General Assembly on United Nations, Peace and Security - Part 1

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10-May-2016 03:37:13
Bolstered United Nations role, Member States’ support is essential to better manage conflict and build a more secure world, speakers tell General Assembly at High Level Thematic Debate of the GA seventieth session.

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Identifying key threats and engaging in a strategic reflection about today’s challenges to international peace and security, speakers discussed the means available and institutions required for an effective collective security architecture as the General Assembly convened a high-level thematic debate on the topic.

The number of civil wars had tripled in the past 10 years and that violent conflict drove 80 per cent of all current humanitarian needs, said Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Given the complexity of today’s conflicts, the Organization had launched several policy reviews focusing on prevention, long-term political solutions and solid partnerships.

Concrete results were already being seen in several areas, including the Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping in September 2015, stronger partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, and the adoption by the Peacebuilding Commission of new working methods, as well as the implementation of strong measures to root out sexual exploitation and abuse. However, the United Nations system could not achieve it alone, he said, calling upon Member States to contribute in political and financial areas. “We welcome the steps you have taken so far, but in some areas, rhetorical commitments have so far not translated into concrete action,” he said.

Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, said the challenge was to build on the current momentum and to respond to the overarching recommendations from the three reviews on peacebuilding, peace operations and women, peace and security. Drawing attention to emerging threats, including cybercrime and global terrorism, he underscored the need for a multilateral approach and greater attention to the United Nations role for a more sustainable world. As proven by the Iran nuclear deal framework and Security Council action on Syria in December 2015, the Organization could still help in resolving differences.

In the ensuing discussion, keynote speakers took up the future of peace and security in a complex world. Espen Barth Eide, Member of the Managing Board of the World Economic Forum, presented seven main drivers of change, ranging from demography to geopolitical competition, and technological advances to governance. He stressed that corruption and short-sighted leadership were limiting growth and destabilizing societies, while cohesion, mistrust and marginalization were threatening social stability.

Despite remarkable progress, the world was becoming more dangerous, with less of a “feel good factor” today than when the Berlin Wall had fallen and the cold war had ended, said Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former President of Indonesia. Amid global warming, zero-sum geopolitical rivalry, rising hatred and intolerance, and spiralling conflicts, it was crucial to allow the United Nations a more robust role in managing global affairs.

In a similar vein, Amre Moussa, former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt and former Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said the world was looking to the United Nations for action. However, in order to lead change, the Organization needed reform, which in turn would require vision and boldness. In that regard, the priority must be reforming the Security Council, with better representation for developing countries and the “P5” voluntarily refraining from the use of their veto power. Also essential was to empower the General Assembly to shoulder its responsibility, he emphasized.

“The mistake is to fight fire with fire,” said Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate and a Sustainable Development Goals Advocate, stressing the need to prevent violent incidents all around the world. Warning against growing militarism, she emphasized that world leaders must allocate their resources to build constructive dialogue.

The focus of the afternoon panel was “Sustainable peace in a world of risks: Is the United Nations effective in preventing and resolving conflicts?”. Panellists discussed how the Organization could remain the preeminent relevant actor and credibly respond to threats emanating from non-State and transnational actors. They also addressed whether the available instruments and policies within the United Nations context were adequate.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 May, to conclude its thematic debate.
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