Helen Clark: At the annual workshop for newly-elected members of the UN Security Council

Nov 17, 2011

Statement by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
At the annual workshop for newly-elected members of the UN Security Council

My thanks go to the Permanent Mission of Finland for inviting me to address this annual workshop, which welcomes new members to the Security Council and farewells outgoing members.

The theme of the workshop, “Hitting the ground running” is highly relevant. Our world is beset by crises with a security dimension. New members have to come up to speed with the Council’s working methods and procedures quickly. Permanent members, and others serving mid-term, know that there is little down time for Council members.

I come tonight as UNDP Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group. Every country on the Council’s agenda has a UN Country Team comprised of the UN’s funds, programmes and specialized agencies. It is a rare event for our development organizations to be asked to address the Council – yet the degree to which development is supported and can succeed will have a significant impact on how great the Council’s workload is.

For, beneath many crises to which the Council is challenged to respond are development deficits – not least in poor governance and institutions which cannot deliver to people, or which deliver to only some of the people, and whose legitimacy is questioned.

Inclusive governance and inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development are critical for the maintenance of peace and security.

Thus investment in development is the best investment which can be made in the prevention of conflict. Recognition that this is so is apparent in the advocacy now being mounted for official development assistance, even in times of considerable pressures on national budgets.

I applaud the sentiment expressed by the Prime Minister of The United Kingdom earlier this week, when he said: “Isn’t it better to help stop countries disintegrating – rather than end up dealing with the consequences…? Aid can help us avoid crises before they explode into violence, requiring immense military spending.”

Indeed, well targeted development assistance, including for conflict prevention, as well as for the broader aspects of inclusive and sustainable growth and democratic governance can do just that.

This justifies broadening our vision of peace and security beyond a series of responses to violent conflict though peacekeeping and the peacebuilding which follows it. That approach puts the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Parking it at the top requires us to link more consciously the three pillars of the UN’s work: peace and security, development, and human rights.

This year the eyes of the world have been on the uprisings in the Arab States region – in countries which for the most part were hitherto considered stable.

Yet the factors underlying the uprisings were well documented – not least over the previous decade by UNDP’s Arab Human Development Reports. Beginning in 2002, this series of reports told of deprivation, exclusion, inequality, unemployment, injustice, insecurity, lack of basic freedoms, and skewed distribution of resources.

Had these development shortfalls been recognized for what they were and addressed, much violent conflict and many deaths could surely have been avoided. If similar warning signs are unheeded elsewhere, the opportunity for peaceful and orderly transitions will also be missed at the potential high cost of human life.

The development arm of the UN is always ready to share with the Security Council our analyses of critical development gaps which, if not addressed, will pose risks to peace and security. Our role as frontline actors in countries without UN missions mandated by the Security Council, yet with considerable challenges to their stability, is vital for conflict prevention.

The UN development system’s role needs to be firmly on the Security Council’s radar system when a mandate for a UN peacekeeping or political mission is under consideration.

As I’ve already noted, in every such case, a UN Country Team of funds, programmes and agencies will already be present in a country in crisis. It will have been there before the crisis reached a critical stage; it will have sustained a presence during the bleakest hours, and it will still be there long after the mission mandated by the Security Council has gone home.

Thus, when mandates for missions are being considered, it is critical to take into account what capacities the UN Country Team already has, and which of them can be scaled up with extra support, before determining the scope of a mission and the capacities it requires. That will help reduce the potential for duplication of work, and for the unsustainability of support after a mission funded by assessed contributions leaves a country.

A lot of work has been done within the UN system to implement the Secretary-General’s 2008 decision on integration of our efforts.

There is guidance on pre-mission assessment and planning, on integrated strategic planning in mission settings, and on joint programming.

Along the way, some lessons have been learned, including the following:

  • Integration and co-ordination in conflict and post-conflict settings are challenging, and take concerted effort and dedication from the wide range of UN actors.


  • Effective field-level UN leadership is central to the success of integration and co-ordination – it does not happen by chance. 
  • Without a clear understanding of and respect for the roles and responsibilities of UNCT members, and the way in which they relate to mission mandates, coherence will not be attained. 


  • National ownership must be respected and supported for sustainable results to be attained. 
  • No amount of written guidance can compensate for the reluctance or inability of people to work together.


Another area requiring attention is how to facilitate smooth transitions from mission to non-mission settings.


I understand that a number of field-based UN missions are likely to draw down over the next twelve to twenty-four months. There will thus be a transition to regular UN Country Team co-ordination of UN system activity and much less funding for that activity.

As events in Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent times have shown, some drawdowns, depending on the wishes of national authorities, will not always follow the schedules and plans of the Council and lead UN Departments.  

Even where mission drawdowns occur as scheduled, they can be fraught with technical and resource challenges for the UN Country Teams, whose role it becomes to carry forward  critical recovery work streams considered essential in the post-mission phase. 

It would be most helpful for the Council to consider how these transitions could be streamlined and better resourced to enable continuity and to support the work of UN Country Teams.   Failure to manage and resource transitions adequately could set the stage for setbacks in the countries concerned.  

In the UN development system, we know that we must act decisively in support of the transitions from mission to non-mission settings. We must build our capacities, transform our management and co-ordination systems, and strengthen our country-level leadership capabilities. 

The Security Council could help us in several ways:

  • Through high-level advocacy for increased support for the early recovery and development work which is not funded through mission budgets or through Peace Building Fund seed funding. In the past, Council field visits have helped generate support among donors for the post-mission work of the agencies, funds and programmes.  


  • The Council can also facilitate, through its legislative role, the transfer from the departing mission to the UNCT of non-military physical assets, as well as of technical and financial resources which the AFPs will need to take forward critical recovery-related work streams.
  • In his peacebuilding reports and related operational guidance to Secretariat departments, and to agencies, funds and, programmes, the Secretary-General has stressed the need for UN post-conflict, peacebuilding support work to build on available national capacities in relevant areas, and on the existing mandates and technical capacities of both resident and non-resident agencies, funds, and programmes.


I believe that the Council can support that by ensuring that its legislative instruments do not unwittingly duplicate, and weaken the existing development support mandates of the agencies, funds and programmes.

  • Many individual Council members are also members of the executive boards of UN funds and programmes and the governing bodies of specialized agencies. In those capacities, members can advocate for support for our work in critical mission and non-mission settings.


  • The Security Council might also wish to consult directly with agencies, funds, and programmes on the implications of Council mandates for humanitarian, recovery, and development space when it is considering or re-examining those mandates.

I spoke earlier of conflict prevention in the broad sense of investing in inclusive development and the processes which sustain it.

But where the preconditions for violent conflict exist, specific investments can usefully be made in conflict prevention.

Currently, UN Secretariat departments and agencies, funds, and programmes are working to design better co-ordinated support to UN Resident Co-ordinators and Country Teams in selected non-mission settings. The aim is to equip them better to support local efforts to manage and defuse potentially violent tensions. UNDP has much experience of such work – for example, in Kenya, where the local peace committees we supported played a critical role in containing violence after the disputed elections of 2007.

UNDP and DPA jointly manage a conflict prevention programme to support UN Country Teams in non-mission settings. Since 2004, this has seen Peace and Development Advisors deployed to some thirty countries, to give support to the conflict prevention work of UN Country Teams. These advisors assist with developing dialogue and trust in order to address potentially violent tensions, and to build consensus around issues, including governance reforms.

There is also an informal group of 22 UN Departments, agencies, funds and programmes , known as the Framework Team, which provides support and advice to UN Resident Co-ordinators  on interagency conflict prevention initiatives.  Its work is premised on the principle, reaffirmed in the Secretary-General’s 2001 Report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict, that conflict prevention remains the responsibility of member states, with the UN playing a supportive role  as requested to help build domestic mediation institutions.

Inter-agency efforts like the Framework Team should be encouraged, supported, and ideally consulted, albeit informally, by the Council. I take this opportunity to thank the bilateral partners which have been responding  favorably to the Framework Team’s requests for financial support to maintain its Secretariat.

In conclusion, the UN system must continue to improve its capacity to prevent conflict, and to support countries to recover from it and not relapse into it. These efforts call for sustained support of our development activities and continual improvement in co-ordination across the system.

I would also emphasize that durable prevention of violent conflict is best achieved through equitable, inclusive and sustainable development as the ultimate driver of peace. That inspires us to strive for development results which give every citizen in every country good reason to believe that they have a stake in the peace and security of their immediate community and of the state in which they live.  

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