As crises become more complex ‘prevention must be at the centre of everything we do’ – UN chief

20 December 2017

Today's conflicts are more complex, longer and intractable, and given their changing nature it is necessary to “rethink our approach to how we work and how we work with others,” Secretary General António Guterres told the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday.

“The perils of nuclear weapons are again front and centre, with tensions higher than they have been since the end of the Cold War,” the Secretary General told an open debate of the Security Council.

At the same time, he outlined threats emanating from the impact of climate change, transnational crime, protracted conflicts, frustration and marginalization fuelled by inequality, as well as the challenges from cyberspace.

“Cybersecurity dangers are escalating, as some of the same advances in technology that have generated so many gains have also made it easier for extremists to communicate, broadcast distorted narratives of grievance, recruit followers and exploit people,” he added.

In his remarks, Mr. Guterres underlined that addressing these challenges requires more coherent, coordinated and context-specific efforts on the part of the international community.

Where women are empowered, societies flourish and peace processes have a better chance of taking holdSecretary-General Guterres

Prevention of conflict also has to be the focus of all initiatives, he noted, stressing: "It avoids tragic human suffering and it even saves money."

Though hard to quantify and typically undertaken far from the media spotlight, "prevention is a sound investment that brings ample, visible dividends."

Moreover, the role of women in peacebuilding is crucial to the success of sustaining peace agenda.

“We also know that gender equality is closely linked with resilience […] where women are empowered, societies flourish and peace processes have a better chance of taking hold,” stressed the UN chief.

In addition, he also noted the need to include preventive diplomacy – efforts to respond promptly to signs of tension and to forge political solutions – in prevention efforts.

Concluding his remarks, Mr. Guterres also called for unity within the Security Council.

“Without [unity], the parties to conflict may take more inflexible and intransigent positions, and the drivers of conflict will push situations to the point of no return, again and again,” he said, adding: “But with unity, we can advance security and well-being for all.”

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