Peace and security through preventive diplomacy: a common objective to all the principal organs of the United Nations Letter dated 19 October 2021 from the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (S/2021/888)
Speakers Call for Greater Coordination between United Nations Principal Organs
The Security Council, through a presidential statement today, highlighted the importance of preventive diplomacy, while reaffirming its commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and underscoring its primary responsibility to the maintenance of international peace and security.
By the text (document S/PRST/2021/23), presented by Mexico, Council President for November, the 15‑member organ recalled its previous relevant resolutions and presidential statements addressing issues of preventive diplomacy, prevention of armed conflict, peacebuilding and sustaining peace, as well as mediation and the peaceful settlement of disputes. The Council also reaffirmed its commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, including its purposes and principles, and the primary responsibility of the Security Council under the Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The Council, among other things, recognized that the principal organs of the United Nations have the responsibility, within their own mandates, to contribute to the realization of the purposes established in Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations. It also reaffirmed the central role of the United Nations, as well as its commitment to strengthening coordination within the United Nations system. It reiterated its commitment to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace and emphasized importance of a comprehensive approach to sustaining peace, particularly through the prevention of conflict and addressing its root causes, strengthening the rule of law at the international and national levels.
United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres, addressing the Council, pointed out that preventive diplomacy efforts do not always get the attention they deserve, partly because it is hard to measure when such efforts succeed. “We have war correspondents, not peace correspondents,” he observed, adding that the agenda of prevention was the original aim of the United Nations, which was formed after the Second World War. For the past 76 years, the United Nations system has given the world a home for dialogue, and tools and mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of disputes.
He drew attention to his first and second mandates as Secretary‑General, in which he called for a surge in diplomacy for peace to ensure that political solutions remain the first and primary option to settle disputes. Preventing conflict entails a review of all the tools that comprise the Organization’s peace architecture, as well as “connecting the dots” among the drivers of conflict, including poverty, inequalities, and climate change. “It is about reversing the vicious cycle of conflict and division — and instead, setting in motion a virtuous cycle of development and peace,” he stressed.
Highlighting work by the United Nations, he noted that the Organization has supported preparation for and ensured peaceful elections in Madagascar, Malawi and Zambia. In Somalia, it has helped prevent the escalation of tensions in the midst of a fraught election and it is working with transitional authorities in Libya to ensure the ceasefire holds in the leadup to next month’s elections. He urged Council members to support such efforts, adding: “Prevention is not a political tool, but a realistic path towards peace.”
Abdulla Shahid, President of the General Assembly, also briefed the Council, stressing that, in addition to humanitarian relief, the international community must support preventive measures to build resilience and strengthen sustainable development. Preventive diplomacy measures now include the development of early warning systems and targeted funding mechanisms for rapid response and the ongoing use of special envoys, among others. While spotlighting the critical importance of peacekeeping operations, he pointed out that sustaining peace goes beyond traditional military peacekeeping, to encompass strengthening capacities, institutions and democratic integrity.
Collen Kelapile, President of the Economic and Social Council, called for strengthened coordination between his body and the Security Council, adding that the two organs could build on previous collaboration in the early 2000s. He also suggested the holding of regular joint meetings of a composite committee of the “bureaux” of the Economic and Social Council, the Peacebuilding Commission and a “troika” of Security Council Presidents of the current, prior and next month. Such meetings could serve to mobilize political will, international solidarity and could be the medium through which to discuss integrated strategies and targeted policy interventions that support conflict prevention. Joining forces on global crises will show the public that Member States can put aside their differences for the greater good, he said.
Joan E. Donoghue, President of the International Court of Justice, called on States that have not yet done so to consider accepting the Court’s jurisdiction. She pointed out that the principal organs of the United Nations can be, and have been, involved in other ways in the process that leads to contentious cases being submitted to the Court, adding that the Security Council may recommend that States involved in a legal dispute endangering international peace and security refer the same to the Court. In many cases, two States — acting individually or in concert — can give effect to a judgment without the involvement of third parties. However, in some circumstances, outside actors within the United Nations framework and beyond can assist the two States in moving forward from a situation of conflict to a situation where a dispute has been resolved.
In the ensuing debate, in which representatives of nearly 50 Member States participated, speakers underscored the need to foster better coordination and complementarity between the principal organs of the United Nations, and to focus consistently — not sporadically — on preventive diplomacy, through mediation and addressing root causes. A number of speakers emphasized the need for the Council to view human rights violations as a warning sign of impending threats to peace and stability, with several delegates taking issue with the veto power in cases of atrocity crimes and endorsing efforts to curb it.
The representative of Liechtenstein was among those emphasizing the need to address the veto power, which constrained the Council’s ability to uphold the mandate supplied by Article 1 of the Charter. “Political disagreement concerning the fundamentals runs deep and the blocking power of the veto often looms large,” he observed. However, as the Organization’s central deliberative and decision-making body, the General Assembly has shown in recent years, most notably with situations in Myanmar and Syria, that where the Council cannot fulfil its role, the Assembly can step in.
Ireland’s representative underlined the role of the International Court of Justice in preventing conflict, adding that the Council should consider, where appropriate, the possibility of seeking the Court’s input in the form of advisory opinions. Further, the Council should focus on human rights, which constitute a peace and security issue. Such violations of such rights are the harbingers of conflict to come. As well, the issues of food insecurity, poverty, gender inequality and climate change can also become precursors to conflict. Therefore, humanitarian, development and peace support actors must work in a coordinated manner.
The representative of China, however, warned that, while early warning mechanisms can enable immediate action to be taken, they must not lead to overreaction. Moreover, preventive measures must follow the basic norms of international relations such as respect for sovereignty and non-interference, he stressed, cautioning that arbitrarily interfering in a Government’s internal affairs could lead to further conflict.
The representative of Albania noted that, while the biggest return in conflict prevention comes in lives saved, the World Bank has also calculated that the average cost of civil war is equivalent to more than 30 years of gross domestic product (GDP) growth for a medium sized developing country. Thus, the Council needs to address emerging threats with greater alacrity, pointing out that it took several months to have an open meeting on the conflict in Ethiopia, where every horrible and reprehensible act on the book has been taking place. As an incoming member of the Council, Albania will work to increase the number of regular briefings by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as civil society representatives, he said.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Mexico, Tunisia, United Kingdom, India, United States, Niger, Viet Nam, Russian Federation, Kenya, Estonia, France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Norway, Finland, Japan, Iran, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Malta, Peru, Pakistan, India, Croatia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovakia, Nepal, Malaysia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Turkey, Belgium, Qatar, Argentina, Germany, Azerbaijan, Albania, Ukraine, Poland, Morocco, Portugal, Armenia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m., suspended at 1:10 p.m., resumed at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 5:16 p.m.