Development can help nations consolidate peace, top UN officials say

19 July 2010

Fostering economic development in countries emerging from conflict can only help to promote political and social stability, senior United Nations officials underlined today, stressing the strong ties between poverty eradication and security.

“The devastating effects of conflict on development are evident,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told a forum at UN Headquarters in New York hosted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC).

“It is not surprising that the majority of countries lagging furthest behind in achieving the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] are countries emerging from conflict,” she added, referring to the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline that have been agreed upon by world leaders.

Ms. Migiro noted that reaching a particular development objective could lead to tackling inequalities that trigger conflicts.

“In such cases, shouldn’t national peacebuilding strategies give greater prominence to the MDGs?” she asked.

More than half of the 34 countries farthest away from reaching the MDGs are either in the midst of or are emerging from conflict, Hamidon Ali, President of ECOSOC, said at the same event.

“Armed conflict can erase many years of development gains and very often the social and physical infrastructure needed for economic and social development is destroyed,” he stressed.

Maternal mortality rates in countries affected by violence is typically very high, while infant and child mortality rates also increase during conflict and very low life expectancy rates persist years after the end of fighting.

“However, the good news is that many countries are moving forward, including some of the poorest, which demonstrates that the MDGs are achievable when appropriate policies, prudent planning, good governance and adequate resources are underpinned by political commitment,” Mr. Ali said.

Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, the chair of the PBC, told the forum that there was an obvious interdependence between the MDGs and peacebuilding.

“Many of the areas most commonly identified as peacebuilding priorities by post-conflict governments are a crucial foundation for progress towards the MDGs,” he said. “As well as the issues of safety and security, there are others like restoring core government functions at the national and subnational levels; supporting economic revitalization and creating employment for young people and former combatants; and rehabilitation of basic infrastructure.”

Today’s event included a panel discussion, bringing together UN and government officials, as well as academics.

In September, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will convene a high-level summit in New York at which world leaders will gather to push for further progress on the Goals.

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