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General Assembly opens debate on preventing armed conflict

General Assembly opens debate on preventing armed conflict

Noting that conflict prevention is a “moral imperative” and a “political necessity for the credibility of international cooperation, in particular the United Nations,” the president of the UN General Assembly today opened debate on Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s recent report on preventing armed conflict around the world.

“What a qualitative difference we could have in the United Nations if we moved the focus from the late stages of conflict to the early stages, if we were to spend more time on smoke detection rather than taking care of the house that has already burned down,” said Assembly President Jan Eliasson.

In a statement read by Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown, Mr. Annan noted that one of his consistent objectives has been to move the UN from a culture of reaction to one of prevention. One of the main findings of his latest report was that such a culture was indeed beginning to take hold.

“Indeed, in many parts of the world we are working to resolve disputes peacefully,” Mr. Annan said, drawing attention to his latest mission aimed at preventing further armed conflict in the Middle East and apologizing for not being able to attend today’s debate.

Issued five years after the Secretary-General’s first comprehensive report on the prevention of armed conflict, this latest report responds to resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council.

The 54-page document outlines a three-pronged approach to preventing armed conflict: targeting the sources of tension within and between societies, States and regions; reinforcing the norms and institutions for peace; and strengthening the mechanisms that can resolve disputes between countries.

The report stresses the importance of addressing global risk factors that transcend individual nations, including environmental issues, corruption, youth unemployment, HIV/AIDS, and the trade of illicit weapons and drugs.

The report further emphasizes the importance of equipping Member States to manage their own problems by helping them build “national infrastructures for peace”, including constitutions, credible elections and democratic governance.

In his own remarks to the Assembly, Mr. Malloch Brown zeroed in on the report’s proposal that an amount equivalent to 2 per cent of the annual peacekeeping budget be dedicated to conflict prevention activities.

“Too often we spend vast sums of money to fight fires that, in hindsight, we might more easily have extinguished with timely preventive action,” the Deputy Secretary-General said.

At the end of today’s session, the Assembly decided to continue its consideration of the report and its recommendations at the body’s 61st session, which begins next week.