The way forward for the UN: we need to focus more on peace and stability

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Women carrying placards ask for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the Secretary General's visit. Photo: Eskinder Debebe/UN Photos

How the international community, including the United Nations, approaches development may be about to change. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets that mark major development milestones, are set to expire and a next generation of goals will take their place. However, what these new goals, commonly referred to as the Sustainable Development Goals, will entail is still up for debate.

Member States at the United Nations will have ample opportunity to build and then agree upon a new framework for the development agenda. One important part of the process will be the President of the General Assembly's Thematic Debate on Ensuring Peaceful Societies on 24-25 April. This debate offers governments around the world the opportunity to understand why peace and security should be at the centre of the agenda and a separate goal of its own right.

Without peace there can be no secure basis for development. It is well known that countries affected by conflict are also affected by poverty and have so far failed to achieve most -- if any -- of the MDGs. According to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation's 2014 Report on Fragile States, countries affected by conflict account for one-third of the world's population living below $ 1.25 per day.

Despite relying heavily on foreign aid, recent estimates show that for many of the most fragile countries, foreign aid decreased by 2.4 percent in 2011 and is expected to shrink further in the coming years. While the majority of the extremely poor in our world will be concentrated in these states by 2018, those who are most in need of aid are now also losing out the most.

By promoting peaceful and stable societies we not only ensure a basis for economic development, but also address the drivers of conflict itself and can prevent countries from relapsing repeatedly into violence. In an increasingly globalized world, the impact of countries affected by conflict has a greater reach than in the past. Conflicts create waves of refugees that spill across borders and destabilize neighboring regions.

In Syria, for instance, millions of refugees have sought refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and are threatening to deplete already scant resources and upset the precarious balance of the entire region. Conflicts also disrupt international trade and create economic difficulties for nations around the globe. Another example is the conflict in Ukraine, where global oil and gas prices have already begun to rise and countries in Europe have begun to experience lower levels of gas distribution.

Through the discussion surrounding the future generation of the Millennium Development Goals after 2015, the United Nations Development Programme is proposing a shift in the way we approach development. Through international support, we can ensure that world populations live free from the fear of violence, and can develop in a way that is truly sustainable for future generations.