Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Challenges of Maintaining Peace and Security in Fragile Contexts - Security Council Open VTC

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06-Jan-2021 03:00:12
With extreme poverty rising amid Covid-19 pandemic, more action key to ending vicious cycle in conflict-affected, fragile countries, top officials tell Security Council.

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Humanitarian Needs at Highest Level Since Second World War, Secretary-General Says

With extreme poverty on the rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time in more than two decades, senior officials briefing the Security Council today called for redoubled efforts to break the “vicious cycle” of poverty, fragility and conflict still devastating many nations.

Briefing the 15-member Council, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global conflict landscape was deteriorating. Conflicts have become more complex, fuelled by greater regionalization, the proliferation of non-State armed groups and their links to criminal and extremist interests. 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. Humanitarian needs have multiplied, reaching the highest levels since the Second World War and the number of people at risk of starvation has doubled.

Warning that such trends have put many countries in a vicious cycle — in which conflict breeds poverty, poverty breeds fragility and fragility decreases resilience to conflict — he went on to note that, for the first time in 22 years, extreme poverty was on the rise in 2020. The contraction of economic activity in fragile and conflict-affected settings is now expected to push an additional 18 to 27 million people into poverty, the gender equality gap is widening and the climate emergency is exacerbating insecurity.

“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,” he said, spotlighting both interdependence and inclusion. Efforts to prevent and resolve conflict must be driven by the pledge to “leave no on behind”, and the not-yet-fully-realized promise to increase women’s participation in peace processes must be met.

Noting that fragility in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region has been exacerbated by transboundary threats such as climate change, terrorism, transnational organized crime and the proliferation of armed groups — and spotlighting the continued presence of armed groups and human rights violations in the Great Lakes region — he said the United Nations is working closely with the African Union and regional economic communities to reverse those trends. The organizations’ joint frameworks have served as key instruments to prevent and sustainably resolve conflicts in Africa, as well as to strengthen the resilience of States to withstand current threats.

At the Fourth United Nations African Union Annual Conference in December, leaders of the two organizations explored new ways to address the root causes on conflicts — including economic and social disparities — and accelerate the “Silencing the Guns in Africa” initiative. “My call for a global ceasefire [amid the COVID-19 pandemic] goes hand-in-hand with this flagship initiative,” he stressed, underlining the United Nations continued commitment to supporting the African Union’s Agenda 2063. In that vein, the organizations have also decided to establish a Joint United Nations–African Union Group on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda and Agenda 2063, including in regard to COVID-19 recovery.

While prevention and peacebuilding are cost-effective, he went on to note that they nevertheless require national leadership, political commitment and financial support. “The international community continues to underinvest in these areas,” he said, reiterating his call for increased financing — in particular at the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund’s upcoming replenishment conference. He also called upon the Council to finalize its discussions on the question of providing predictable, flexible and sustained financing to operations authorized by the Council, but carried out by African Member States, through United Nations assessed contributions.

Also briefing the Council, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said that State fragility and the related challenges for peacekeeping are most acute on the African continent. Such root causes, from climate change to COVID-19, are playing out, affecting the health and socioeconomic situations of many people. For its part, the African Union has adopted related policies and guidelines to prevent conflict and tension, which continue to be obstacles to peace and sustainable development. Moreover, efforts to rebuild peace and foster diplomacy are active continent-wide, alongside tireless work to promote the principle of African solutions to African problems. Citing other ongoing initiatives, he said the African Union’s agreement on peace and development with the European Union and the United Nations lays the foundation for progress.

The Security Council has been contributing to these efforts, he said, pointing to resolutions supporting such African Union strategies as its Silencing the Guns initiative. Responding effectively to challenges hinges on the adoption of a strong strategy. However, access to predictable resources and other related challenges are hindering response efforts. Exclusion is also a key obstacle, he said, underscoring that women and young people must be included in all peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. Innovative approaches have been adopted in this regard, he said, and work is under way to promote solidarity and inclusion.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a member of The Elders and former President of Liberia, said there has never been a time when so many people wanted and needed the previous year to end. Today’s debate must remain faithful to the promise of 2021 and commit to steps forward. Emphasizing that the Council has the power to help end the cycle of conflict, poverty and despair that so many continue to face, she called for more attention to the festering root causes of conflict — even before they erupt. Among other things, she voiced support for local governance responses and for the training of more local women leaders, who can help “put out a smouldering fire before it becomes a major conflagration”.

Spotlighting lessons learned from the long conflict in her native Liberia, she said prevention is always better than cure. “The signs […] of active conflict are usually there, long before any helpful actions are taken,” she said, spotlighting human rights violations, deepening poverty and inequality and the dismantling of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms as red flags. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) helped support the implementation of a final peace agreement, protecting civilians even as armed militias contested election results and carried out sporadic violence.

Today, she said, peacekeepers must also contend with the spread and impacts of COVID-19. While raising concerns about the value of multilateralism, countries are also questioning the efficacy of peacekeeping operations and the cost of running them, often for years at a time. Advocating strongly for United Nations peace operations, she said that, like all things, their architecture must “change with flexibility to respond to challenging circumstances”. She also noted that 2021 marks the seventieth anniversary of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). While praising the agency, she nevertheless declared that “its continued existence is a mark on our collective conscience”. The Security Council must be an active agent of hope for fragile nations that, for too long, have been left behind.

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