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Conflict prevention successful only if root causes are also addressed: Annan

Conflict prevention successful only if root causes are also addressed: Annan

Highlighting the United Nations determination to focus more on preventive action against war and conflict, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said that such policies would only succeed if the root causes were addressed as well, and not just by governments but also by civil society and the private sector.

“There is no cause more central to the work of the United Nations, no mission whose success is more important to fulfilling the vision of our Charter,” the Secretary-General said, according to the prepared remarks of his address this evening to the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Mr. Annan noted that the speech had originally been scheduled to take place last September 11, a date that, in a very real though indirect way, marked a failure of prevention. "There is a clear, if complicated, trail from the absence of engagement with Afghanistan in the 1990s to the creation of a terrorist haven there to the attacks on the World Trade Center," he said. "Today - it is surely beyond question that ignoring or neglecting prevention is a recipe for disaster."

Since becoming Secretary-General, Mr. Annan pointed out, he has made great efforts to focus the attention of Member States on the importance of preventing armed conflict, calling for the UN to move "from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention."

He noted various measures the UN has taken in that regard, including Security Council visits to areas of potential armed conflict, the increased use of UN confidence-building missions, and the development of UN regional prevention strategies that deal with the root causes of conflicts. However, whether these kinds of practices were implemented depended on the political will of countries and on having adequate resources "for the complex tasks prevention entails."

The Secretary-General also stressed that it was essential to understand that "draining the swamp" of terrorism required more than attacking its sources of funding and support; instead, it needed to address those grievances which terrorists find useful to exploit for their own ends.

Cultivating a "real sense" of international community, long-term investment, and taking a comprehensive approach to political, developmental, humanitarian, human rights programmes, could all go a long way towards preventing deadly conflicts, Mr. Annan said.

"Where massive and systematic political, economic and social inequalities are found, and where no legitimate means of addressing them exist, an environment is created in which peaceful solutions all too often lose out against extreme and violent alternatives," he said.