By Ramesh Jaura
While a drastic cut in U.S. contributions is hanging like a Damocles’ Sword over the head of the new UN Secretary-General António Guterres, senior Government officials and civil society representatives have stressed the “nexus” between enduring peace and sustainable development, urging the need to raise awareness about such a link beyond the world body’s headquarters in New York.
Goal 16 of the Agenda for Sustainable Development that highlights the importance of the need to “promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies” underlines such an innate bond, they say, but it has escaped wider public and diplomatic attention – one year after the United Nations started implementing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) endorsed by 193 member states in September 2015.
With this in view, the General Assembly organised in a landmark step a two-day high-level dialogue on January 24-25 underscoring the innate link between sustainable development and sustaining peace.
Highlighting the importance of the “security-development nexus”, Yerzhan Ashikbayev, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs said, security challenges around the world were threatening development gains. For its part, Kazakhstan had vowed to concentrate efforts on preventing and putting an end to armed conflict regionally and globally.
However, there remained an “unfortunate lack of trust” between nations, he said, urging the UN to fast-track its mediation efforts. New avenues had recently opened in that regard, including through the Security Council’s widening thematic obligations and closer cooperation between the United Nations various organs.
Spotlighting the lack of resources as a major development challenge, he called on Member States to consider channelling 1 per cent of their defence budgets to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
“Multifaceted challenges require multipronged responses,” he said, noting that efforts to promote Goal 16 on peaceful, just and inclusive societies were particularly relevant in that regard. At the national level, Kazakhstan was working to integrate the Goals into its strategies on the basis of democratic governance, the rule of law and the protection of human rights.
Earlier, addressing the General Assembly for the first time since taking office on January 1, UN Secretary-General Guterres said: “We need a global response that addresses the root causes of conflict and integrates peace, sustainable development and human rights in a holistic way, from conception to execution.”
Inequality remained high around the globe, he said, with the world’s eight richest individuals holding the same wealth as its 3.6 billion poorest. People and entire countries felt they had been left behind, with devastating new conflicts erupting and old ones remaining intractable.
Echoing that sentiment, Sujata Mehta, Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, drew attention to chronic disparities and continued inequality, as well as the emergence of non-traditional challenges such as violent extremism.
Technology continued to shrink the world and the lives of people in distant countries were increasingly intertwined, with economies tied ever closer, pandemics able to spread more easily and terror networks able to strike anywhere.
At the same time, economic growth, inclusive development security and general human well-being were closely linked, she said, so that their enjoyment anywhere in the world had implications elsewhere.
Noting that the link between peace and development underpinned both the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda, she nevertheless said that progress since then had been “less than encouraging”, with pushback from donors in financing those agreements.
“Walking back from commitments made can harm us all,” she warned, calling for a deeper focus on longer-term development. “We live in a global village,” she added, calling on States to commit to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and on the United Nations to back them.
Nigeria’s Anthony Bosah said sustainable development, peace and economic growth must be guaranteed and he urged coordinated efforts in that regard. The 2030 Agenda and the quest for sustainable peace were parts of a unified whole. It was disconcerting that the drivers of violence – some new, others long-standing – had drastic implications for international and regional efforts to support countries in moving beyond conflict.
Welcoming the United Nations efforts to build synergies between the new Agenda and sustainable peace through partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, he said the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had made significant achievements in resolving conflicts.
‘Benchmark in truth-telling’
General Assembly President Peter Thomson of Fiji, an island country in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean, said that the adoption of the sustaining peace resolutions by the Assembly and the Security Council had signalled a new, cross-sectoral, comprehensive and integrated approach to peace and development.
Calling on participants to explore mutually reinforcing ways to sustain peace while delivering on the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, he also urged them to make the dialogue a “benchmark in truth-telling” on the subject.
“Taken in tandem, the 2030 Agenda and the sustaining peace resolutions make it clear that Member States regard sustainable development and sustaining peace as two agendas that stand or fall together,” Thomson said, emphasizing the need to generate unstoppable momentum in implementing the SDGs and to recognize that sustainable peace was both an enabler and an outcome of sustainable development.
Protracted conflict currently affected 17 countries, he said, adding that 2 billion people lived in countries troubled by fragility, conflict and violence. Ninety-five per cent of refugees and internally displaced persons in developing countries had meanwhile been affected by the same 10 conflicts since 1991.
The General Assembly President also emphasized the need for action and reform by the United Nations system under the leadership of the Secretary-General, with the active support and engagement of Member States, and noted that the proceedings of the two days would contribute to preparations for a high-level meeting on peacebuilding and sustaining peace to be convened during the Assembly’s seventy-second session later this year.
2030 Agenda a universal tool
Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and President of the Security Council for January, speaking on behalf of the Council, said she recently attended a meeting of the Arctic Council in Norway at which scientists painted a bleak picture of the Arctic environment.
One of the scientists, asked how he could sleep at night, replied that he preferred to look for “hope spots” where solutions could be discussed, she said, adding that the high-level dialogue could be such a “hope spot”. “In these times of nationalism, polarization and fear, we can send a message of hope that change is possible,” she said.
Referring to the Security Council’s open debate earlier in January on conflict prevention and peacebuilding, she said Member States must consider their will and capacity to act on reports of potential conflict, as well as the tools at their disposal.
The 2030 Agenda was a universal tool that required all countries and people to be involved in peacebuilding and prevention, she said, emphasizing the need for strong institutions and good governance as set out in Goal 16.
She underscored the importance of risk management, root causes, early warning and early action; for the United Nations to strengthen its cooperation with other organizations, including the World Bank; and the role of women in contributing to early warning and alternative conflict prevention measures. Preventing conflict was also economically the smart thing to do, she said, with more effective conflict prevention resulting in less development spending on humanitarian assistance.
Ambassador Macharia Kamu of Kenya, speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, called the SDGs a road map to achieve a more resilient world, and encouraged Member States to grasp the dialogue as a starting point for the Organization to fulfil its promises on the matter. “This meeting will go down in history as a milestone for the work of peace,” he said.
Ry Tuy, Cambodia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, pointed out that his country knew all too well about the cost of conflict, adding that building sustainable peace for all was among its top priorities. As education was central to building peace, Cambodia’s National Strategic Development Plan focused on expanding equal economic opportunities for men and women.
Speakers from the Maldives and Trinidad and Tobago discussed peace and development in the context of climate change, with the former proposing that vulnerable small island developing States be given a seat on the Security Council to ensure that the issue remained on its agenda “while there is still time to act”.
Zamora Rivas, El Salvador’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said peace agreements and political reforms had enabled his country to overcome armed conflict. Despite that significant achievement, however, he said El Salvador needed socioeconomic development for all segments of society, and called upon the Secretary-General to provide the requisite support for that to occur.
Zimbabwe’s Frederick Makamure Shava, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), was among the many speakers highlighting the links between the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, which together had paved the way for a better, more inclusive and sustainable world.
Civil society representative Julienne Lusenge, speaking for the Fund for Congolese Women and the Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development, was among several speakers who shared concrete experiences with such conflict drivers, including the illicit exploitation of natural resources and the resulting unequal distribution of wealth in her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.