Ban stresses financial as well as human benefits of avoiding armed conflicts

Ban stresses financial as well as human benefits of avoiding armed conflicts

Preventing or resolving armed conflicts through political solutions and negotiations provides vital economic benefits to go with avoiding the enormous human costs extracted by war, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a gathering of Islamic scholars today.

In a message to the Third International Conference of Islamic Scholars, held in Jakarta, Mr. Ban stressed the need for the United Nations to work ever more closely with Member States, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others to try to prevent conflicts from emerging or continuing.

“Ultimately, conflicts can be resolved only through political solutions,” he said in the message. “If the UN is unable to foster lasting political solutions, it will be left with humanitarian emergencies and peacekeeping without end. And these solutions need to have the support not only of the warring parties but of the region and the big powers.”

Mr. Ban cited a recent report indicating a 40 per cent drop in the number of armed conflicts worldwide since 1992, attributed largely to an increase in UN efforts in peacekeeping, peacebuilding and conflict prevention. A separate study by the RAND Corporation found the UN is far more cost-effective at nation-building than individual governments.

“Although the annual peacekeeping budget has climbed steadily, now at approximately $5 billion, it is still dwarfed by the approximately trillion dollars spent annually on military expenditures and the arms trade. And that does not begin to take into account the massive human costs of war.”

The Secretary-General noted that the prevention of conflicts is an even more cost-effective process than peacekeeping. As an example, the mediation role played by former secretary-general Kofi Annan in Kenya earlier this year, which led to the end of that country’s deadly inter-ethnic political clashes, cost $208,000.

In a separate message to the ministerial meeting of the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations (NAM) in Tehran, Mr. Ban pledged to “marshal the forces” of the UN behind efforts to solve three current global crises – relating to development, food and climate.

“These three crises are not isolated problems,” he said in the message, delivered on his behalf by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva. “They are inter-related, affect both rich and poor, and require all of us to do our part.”