U.N. chief urges new ef­forts to pre­vent war and pro­mote peace

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

UNITED NA­TIONS: The new U.N. sec­re­tary-gen­eral urged the world or­ga­ni­za­tion and its mem­ber states Tues­day to stop fo­cus­ing on re­spond­ing to con­flicts and do far more to pre­vent war and sus­tain peace.

An­to­nio Guter­res said in his first speech to the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil since tak­ing the reins of the U.N. on Jan. 1 that the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of con­flicts and the hu­man and eco­nomic costs de­mand a new ap­proach where a key is “trans­lat­ing early warn­ing into early ac­tion.”

But he said it has proved very dif­fi­cult to per­suade na­tional and in­ter­na­tional de­ci­sion-mak­ers to make preven­tion a pri­or­ity, per­haps be­cause “the tele­vi­sion cam­eras are not there when a cri­sis is avoided.”

Guter­res urged “a surge in diplo­macy for peace,” in part­ner­ship with re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions and mo­bi­liz­ing re­li­gious au­thor­i­ties, civil so­ci­ety and the busi­ness com­mu­nity.

He an­nounced a new ini­tia­tive to ex­pand me­di­a­tion at U.N. head­quar­ters and in the field and called on the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to make greater use of the mea­sures in the U.N. Char­ter for the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes.

He pledged to sup­port the coun­cil through his “good of­fices and my per­sonal en­gage­ment.”

“Too many preven­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties have been lost be­cause mem­ber states mis­trusted each other’s mo­tives, and be­cause of con­cerns over na­tional sovereignty,” Guter­res said.

While such con­cerns are un­der­stand­able, he said, “pre­ven­tive ac­tion is es­sen­tial to avert mass atroc­i­ties or grave abuses of hu­man rights. And we can achieve this only through rea­soned dis­cus­sion, based on facts and the pur­suit of truth.”

Swe­den’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mar­got Wall­strom, who chaired the meet­ing be­cause her coun­try holds the ro­tat­ing coun­cil pres­i­dency, cited “the hor­ror in Syria and Ye­men,” and sit­u­a­tions such as the in­sta­bil­ity in Congo and asked, “Can we af­ford an ever-grow­ing list of crises slip­ping into vi­o­lent con­flict and need­less hu­man mis­ery?”

Wall­strom said the U.N. has ap­pealed for $22.2 bil­lion to help peo­ple in need while over 100,000 U.N. peace­keep­ers are de­ployed in hotspots around the world.

“Mean­while, re­search shows that mea­sures to peace­fully pre­vent con­flict cost, on av­er­age, just a tenth of post­con­flict re­cov­ery ef­forts,” she said.

“In­vest­ing in preven­tion is not only morally right.

“It is the smart, eco­nom­i­cally sound and [the] sus­tain­able thing to do,” she said.

The tools are there, Wall­strom said. But “what we need now is a new po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus in sup­port of preven­tion.”

In one of her fi­nal ad­dresses to the coun­cil, U.S. Am­bas­sador Sa­man­tha Power listed many of the con­flicts rag­ing world­wide – Syria, South Su­dan, Ye­men, Libya, the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Bu­rundi, Nige­ria and Mali.

“It is ob­vi­ous that we as a coun­cil can do bet­ter,” said Power, who will end her term as U.S. en­voy when the new Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion takes over on Jan. 20. –

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