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Anticipate Better, Act Earlier, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses at Event on Building National Capacities for Conflict Prevention

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15 JULY 2019

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the high-level partner event of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Joint Programme on Building National Capacities for Conflict Prevention, in New York today:

It is a great pleasure to be here with His Excellency Khemaies Jhinaoui, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, and to welcome so many distinguished guests. 

Allow me to begin by thanking UNDP, the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Tunisia for convening this timely discussion on strengthening national capacities for dialogue, conflict prevention and sustaining peace.

Timely because, this week, the Sustainable Development Goals are taking centre stage as the High-Level Political Forum convenes for its annual session.

Today, we are highlighting a flagship initiative to bridge the gap between political and development work. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has inspired an encouraging global response, and much progress has been made across a number of the Sustainable Development Goals.

However, we must go further and act faster. We need to be more ambitious in driving cooperation among the United Nations, national Governments, civil society, international financial institutions and other key stakeholders.

The Secretary‑General’s report on Sustainable Development Goal progress shows that we are currently falling short of the ambition laid out in the 2030 Agenda. We must accelerate our actions now. Much will depend on the global context over the coming decade. In a peaceful world, the Sustainable Development Goals are within our power to reach. In a world riven by conflicts, the Goals will remain unattainable for many.

The Secretary-General has made prevention one of the highest priorities for the Organization. He has outlined a broad vision for prevention encompassing not only conflict prevention but crisis prevention in the broadest terms, from economic shocks to disease, drought and other upheavals.

Often, of course, these risks amplify each other and explode across borders. Our shared duty is to anticipate better and act earlier to address stresses that can lead to crisis and violent conflict, that can cause State and institutional fragility and that can inflict human suffering. This informs the context for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

This integrated approach to prevention is aligned with the 2030 Agenda, including Goal 16 on just, peaceful and inclusive societies. It is expressed in the commitment made by Member States to work together to ending discrimination, advancing women’s participation and ensuring equal opportunities.

And it is all the more urgent at a time when various forms of crisis are undermining efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and when the countries lagging most on the Sustainable Development Goals tend to be those in crisis or vulnerable to it.

Over the last 15 years, UNDP and the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs have worked in partnership to establish, manage and continuously develop the Joint Programme on Building National Capacities for Conflict Prevention. This collaboration draws on their complementary mandates, expertise and resources to offer the necessary support to establish sustainable and nationally owned capacities for peace.

Peace and Development Advisers are at the forefront of these efforts, pushing for the prioritization of the prevention agenda.

Starting from just five in 2004, such Advisers are now deployed in almost 50 countries, at times supported by a corresponding national officer, to advise and assist United Nations resident coordinators, United Nations country teams and national stakeholders to develop, strengthen and sustain initiatives aimed at preventing and resolving conflict, and supporting national infrastructures for peace.

The work of these Advisers with local partners — such as the minister for peace, political parties, youth and women’s groups — is particularly valuable.

In line with this, furthering gender equality through the work of this partnership is a priority. At present, while only 35 per cent of deployed Peace and Development Advisers are women, there is full parity on the Peace and Development Advisers roster, and resident coordinators are strongly encouraged to consider this in recruitment and selection. In addition to gender parity of the cadre, supporting the role and meaningful participation of women peacebuilders in all countries is critical.

In Tajikistan, 40 key women leaders improved their skills in conflict resolution, mediation and decision-making through the support of the Peace and Development Advisers. While capacity-building is one aspect of efforts under this partnership, what is needed often is simply a recognition of existing capacities of women, and the platform for their meaningful participation. Peace and Development Advisers have accompanied locally driven social cohesion efforts in Guyana, Republic of Moldova and Uganda.

In 2018, 66 per cent of them reported being engaged in supporting local and informal mediation and dialogue initiatives, for example in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lesotho, Philippines and Togo. In Mauritania, Maldives and Tunisia, they are working with young people towards building a peaceful future. In Malawi and Nigeria, they have helped to strengthen national peace architectures.

In El Salvador, the Adviser led the design and facilitation of a national consultation process for a project to build a National Museum for Peace and Reconciliation. In the Caribbean, regional Advisers have partnered with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to assist with the development of a counter‑terrorism strategy and in community outreach to reform youth at risk of being recruited into violent gangs.

In Guinea, following election-related violence in 2018, the Adviser led a taskforce of international partners to devise a negotiation process, an effort that resulted in a political agreement between the Majority and the Opposition. And last year, in Liberia, the Adviser worked with the resident coordinator to support a national forum for leaders of 24 political parties and cabinet ministers that cultivated a positive working relationship between the Government and opposition parties.

All the above examples have been key to reducing tensions, creating opportunity for dialogue and strengthening social cohesion.

This is important experience to build on, especially in the context of the ongoing reforms of the United Nations.

On 1 January this year, we crossed a milestone as the United Nations development system reform entered its implementation phase, with the purpose of empowering resident coordinators and United Nations country teams to better engage with and support countries in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

In parallel, we are moving towards a single, integrated peace and security pillar that prioritizes prevention and sustaining of peace, and that aligns more closely with the development and human rights pillars. This is crucial as the complex contexts we are increasingly faced with call for cross-pillar response to cross-border challenges.

These reforms will strengthen both the development and prevention agendas. I am also convinced that the Joint Programme will remain a crucial asset to the new generation of resident coordinators and United Nations country teams.

None of this innovative work could be done without the generous support of our donors and civil society partners. Only through pooled efforts and resources can we increase capacity to prevent conflicts and crises from emerging, escalating or reoccurring.

I look forward to hearing directly from colleagues and partners in the field, who are working every day to make their societies more peaceful, prosperous, resilient and secure. The United Nations is strongly committed to building on the momentum your work has generated.

For information media. Not an official record.