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From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Mon Jun 18 07:13:59 2001
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 14:41:21 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk - needs pnadmin shell because run by cron <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: POLITICS: UN Lays Out New Strategy to Prevent Conflicts
Article: 121147
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

UN Lays Out New Strategy to Prevent Conflicts

By Thalif Deen, IPS, 16 June 2001

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 15 (IPS) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has admitted that the United Nations is incapable - at least single handedly - of preventing global conflicts from breaking out.

A successful preventive strategy, he argued, depends upon the cooperation of several UN actors including the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and UN field agencies.

The United Nations is not the only actor in prevention, and may often not be the actor best suited to take the lead, he said in a 30-page report released Friday - even as Annan appealed for peace in the Middle East and the Security Council extended the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid warnings that conflict there could spill over into neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi.

Annan said that civil society and the Bretton Woods institutions, namely the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), also have very important roles to play in preventing wars.

Entitled 'The Prevention of Armed Conflict,' the report said the time has come to translate the rhetoric of conflict prevention into concrete action.

It called on donor countries to provide additional resources to strengthen the UN's development agencies so that they could respond effectively to member states' requests for assistance in strengthening their conflict prevention infrastructure.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has embarked on several conflict prevention projects, including the collection of small arms in Mali, El Salvador and Albania, and special development projects in post-conflict Cambodia and Guatemala.

Annan said that development assistance provided by the UN system needs to focus on decreasing key structural risk factors that fuel violent conflict - such as inequality, injustice, and insecurity.

Some of the new UNDP projects address disparities among identity groups; policies and practices that institutionalise discrimination; and efforts to promote the rule of law.

Experience has demonstrated that equitable and sustainable development plays an important role in averting armed conflict, Annan said. Although poverty by itself is not a root cause of violent conflict, the fact is that some of the poorest societies are either on the precipice or embroiled in armed conflict.

Progress in eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, and ensuring justice and human security - a term that encapsulates safety from physical and economic violence - would greatly contribute to conflict prevention in the long term, he noted.

Introducing the report, Assistant Secretary-General Danilo Turk told reporters that the United Nations had a record of both success and failure in preventing conflicts.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda was clearly a failure because the United Nations couldn't prevent the killings despite advance warning. So was the two-year-old Ethiopian-Eritrean border war, which was preventable and unncessary, he said. That war ended last month as a result of mediation by the Organisation of African Unity.

In 1997, however, the United Nations successfully intervened to prevent a bloodbath in Albania when heavily armed civilian forces took over defence of the country from the military.

The United Nations and its development agencies instituted an arms buy-back programme, retrieving weapons from civilians and giving the military its rightful place.

In August 1998, Turk said, the killings of several Iranian diplomats in Afghanistan created a militarily tense situation along the border. A conflict between the two neighbours was averted only with UN intervention.

At a more practical level, Annan urged member states to resort to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to settle their disputes in a peaceful manner.

I urge member states to accept the general jurisdiction of the Court. But when domestic structures prevent this, states should agree bilaterally and multilaterally to a comprehensive list of matters they are willing to present to the Court, he said.

He added that another important issue for the whole UN membership to consider is how to enhance the role of the 189-member General Assembly in the area of conflict prevention.

Only the 15-member Security Council has the power to wage wars and negotiate peace, although many of its deliberations concern countries not represented on the Council. Annan's report called for monthly meetings between the presidents of the Council and General Assembly.

A 1997 study by the US-based Carnegie Commission estimated that the international community spent about 200 billion dollars on seven major interventions in the 1990s: in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, the Persian Gulf, Cambodia and El Salvador. Kosovo and East Timor were not counted.

The study calculated the cost differentials between these conflict management activities and potential prevention measures, and concluded that a preventive approach would have saved the international community almost 130 billion dollars.

Annan, in a statement, said: Perhaps the most pitiful lesson of the past decade has been that the prevention of violent conflict is far better and more cost-effective than cure.