Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Remarks at the OECD States of Fragility Report Pre-launch Event

Sep 22, 2016

Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’d like to start by thanking His Excellency Minister De Croo and the Kingdom of Belgium, as well as the organizers for inviting me to speak. I have the honor of serving as the co-chair of the OECD-INCAF network, alongside my colleague Mr. Derek Muller the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and it is my pleasure to be with you this afternoon.

As we have heard from the remarks today, the 2016 States of Fragility report highlights the multidimensional and complex nature of violence as experienced across the globe. Current policy trends clearly demonstrate the damaging effects insecurity and violence have on sustainable development. Throughout the world, violence threatens the foundations of the Social Contract between citizens and their State. It also annuls the benefits of years of State investments in poverty reduction and human development. If violence and the instability it causes are not addressed, affected countries and societies become more susceptible to widespread conflict, crisis and development reversals.

The thrust of all international action must be to avert and mitigate these shocks – whether they are caused by violence or other elements that can cause fragility such as disaster, climate, famine or epidemics. Here at the United Nations, we know our aim must be to support national partners to address the root causes of violence and conflict and to reduce risks from other hazards.

Successful violence prevention is partially based on strong analytics and risk management strategies. Risks are complex phenomena but as international actors we need to improve our capacity to predict and respond to them together. We must collectively invest in conflict-sensitivity, prevention, risk reduction and preparedness. We at UNDP know that we also must strengthen institutions to be able to target violence reduction initiatives at the local level.

Indeed, through our support to violence reduction, in particular in the Latin American and Caribbean region, we have seen that countries that are successful in reducing violence are those that focus on broad participation at the community level, and include a wide range of stakeholders: for instance, civil society, religious groups, schools, youth groups, and the private sector. Through this participation, institutions become better prepared to address violence head-on. Better institutions, equipped with better data and strong, localized strategies, can have a lasting impact on levels of violence in a society, and consequently on the associated risks of conflict and fragility.

For example, in El Salvador in 2011 we supported 20 of the most violent municipalities, working with all local partners and institutions, strengthening small arms control and substance abuse, which led to three consecutive years of declining murder rates. After the failed ‘truce’ amongst warring gangs, murder rates significantly rose again. But now, we see that local approaches are again taking root and the country has seen a recent reduction of violence this last semester.

Throughout our years of supporting countries struggling with high levels of violence, we learned that violence reduction initiatives need a strong local focus, and a mix of social and institutional support. However, violent behaviors are sadly too common and sometimes very much part of social relations. We still know little about how to change cultural patterns that lead to violent behaviors, but we certainly know that we need to work on these aspects to promote durable violence reduction.

We also learned, and I am glad that the report mentions it, that violence against women and girls is less known and poorly measured. Countries suffering from the highest occurrence of gender based violence, such as femicide or rape, are not necessarily those that have the highest homicide rates. With this broad perspective, we see that other countries such as Papua New Guinea, Argentina, Sierra Leone and Liberia are comparatively very mujch affected by gender-based violence, even in the absence of large-scale conflict or high rates of homicide. Let me remind the audience that oftentimes the most dangerous place for women and girls is not the street, but at home. We therefore need to put gender-based violence at the heart of violence reduction strategies. UNDP is committed to make this happen.

At UNDP, we know that violence, conflict and fragility are among the biggest obstacles to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and if we do not make progress on reducing violence and conflict, we will not live up to our commitment to the 2030 Agenda. For us to achieve the SDGs by 2030, we must address violence by strengthening our work on prevention, by addressing the roots of violence and by consistently trying to find solutions as early as possible.

This is especially true of violent extremism, which is a form of violence that does not lend itself to conventional conflict prevention or peacebuilding templates.  By ignoring the basic tenets of humanity, violent extremism often tempts society to question the validity and adequacy of the very principles that underpin human decency, respect for human rights and the rule of law.  As a result, we see states resort to short term security solutions that do little to stem the violence and are unsustainable in the long run.

As development actors, as political leaders, and as ordinary citizens, we must work collectively to avoid engaging in or condoning abuse of human rights as a strategy for preventing violent extremism.  We must continue to advocate a stronger focus on addressing the root causes of violence in society through equitable development, equal opportunity, investment in the livelihoods of the most vulnerable amongst us, leaving no one behind, in particular the youth, as a way of preventing citizens from succumbing to the nefarious attraction of violent extremism.

The United Nations system is gaining momentum in its efforts to deliver on this important agenda. New approaches are already showing how we can work better together to ensure that the SDGs can be advanced in fragile settings, including crisis-affected Middle Income Countries. The UN Development Group has also developed a shared approach to support countries in implementing the SDGs called "MAPS"— mainstreaming, acceleration, and policy support. Working within that framework, and acknowledging that tailored approaches are needed for fragile contexts, UNDP is backing a coalition of UN agencies, think-tanks, bilateral and multilateral partners, civil society and governments of countries experiencing fragility to define the most effective ways of supporting SDG implementation there.
Through these and other efforts, we at UNDP, we remain committed to preventing and reducing all forms of violence so that people can have the opportunities they deserve to invest in their livelihoods in peaceful, productive societies.

UNDP Around the world