growing marginalization of poor rural societies, with particular attention to women and youth.

Second, inclusion.

The pledge to “leave no one behind” must be at the centre of our efforts to promote sustainable development as well as to prevent and resolve conflicts.

Over twenty years ago, the Security Council recognized in adopting resolution 1325 the need for increased participation of women in peace processes.

This promise has yet to be fully realized.

Guaranteeing equal opportunities, protection, access to resources and services and participation in decision-making are not simply moral and legal obligations.

They are a necessary condition if countries are to truly break out of the conflict trap.

The linkages between conflict and fragility have been particularly visible in the African continent.

In the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, fragility has been exacerbated by transboundary threats such as climate change, terrorism, transnational organized crime, and the proliferation of armed groups.

In the Great Lakes and Central African region, limited state authority, the continued presence and activities of armed groups, human rights violations, illicit exploitation of natural resources and unemployment continue to drive instability.

To address these trends, the United Nations has worked closely with the African Union and regional economic communities.

The UN-AU joint frameworks on peace and security and on sustainable development have been key instruments to prevent and sustainably resolve conflicts in Africa, as well as to strengthen the resilience of states to withstand current threats.

“One month ago, Chairperson Faki and I co-chaired the Fourth United Nations-African Union Annual Conference, a clear demonstration of the value we attach to our partnership and to our strategic cooperation,” said the UN Chief.

This meeting was an opportunity to identify ways to support the AU’s Silencing the Guns initiative, a groundbreaking effort to address the root causes of conflicts in the continent, including economic and social disparities, he said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 08 January 2021]

Video: UN Website.

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