Security Council discusses poverty and under-development as root of conflict
The Security Council, which normally deals with country-specific issues of war and peace such as the Middle East or Sudan, today held a day-long, high-level debate on the root causes that fuel conflict in the world, like poverty and under-development.
“Peace, security and development are interdependent,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the start of the session, presided over by Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota of Brazil, this month’s president of the 15-member body, warning that recent events are a “sharp reminder” of the need for political stability to be anchored in opportunity and decent standards of living.
“Evidence abounds. Nine of the 10 countries with the lowest Human Development Indicators have experienced conflict in the last 20 years. Countries facing stark inequality and weak institutions are at increased risk of conflict. Poorly distributed wealth and a lack of sufficient jobs, opportunities and freedoms, particularly for a large youth population, can also increase the risk of instability.”
Mr. Patriota stressed that sustainable peace implies a comprehensive approach to security. “Without economic opportunity, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in and of themselves [of rebel factions, a key plank in peacekeeping operations] will rarely lead to the desired results,” he said. “We can do more and we should do better.”
In proposing the debate on “Interlinkages between Peace, Security and Development,” Brazil made clear that it was not seeking to have the Council take on the specific responsibilities of other principal organs of the United Nations, such as the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on development issues.
“It does, however, imply that the Security Council must take into account social and development issues in its deliberations in order to ensure an effective transition to peace,” it added in a background note, stressing that in some cases socio-economic issues may constitute a threat to international peace and security in their own right.
“Not all peoples suffering from poverty resort to violence, but social, political and economic exclusion can contribute to the eruption or protraction of or relapse into violence and conflict. This seems to be the case in situations as different as those of Haiti or of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),” the note said.
Mr. Patriota called for greater cooperation with ECOSOC and the UN Peacebuilding Commission. In a presidential statement, the Council said “reconstruction, economic revitalization and capacity-building constitute crucial elements for long-term development of post-conflict societies and in generating sustainable peace.”
Both the Council and Mr. Ban stressed the key role that women can play and that they must be included in negotiations, peace processes and economic development.
Outlining areas where more can be done to ensure “truly integrated, mutually reinforcing approaches to security and development,” Mr. Ban cited the need to better manage the process of drawdown and withdrawal of Council-mandated peacekeeping operations and provide more seamless transitions of specific tasks to UN country teams and other development actors.
He also called for finding innovative ways to build and strengthen national institutions in fragile countries and stressed the need to focus more on the climate change-security-development nexus. “Lack of energy and the effects of climate change are having increasingly serious impacts on development and security,” he warned. “We cannot achieve security without securing energy and managing climate risks.”
He noted that drug trafficking and international organized crime have found fertile ground in places that lack basic services and economic opportunities, “leading to fear in the streets and insecurity across entire regions,” and called for urgent consideration of steps to fight organized crime which in some regions “is threatening both development gains and the very fabric of international peace and security.”
In too many places around the world, the proliferation of small arms and ammunition is a standing threat to the security of ordinary people, he added, calling for better strategies to halt their illicit proliferation.
“Just as the lack of development can feed the flames of conflict, economic and social progress can help prevent it and secure peace,” Mr. Ban declared. “Sustained broadly-based development can help to address the roots of conflict, by such steps as ensuring the equitable sharing of wealth, better access to agricultural lands, strengthening governance and justice for all.”
At a summit in September at the start of the General Assembly annual debate, presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers from the 15 Member States held the Council’s first meeting in nearly two decades devoted to updating the tools at its disposal for its ever-expanding role of keeping peace, recognizing the linkages between security and development.
In a presidential statement then, it 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.