Magdy Martínez Solimán:Opening Remarks at the ‘Montreux IV’ Workshop for Resident Coordinators and Senior UN Officials

May 25, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to ‘Montreux IV’ – hosted under the Joint Programme on Building National Capacities for Conflict Prevention, which continues the proud tradition of UN partners trying to exercise thought leadership on fragility – learning from the action on the ground and for the action on the ground.

I would first of all like to express sincere appreciation to the Government of Switzerland for continuing to host and support us in this beautiful location. Furthermore I want to thank the Swiss Government for their continuing and invaluable support to the Joint Programme as a whole. I would also like to welcome the representatives from the European Union, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom who have also been contributing generously to this global programme and UN joint effort. We are very happy to work in such a spirit of partnership and to have you all present here for this crucial conversation on conflict prevention and the challenging process of sustaining peace.

The “Montreux event” has now become a young but respected UN tradition, one which was crafted by leading minds of our response to conflict some years ago, among which chiefly our then Deputy Director of BCPR, Marta Ruedas. . It is a unique opportunity for UN Resident Coordinators working in the most difficult environments to discuss and identify new entry points and opportunities for action. The purpose of this forum is to identify better ways of supporting our colleagues working in countries affected by conflict and other complex political situations.

At the heart of this event are the 34 Resident Coordinators that we have invited here this week. We look forward to hear from you and learn from your work experience. You are leading our country strategies in a variety of country contexts, with very large or small operations.

Last but not least, let me welcome also colleagues from across the UN system. We are particularly pleased to have representatives from OHCHR, OCHA, UNWomen, UNICEF, DOCO, and DFS to join our teams from DPA, PBSO and UNDP. Your presence is a reflection of the value we all attach to this event and of the importance we accord to UN collaboration in the area of conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

This workshop seeks to focus on complex political situations largely outside of UN peace operations. We hope it will prove again to be a valuable space for peer-to-peer exchange and learning, allowing us to reflect collectively on challenges and successes.

Since we last came together in 2014, conflicts and instability have continued unabated. Crises in countries like Syria, Yemen, CAR, and Mali have had global reverberations. Violent extremism has geometrically grown as a factor of instability, representing one of the major political, security and human rights risks of today’s world and  became an issue of national, regional and global concern. And humanitarian needs have skyrocketed. Overall funding for preventive efforts has taken a backseat and, in some cases like Libya and Syria, peace or if you will, political solutions are not on the immediate horizon. That is why the World Humanitarian Summit calls upon the international community to transcend the humanitarian-development divide; just like I believe the peace reviews have asked the UN to transcend the peace and development gap.

Member States and the UN have been engaged in reviewing the UN’s ability to support peace operations; peacebuilding; women, peace and security. And as part of the 2030 sustainable development framework, Member States have agreed to a new development agenda incorporating a strong commitment to peaceful, just and inclusive societies.  

The HIPPO and Age processes of 2015 have clarified what many of us knew - that the existence of a Security Council mandate is not the only indicator of a country’s level of peacefulness or the lack thereof. And the recently defined concept of “sustaining peace” pushes us to think and act more intelligently to link conflict prevention efforts, inclusive development and peacebuilding. There is a fundamental line of thought here to integrate early warning on human rights deterioration as an indispensable mechanism for the development and peacebuilding actors to rush relapse – avoidance strategies.

Against this backdrop, I would like to start off the discussion this week with four points of reflection.

1) working across the charter
2) early warning and early action
3) peace and development coordination needs money;  and
4) working confidently with political actors in political contexts

Firstly, high level discussions across the UN agree on one point: Joint system-wide engagement is the order of the day. Member States and our own leaderships all agree.  Now, as senior managers, we must build cross-system efforts to support peaceful, just and inclusive societies and work together to make sure that “no-one is left behind” in the context of the 2030 Agenda. If you will, there is a need to land 3 feet above the ground, the notion of 30,000 feet of “working across the charter”. It is at country level that it can be done – and must happen.

In our view, this Joint Programme is one of the best examples of system-wide efforts across the development and peace and security pillars. DPA and UNDP working, together with PBSO, to ensure our country leadership have the technical, programmatic, financial and political support for conflict prevention. We are supported by a jointly managed flexible fund, allowing us to work responsively to changing needs while encouraging greater collaborative efforts.  

Secondly, after 12 years of implementation we are in a very good position to learn from our experiences in order to constantly improve our conflict prevention efforts.  We should use the Joint Programme to inform a better understanding across the UN system of how to prevent conflicts on the basis of an improved strategic engagement from the UN.

We know that the causes of conflict need to be addressed way before violence becomes a reality but ensuring that the UN is addressing those causes can still be challenging.  

UNDP and UNCT programming can support peacebuilding and conflict prevention proactively, through democratic governance, improved service delivery, a sharpened focus on poverty eradication and the simultaneous reduction of inequalities, strengthening of the rule of law and building respect for human rights.  UNDP’s experience over the last five decades tells us we should amplify our efforts to support local peacebuilders and foster social cohesion; building resilience as our response to acute vulnerabilities – in some cases chronic. We need to build relationships with national governments, with mayors, members of parliament, business people, political parties, and civil society actors. We believe these relationships are crucial to support early conflict prevention.

Together DPA and UNDP, co-chair the Human Rights Up Front Regional Quarterly Reviews. These reviews are increasingly relied on to ensure that early warning leads to early action.  The UN also engages in mediation and uses preventive diplomacy of the Secretary-General’s Good Offices to bring conflicting parties together and stem the flow of rising violence.

Despite these efforts, we all know the UN can and must still do more together, and more flexibly and nimbly to support the building of peaceful societies. We should use the opportunities afforded by HIPPO follow up process to capitalize on this partnership and to continue to work together to improve our conflict prevention systems and strategy.

Thirdly, the Peace and Development Advisor cadre provide invaluable support for our RCs and UNCTs to enable early prevention efforts and this system needs to be sustained. In 2016, we have record numbers deployed, with 39 PDAs at present. But we need the resources to sustain it and expand it.

The use of PDAs provides an illustration of how the provision of strategic guidance and regular analysis can inform the UN’s ability to address the root causes of conflict. And for that reason, the joint programme needs to remain a signature advisory service.

Indeed, the raison d’être of the Joint UNDP-DPA Programme is to provide catalytic support to national capacities for conflict prevention. Every six months we take stock and re-assess our assistance to ensure we are able to meet emerging needs. The feedback tells us that these Advisors are highly valued and are in constantly high demand. But as resources are limited it is imperative for us to be strategic in the way we dispatch these capacities and cater to the needs of RCs in politically challenging environments. Less diplomatically said, we can’t afford a banalization of the role, an arthritic integration of the post into routine RC offices functions or a loss of the delicate balance between the “P” and the “DV” – either way.

We also need to remind that the joint programme is not only to be seen as a deployment instrument for PDAs.  It is critical that prevention efforts are embedded in UN Country Teams, national stakeholders, and the country-based international community. Resident Coordinators and Country Teams therefore need to try to mobilize sustained funding for conflict prevention activities.  We know you do; simply said here, local resource mobilization acquire higher mileage per gallon.

On this note, I must take a moment to recognize the contribution and leadership of ASG Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, of the Peacebuilding Support Office. Our common vision has been sustained and expanded because of your personal commitment and support, as one of the founding leaders of the joint programme. Through funds from the PBF we have now been able to deploy more PDAs and more effectively draw on the capacities of PBSO.

Fourthly and finally, as we look towards a period of new leadership in the UN system, we should work together to plan and advocate for an improved UN systemic approach to preventing conflict. We should arrive at a better articulation of our approach and build on the strong commitments we have heard from the Member States in the GA/SC Resolution on Peacebuilding architecture and, of course, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Let me state clearly that development actors are no strangers to political processes – peace actors open doors to development as much as development contributes to sustaining political settlements and peace. Development actors are fully conversant and at ease in political contexts and lets not mistake neutrality and non-partisan for indifference or ignorance. Our legitimacy relies on our neutrality.

Turning back to the week ahead. Montreux is renowned as an environment that is conducive for generating very concrete, practical ways to enhance our individual and collective efforts. A good place to think, share, shed old skins and reload batteries.

We look forward to hearing from you all on how we can improve the support we provide to our country teams. I very much look forward to engage with you personally and hear your views on how we can strengthen our collective vision for the UN’s engagement in building peaceful, just and inclusive societies. This is, after all, the heart and soul of goal 16 and cuts across the 2030 Agenda – the mandate of the international community for the development system to engage forcefully in peacebuilding.

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