Sustaining peace is understood as a goal and a process to building a common vision of a society, ensuring that the needs of all segments of the population are taken into account. In a dual resolution on the UN peacebuilding architecture adopted on 27 April 2016, the Security Council (2282) and the General Assembly (70/262) defined sustaining peace as including “activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict, addressing root causes, assisting parties to conflict to end hostilities, ensuring national reconciliation and moving toward recovery, reconstruction and development”.
Sustaining peace is first a political process, and it requires an integrated and crosscutting approach of the three UN pillars: peace and security, development and human rights. By recognizing that sustainable peace can only be achieved when all segment of society are included, the UN has placed this concept into the orbit of the 2030 Agenda and its ultimate goal to leave no one behind.
On 24 January 2017, the President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, who has had himself a lifelong involvement in the field of development, convened a high-level dialogue on “Building Sustainable Peace for All. Synergies between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustaining Peace Agenda”. It was a good opportunity to emphasize the shared responsibility of UN agencies, governments, civil society and the global community to building sustainable peace through sustainable development.
On that occasion, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted that we are dealing with serious failures in development and remarked that the wealth of the eight richest men is equal to that of the 3.6 billion poorest people in the world together. He also identified two main challenges to the topic in discussion: “First, education is a prerequisite for both peace and economic development. Second, youth unemployment deprives millions of young people of the opportunity to fulfil their potential, and plays a part in violent conflict and the rise of global terrorism.”
Two weeks ago, in his first formal statement to the Security Council, Antonio Guterres urged member states to interconnect efforts for peace and security, sustainable development and human rights “not just in words, but in practice”. And he added: “The priority of everything we do together is preventing conflict and sustaining peace… The United Nations was established to prevent war by binding us in a rule-based international order. Today, that order is under grave threat.”
Indeed, we need to restore trust in our global order and show those millions left behind in conflicts, in chronic need and in constant fear, the solidarity they deserve and expect from us. We witness volatility of borders, disintegration of states, trafficking in persons and natural resources that finance terrorist groups, appalling violations of human rights and of the international humanitarian law. In many cases, lack of solid institutions, corruption and mismanagement of public funds made states vulnerable to conflict and instability.
The UN matters as the only global institution dedicated to finding solutions to global challenges, and therefore the UN may become the cradle for creative efforts that generate synergies between peace and development. But sustainable peace and sustainable development cannot be achieved without addressing the root causes of conflict and instability. Preventing conflicts is considerably less expensive than responding. It is also less divisive in the international community, including in the Security Council, than finding solutions after the outbreak of crisis.
The UN has at its disposal an impressive array of tools for conflict prevention and sustaining peace, particularly the Sustainable Development Goal 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), but the entire 2030 Agenda is generous in this respect. In 2017, several other high level events devoted to peace and development are scheduled: the Multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation for the SDGs, the UN Forum on forest and the Forum on financing for development, the UN Conference to the support the implementation of the SDG 14 (on Oceans), the High-Level political forum on sustainable development, and the High-Level meeting of the General Assembly on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
At the same time, locally developed solutions to conflict play an unprecedented role in the modern era and, as the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom remarked during the debate on 24 January: “Peace building must be nationally owned and inclusive”. From this perspective, Romania is a net contributor to UN efforts. We have invested in preventive diplomacy, peace building and development in different parts of the world, and devoted our ODA resources to capacity building of public institutions, election assistance, public order, anti-corruption, youth and education, providing training courses for diplomats, and co-financing projects for institutional capacity in Afghanistan and in countries from Middle East, Africa and Asia. Tens of thousands of students from these regions have been trained in Romanian universities, while Romanian experts have worked in those respective countries to projects ranging from industry to energy and transport infrastructure, thus contributing to their development.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres also remarked that “the cost of inaction is simply too high”, and suggested member states to make 2017 “a year for peace”. When he took over the job as President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson committed that the 71st UN session will focus on the implementation of 2030 Agenda. It is now in the member states’ hands to follow this path and make 2017 a year both for peace and development, “not just in words, but in practice”.
*Ambassador Ion Jinga is the Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York