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Delivering the UN sustaining peace agenda

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ODI, briefing, UN, sustaining peace agendaThere is hope that a positive shift is emerging in how armed conflict and violence are tackled.

Conflict is fuelled by an array of overlapping factors, including violent extremism, weak governance, the dominance of some groups and the suppression or exclusion of others, socio-economic inequalities, environmental degradation and competition over resources and the proliferation of arms.

The impacts on civilians are devastating, with millions killed and injured.

Over 65 million people were forcibly displaced in 2016 alone.

A briefing note pubished recently, with the title ‘Delivering the UN ‘sustaining peace’ agenda : Four areas for action by Member States’, written by Victoria Metcalfe-Hough, Alastair McKechnie and Sara Pantuliano, sets out proposals for UN Member States to consider to ensure that the UN system is fit for the purpose of sustaining peace.

The authors are with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a UK-based independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues.

Their key messages are that:

Preventing conflict and achieving lasting peace as enshrined in the UN Charter is a fundamental responsibility of the UN’s Member States.

The UN system’s agencies, funds and programmes and Secretariat can play a catalytic role in sustaining peace but they need greater political, financial and operational support from Member States.

Member States should support the UN to deliver the sustaining peace agenda in four critical areas:

Ensuring stronger mutual accountability for the implementation of the sustaining peace agenda;

Enabling appropriate operational autonomy for the UN system to deliver its activities and programmes aimed at sustaining peace;

Ensuring that UN capacities and resources are adequate to the task of sustaining peace; and

Affording the UN system the political support and ‘space’ that it needs in order to act effectively.

The UN system must push through with its proposed reforms of cultures, structures and processes in order to give Member States the confidence to make smarter investments.

But above all, Member States must take the necessary diplomatic action to stop crises from escalating, bring parties back from the brink of violence and set them on the path to peace.

Despite repeated emphasis on the importance of protecting ‘succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ as outlined in the UN Charter, and despite the significant work that has been done in responding to armed conflict, Member States and the UN system collectively are failing to deliver on the Charter’s core peace and security goal.

Recognising the urgent need for a transformed UN system, momentum for major reforms is building internally across the UN, spearheaded by the Secretary-General.

These include streamlining fragmented and inefficient administrative systems; shifting inward-looking working cultures towards more collaborative and complementary approaches to harness the diversity of UN capacities and instituting system-wide approaches to the prevention of armed conflict; increasing investment in back-office processes and systems to enable easier pooling and sharing of technical knowledge and expertise across UN entities; and working more constructively with national and local partners.

These reforms of culture, structures and processes are essential to give Member States the confidence to make the necessary smarter investments in the UN system.

Having created this convoluted and confusing system, Member States – as donors, recipients or third parties – must now get behind the Secretary-General and his vision of reform, providing the support required to consolidate these efforts and giving the UN system the political, financial and operational backing it needs to fulfil its mandate.

The momentum building around the sustaining peace agenda – inside the UN system and among Member States as they meet at this year’s UN General Assembly – gives hope that a shift is emerging in how armed conflict and violence are tackled.

Enabling the UN system to meet its responsibilities for sustaining peace requires all the actions outlined here.

Above all, it means Member States taking the necessary diplomatic steps to stop crises from escalating into armed conflict, bring parties back from the brink of violence and set them on the path to peace.

In doing so, Member States will provide the political space for the UN system to deliver the peace, security, development and human rights its mandate requires.

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