With some 600 international civil society leaders gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York for a first-ever conference aimed at implementing a global conflict prevention agenda, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for a “new security consensus,” built from the grassroots up, to respond to threats whenever and wherever they appear on the horizon.
“I look to civil society to act as our partners in helping to defuse potential conflicts… you have a vital role to play… by coordinating with bilateral and intergovernmental actors – and with one another,” said Mr. Annan in a message delivered by Special Adviser Stephen Stedman to the Global Conference on the Role of Civil Society in the Prevention of Armed Conflict and Peacebuilding.
The three-day conference comes in response to Mr. Annan’s recommendation in his 2001 report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict “to organize an international conference of local, national and international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) on their role in conflict prevention and future interaction with the United Nations.”
Urging the creation of a sustainable network of individuals and groups – including partnerships with governments and UN agencies – committed to prevention and peacebuilding at global, regional, and national levels, Mr. Annan said that what is lacking in our conflict prevention efforts is full recognition of our increasing interdependence.
“A new security consensus would require us to respond to violent conflicts far more equitably – wherever they erupt,” he said, noting that if peace agreements had been successfully implemented in only two countries, Rwanda and Angola, millions of lives could have been saved.
Pointing out the awful consequences when countries that had emerged from war lapsed back into violence, Mr. Annan said that he hoped the establishment of a UN Peacebuilding Commission – a recommendation he has placed before the General Assembly for action at its World Summit in September – would help to prevent such tragedies in the future.
“As civil society organizations, you have a vital role to play. You are uniquely placed to facilitate local conflict resolution; to mobilize public support for peace settlements; to support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants; to champion human rights; and to build trust to encourage healing and reconciliation,” he said.