Helen Clark: At the NGO Working Group on the Security Council meeting

Feb 13, 2012

My thanks go to the NGO Working Group for inviting me to address you today.

I wish to acknowledge the hard work which organisations represented in this Working Group do around the world on issues of peace and security, development, and human rights – the three pillars of the work of the United Nations itself.

Co-ordination between NGOs, the UN development system, and the Security Council is critical. For, beneath many crises to which the Council is challenged to respond are development deficits. Some lie in extreme poverty, inequality, marginalization, and discrimination. Some lie in competition for scarce resources. Some lie in arbitrary and/or repressive governance and institutions whose legitimacy is questioned. The UN development system and a wide range of other stakeholders can play a role in addressing the underlying issues, long before conflict ever arises, if adequately supported.

This justifies broadening our vision of peace and security beyond a series of responses to violent conflict. That approach puts the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. We need to build the fence at the top of that cliff by linking more consciously the three pillars of the UN’s work. Inclusive governance and inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development are the best long term guarantors of peace and security.

Thus, in my view, the best investment we can make in peace and security is in development. Yet so often the big resources to support a country only come when it is plunged into severe crisis, when a stitch in time might have saved nine.

Once a country is firmly on the Security Council’s radar system, it is important that the Council’s members are well aware of the strengths of humanitarian and development organisations within the country. When a mandate for a UN peacekeeping or political mission is being considered, it is particularly important that the strengths of the UN Country Team in that country are taken into account. Every country on the Council’s agenda hosts such a team. That team will have been there before the crisis; it will stay through the crisis; and it will be there long after a dedicated UN Mission leaves.
The capacities which the Country Team has, and which can be scaled up with extra support, need to be factored in before the scope of a UN Mission and its capacities are determined. That will help reduce the potential for expensive duplication of work - and for the unsustainability of support after a mission funded by assessed contributions leaves a country.

The development arm of the UN is always ready to share with the Security Council and members of this working group our analyses of critical development gaps which, if not addressed, will pose risks to peace and security. The UN’s agencies, funds, and programmes, along with other humanitarian and development stakeholders, are frontline actors in countries without Security Council-mandated missions. We see the challenges to stability and, often, the potential for conflict prevention too.

Much work has been done within the UN to implement the Secretary-General’s 2008 decision on integration of our efforts in countries in crisis. 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 across UN actors will not be achieved.  Humanitarian and development actors feel very strongly about preserving the space for their work.
  • If there is inclusive planning within the UN on the goals for a mission, and agreement from the outset on how we will work in our respective capacities to achieve them, things will run more smoothly.
  • National ownership by the country concerned must be respected and supported at all times for positive results to be achieved and sustained. 
  • No amount of written guidance can compensate for the reluctance or inability of people to work together.

Another area requiring attention within the UN is how to ensure smooth transitions from mission to non-mission settings.

A number of field-based UN missions are likely to draw down over the next twelve to 24 months.  The UN Country Teams in these circumstances do need more support from member states to carry on critical, unfinished peace building tasks.

An example of how this can be achieved can be seen in the planning for the departure of the UN Mission in Nepal in January last year.

There, an expanded Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator’s Office was set up in August 2010, as a temporary structure to respond to the specific challenges of that transition. The aim was to help sustain the equilibrium which had been achieved in the country, and give support to the emergent political institutions and implementation of the post-conflict agreements.  

Expectations of what development agencies can realistically accomplish in the wake of the departure of a large and well-funded mission do need to be managed. Let me underline that the UN’s development agencies do not benefit from assessed contributions – our money comes from voluntary contributions. With the best will in the world, we cannot pick up all the non-military work of a departing mission – unless there is to be a radical rethink of how we are funded in these circumstances. This reinforces the need to have a planned exit strategy in mind from the very time that a mission is sent.

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

But the key point is to ensure that where mission drawdowns do occur as scheduled, the utmost is done to support the UN Country Teams. It generally becomes their role to carry forward critical recovery work in the post-mission phase. Failure to manage and resource transitions adequately can set the stage for setbacks in the countries concerned.  

In the UN development system, we too have to step up in support of these 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. 

When I spoke at the annual workshop for newly elected Security Council members last year, I made the following suggestions on how the Security Council could assist us:

  • Through high-level advocacy for increased support for that early recovery and development work which is not funded through mission budgets or through Peace Building Fund seed funding. In the past, Security Council field visits have helped generate support among donors for the post-mission work of the UN’s 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 the technical and financial resources which UN agencies, funds and programmes will need to take forward critical recovery-related work.
  • In the Secretary General’s peacebuilding reports and the related operational guidance which is given to the UN system, the Secretary-General has stressed the need for our post-conflict, peacebuilding support work to build upon available national capacities in relevant areas, and on the existing mandates and technical capacities of agencies, funds, and programmes. The Council can support that by ensuring that its legislative instruments when setting up missions do not unwittingly duplicate and weaken the existing 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 to UN Missions 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 on delivering better co-ordinated support to UN Resident Co-ordinators and Country Teams in non-mission settings. The aim is to support them to take strategic initiatives which could de-escalate tension and to deal with rising political complexity and instability. The Resident Co-ordinator has an important role to play in convening the UN system at the local level in times of crisis.

UNDP and DPA jointly manage a conflict prevention programme to support UN Country Teams in these situations. Since 2004, our co-operation 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 among local actors to address potentially violent tensions, and then to build consensus around issues.

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.

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 Security Council.

Finally, UNDP and the wider UN system, including UN Country Teams, are very conscious of the importance of partnering with civil society in the prevention of violent conflict and in post-conflict peace-building.

Such partnerships were essential in stopping the spread of violence in Guinea following the presidential polls in 2010; in ensuring a peaceful constitutional referendum in Kenya in the same year; and in sustaining peace - despite ongoing inter-ethnic tensions - in Kyrgyzstan during the presidential and parliamentary elections last year.

The Security Council and all UN decision-making bodies should back UN missions and UN Country Teams working closely with domestic civil society organizations and international NGOs to build national and local capacities for peace.

In conclusion, the UN system needs 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 emphasize again 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 nation in which they live.  

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