Photo: Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider - Photo: 2017

UN Reform Vital To Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace

By Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin

Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin is India’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York. Following are excerpts from his statement to the Security Council in an open debate on January 10 on ‘Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace’ in connection with the agenda item ‘Maintenance of International Peace and Security’- an agenda that relates to one of the first purposes of the UN’s charter and one which is listed in the first article.

UNITED NATIONS (IDN-INPS) – The wisdom of the age-old adage, “Prevention is better than Cure” is self-evident . . . Dag Hammarskjöld is said to have first introduced the term “preventive diplomacy” more than 50 years ago into the lexicon. Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s “Agenda for Peace” unveiled in the 1990s comes to mind as another milestone in this saga.

Yet, efforts at prevention have failed to take firm institutional roots. It, therefore; raises the question – why have we not got it right? Is it because we do not have the right tools? Or is it that we are using the right tools in the wrong way? It is from this perspective we offer our views.

First, India believes that for the UN to develop a culture of conflict prevention, it needs to recognize that the primary responsibility for sustaining peace lies with Member States. The UN can supplement what are essentially homegrown processes. The emphasis on analytical instruments and tools such-as fact finding; agenda setting, diplomatic initiatives, peace operations is important but is too narrow an approach. These efforts can at best supplement the roles and situation of the Member State/States concerned. Yet, we provide too few resources to strengthen institutional inadequacies of Member States and instead focus on strengthening institutional arrangements of the UN.

Second, prevention efforts can only be effective, if they are undertaken with the consent and cooperation of the Member State/States concerned and not seen as an imposition. After all, these efforts are aimed at helping the Member State/States concerned and assisting them on what can be done and how it can be done. As the saying goes “you cannot shake hands with a clenched fist”.

Third, we need to remember that while the mandate provided in the UN Charter is vast, the UN cannot do all by itself. There can be and are actors at local, national, sub-regional and regional levels that may be in a better position to do so and can manage these issues better. The UN needs to recognize and act taking the diversity of situations and availability of instrumentalities.

Fourth, talk of promoting sustainable peace and preventing conflicts will cut little ice if there are no resources to back it. The “Sustaining Peace” resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council last year did not lead to agreement even on allocation of 1% of the peacekeeping budget to those activities. Are we ready to change that mindset?

Fifth, the established international order is being upended in terms of economic, political and technological shifts. Even long-established States are unable to fully respond to the new factors and forces being unleashed; History teaches us that ungoverned swathes often become grounds for competition or are storehouses for germination of new threats. Yet, we have no global governance architecture in frontier areas such as cyber, space and oceans. We ignore these at our own peril.

Sixth, while the world is changing, the institutional architecture primarily responsible for areas of peace and security remains frozen. The Security Council which takes decisions on behalf of “we the people” represents an increasingly small minority of the world’s population. If it is to make rules for “the people” then it needs to adequately reflect new realities. Addressing new issues, threats and challenges of the twenty first century needs an updated, not an outdated instrument. A Security Council which has lost its iegitimacy cannot be an effective tool to address the challenges of conflict prevention and sustaining peace.

Putting the sustaining peace agenda on a firm footing needs a coherent and comprehensive strategy. [IDN-InDepthNews – 15 January 2017]

Related articles:

New UN Chief Takes Landmark Step To Build and Sustain Peace

Plea For Proactive Link Between Security Council and UN Chief

Photo: Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

IDN is flagship of the International Press Syndicate.

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