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Security Council debates Annan's proposals for conflict prevention

Security Council debates Annan's proposals for conflict prevention

UN Security Council in session
The need to make preventive action a key part of the international security system in the 21st century was a central theme in the Security Council today as it held an open debate on a set of far-reaching measures put forward by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a recent report on the prevention of armed conflict.

"If this report has one message, it is that we must intensify our efforts to move from a culture of reaction to one of prevention," UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette told the Council this morning at the outset of its debate, in which representatives of more than 30 countries took part. The daylong debate was chaired by Abdus Samad Azad, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of June.

In his report, which was submitted both to the Security Council and the General Assembly, Mr. Annan proposes 10 principles to guide the UN's future approach to conflict prevention. The report notes, in part, that conflict prevention is one of the primary Charter obligations of Member States, and that to be effective it must begin with national governments and local actors. It also points to Chapter VI of the UN Charter, which deals with the peaceful settlement of disputes and provides for mediation, arbitration and negotiation, as containing the most useful measures of prevention.

"To be most effective, preventive action should be initiated as early as possible," Ms. Fréchette said, citing one of the principles put forward by the Secretary-General. "The sooner a dispute or problem which might lead to conflict can be identified and addressed successfully, the less likely it is that it will deteriorate into violent conflict."

She also drew attention to the report's emphasis on the need to focus on the root causes of conflict, to approach prevention in a comprehensive way, and to view conflict prevention and sustainable development as mutually reinforcing, which, in turn, makes a case for looking at UN development activities from a conflict prevention perspective. While noting that the UN was not the only actor in prevention, Ms. Fréchette stressed that effective preventive action by the UN required sustained political will on the part of Member States.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for the Council to consider the establishment of new mechanisms, such as an ad hoc informal working group, a new subsidiary organ, or some other informal technical arrangement for discussing prevention cases. Another idea concerns sending expert fact-finding missions to potential conflict areas in order to work out prevention strategies.

The Deputy Secretary-General expressed hope that the UN system and Member States would work together towards implementing the report's recommendations. While praising the constructive stance that the Council has taken so far, she cautioned that "the time has come to translate the rhetoric of conflict prevention into concrete action."