SC: Open debate on Conflict Prevention and Sustaining Peace

Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands H.E. Bert Koenders to the Security Council, New York 10 January 2017

Madam President (Minister Wallström), dear Margaret,

First of all, allow me to congratulate Sweden on its membership of the Council. The same goes for the other newly elected members of the Council; Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, and of course Italy.

I am happy to be here together with my colleague H.E. (Angelino) Alfano who already made reference to the Italian-Dutch cooperation in the context of our split term in the Council. I fully support the Italian statement.

Madam Minister, we welcome your initiative to organize this debate.

It comes at a pivotal moment in time. A moment of major geopolitical upheaval and competition, dubbed ‘tipping point’. A moment when history seems to cast doubt over the Charter’s promise of peace – just when it is needed more than ever before. In Syria, Yemen, South- Sudan. And in countries like my own, where people want to see concrete results.

At this moment in time, it is up to us all to lay the groundwork for a reinvigorated multilateralism. A coalition of states from all regions who can effectively re-link effectiveness and legitimacy, and thus enable the UN to be ‘’fit for purpose’’ for this new era again.

This means an organization equipped and ready for action in all stages of the conflict. It also means ‘’Putting Prevention Up Front’’. This is what the entire UN system should develop: a ‘’Prevention Up Front’’ mindset and action mode – and so should we, the member states.

Madam President,

I have previously likened the UN to an orchestra which, at times, sounds shrill and somewhat out of tune. Indeed, we haven’t always been able to play the music the way it was meant in the original score – our Charter.

Why is this so?

Certainly not because the UN is ‘ ’just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time." On the contrary - the professionalism of the UN’s workforce is beyond any doubt. This includes, first and foremost, our new top level conductor – the new secretary-general whose credentials and dedication are beyond any doubt.

Neither is it, because the necessary elements for a perfect performance are not there. On the contrary - the potential of the UN’s unique and rich toolbox, all UN-organisations, funds and programmes combined, working globally and across the entire spectrum of issues (from climate to development, disarmament, peace and security) is enormous.

Together, they can truly perform miracles.  

And they have - on many occasions, the examples are there. Take Liberia - where the UN mission and UN development and peacebuilding organisations work seamlessly together under the strong vision and leadership of the country itself.

But UN organizations do not always coordinate as closely as they should. I did not come here to point fingers – I have seen from my own experience, how complicated it can be. In Ivory Coast and Mali, and elsewhere - we have seen different degrees of success.

We should learn from these cases. The different pillars of the UN system can work better together. Whether there is an imminent crisis to be contained, fragile peace to be sustained, or preventive action has to be taken: for lasting peace, all the UN organizations are needed in concert. When they work together, with one goal in mind: results on the ground, they can each have their own comparative advantage and still deliver as one.

I am glad, therefore, that the new SG has put forward a concrete agenda for the implementation of the “sustaining peace” resolutions. We support him wholeheartedly in his efforts to streamline and de-silo the UN’s peace architecture.

I would like to stress four points here.

First: We are glad to see that the most recent Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) gave the SG the mandate to shake up the development section of the orchestra. This will be vital for the concrete implementation of essential agenda’s set by his predecessor: the Paris Climate deal and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

Because, as Mr. Guterres said, “achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is a key prevention tool”. We could not agree more: the SDG’s are instruments for inclusion, but also instruments of peace - addressing structural weaknesses well before people see no other alternative but violence.

Here also, the silo mentality (between UN Funds and Programs and peace operations in countries where a mission is deployed), is hindering us. It is up to all of us - member states, donors and the SG alike – to hold these parts of the system accountable.

One only criterium remains: results on the ground, per country, for ‘the peoples’!

Second: The proposed strengthening of the Executive Office of the SG as a center for effective strategic conflict analysis and planning is an important step. An empowered core group of UN decision makers across the system will help guide the system as a whole, develop strategies to deal more effectively with imminent crises, and play a coordinating role in the prevention of violent conflict. It could help getting preventive diplomacy back ‘’Up Front’’ – right where it should be.

Third: The former Secretary General’s Action Plan to Prevent Violent Extremism successfully generated national strategies and UN-led capacity building support. The SG’s office catalyzed global efforts to prevent violent extremism – the GCTF is a case in point. We kindly ask our new SG to continue reminding us that Prevention of Violent Extremism is the only truly strategic answer to the horrors of worldwide terrorism.

Fourth: A deadlocked Council does not mean the UN has to be broken-winged. In situations where the UNSC does not act, the SG can still employ his ‘good offices’ and other tools to foster mediation and dialogue between the parties in emerging crises.

This has happened in the past - the often discrete and ‘behind closed doors – efforts’ of the Secretariat made a huge contribution in countries like Nigeria, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Nepal. I believe the new Secretary-General can build on this and continue to play this important role.  

The SG needs our support here - we should strengthen the UN’s Mediation Support Office and the UN’s early warning capacity – also at the local level. The UN’s regional offices have done essential work behind the scenes to preven conflicts. The tireless work of Said Djinnit is a case in point – he prevented a civil war in Guinea-Conakry in 2014-2015.

Madam President,

’Preventive diplomacy up front’, means the UN Security Council should also play its part. It has done so successfully in the past;  the situation in the Gambia is a recent case in point. Here, the Council’s early engagement was helpful. Now, the Council needs to maintain it’s engagement to secure a positive outcome.  

Visits to countries and missions allow the Council to gather first-hand information and support peace processes, mediation and peace-building processes. We welcome the Council’s more frequent use of visits - the recent visit to DRC is a case in point.

A stronger compact is needed between the Security Council and the SG when it comes to preventive diplomacy and sustaining peace. They can combine impact by acting in unison – in joint demarches or consultations, including with regional actors.

More use could also be made of the advice of the Peacebuilding Council – for example by inviting them to brief about a specific situation.

The same goes for the instrument of international contact groups – useful in case a country has been identified as a potential crisis. Supported, if possible, by benign neighboring countries and the relevant regional organization.

And then, lastly, there is deterrence. Much of conflict prevention focusses on ‘’dialogue’’. But prevention is not only about carrots. ‘’Speak softly, but carry a big stick’’ was Theodore Roosevelts advice and indeed: deterrence is part of the toolbox. The Security Council has seldom made use of the most coercive measures to prevent conflict in Africa –we may need bolder action.

Madam President,

Bilaterally, the Netherlands - a long-term supporter of prevention and peacebuilding -  does its share.

-      We are as a top-three donor of the Peace Building Fund and support DPA, whose budget consists for 1/3 of voluntary contributions.

-      We have a privileged funding relation with ‘’the big 5’’ specialized in conflict prevention: Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, International Alert, International Center for Transitional Justice, International Crisis Group and Interpeace.

-      With yearly investments up to 10 million, preventing violent extremism worldwide will remain a structural priority until 2020.  

-      We recently announced the first 1 milion US dollar contribution to the Syria accountability mechanism, adopted on 22 December. Because: there can be no durable peace without justice.

-      More generally, we are the 8th donor of the UN system as a whole, contributing one billion US dollars to the UNs developmental activities. Development as an important prerequisite for peace.

Why this list?

Because it is important to put our money where our mouth is. ‘’Putting Prevention Up Front’’ also means: funding adequately for it. Bilaterally, but also multilaterally.

We need to get serious here; this most essential task of the UN now still predominantly relies on voluntary contributions. Prevention should get a larger share of the fixed budget. My country is pushing for that in the General Assembly. We need all of your support.

Madam President, in closing,

Let me assure you of our continued support in implementing your agenda for prevention.

In today’s volatile world, our global orchestra is not short of tour dates. We should better be prepared to play the full symphony together, and start rehearsing for the true sound of lasting peace – in concert.

We will only get there, if we all start putting ‘’Prevention Up Front’’.

The Netherlands stands ready to do its part.  

Thank you.