Presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers gathered today at the Security Council, the primary United Nations body responsible for keeping the world at peace, for its first meeting in nearly two decades devoted to updating the tools at its disposal for its ever-expanding role.
Chaired by President Abdullah Gül of Turkey, which holds this month’s presidency of the 15-member body, the session was called “to conduct a strategic review, at the highest political level, of the evolving international security environment and of the Council’s growing role in the maintenance of international peace and security.”
The core threat that the UN was created to prevent 65 years ago, war between States, has been largely overtaken by regional and global security threats of unprecedented complexity, including intra-State armed conflicts with regional dimensions, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and trans-national organized crime.
Moreover, growing recognition of the linkages between security and development has given new prominence to the impact of poverty, global economic crisis, infectious diseases and environmental degradation on the security environment, demanding a strengthened UN and a renewed commitment to effective multilateral cooperation through the Council.
In a presidential statement, the Council reaffirmed “that international peace and security now requires a more comprehensive and concerted approach,” underlined the need to address root causes of conflicts, noting that development, peace and security and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing, stressed the importance of preventive diplomacy and reiterated its commitment to strengthening its partnership with regional organizations.
It is customary for the Council to meet at the highest level each year on the opening day of the General Assembly’s annual General Debate, when scores of heads of State and government are in New York. But this was only the first session since January 1992 focused on re-energizing the whole process by providing a comprehensive and integrated political framework and restoring confidence in the UN’s ability to prevent and resolve conflicts.
Addressing the Council, whose decisions are legally binding, while those of the 192-member General Assembly are advisory, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cited four critical areas, beginning with the need to move beyond the idea of a clear-cut sequence of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
“These tools should be deployed in integrated fashion, not kept in separate silos,” he said. “Conflict seldom follows a tidy path. We must continue to evolve, toward a faster and more flexible architecture of response that allows us to customize our assistance to the real and immediate needs on the ground.”
“Second, there is no quick fix for broken societies, which demands patience, resources and a long-term commitment. Third, greater coherence must be achieved among the many pieces of the UN system that make up the peacebuilding picture. Fourth, we must expand our work on prevention, in particular to improve our ability to read the warning signs and trigger early action,” he said.
The Council presidency noted that the body must play a stronger and more comprehensive role in addressing all challenges to international peace and security, not confining itself only to peacekeeping, but paying even more attention to preventive diplomacy and peacebuilding, and doing so in a coherent manner.