Rightsizing Peace in the Triple Nexus

March 31, 2023
Rightsizing peace in the HDP nexus

Given the protracted, multidimensional nature of conflict today, it is incumbent upon peace, development and humanitarian actors to consciously consider prevention and peace entry points at all stages of crisis.

UNDP Photo

H.E. Ambassador Muhammed Abdul Muhith, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, 

H.E. Dr. Agnes Mary Chimbiri-Molande, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Malawi to the United Nations, 

Dear Elizabeth, partners from civil society, multilateral organizations, colleagues from the UN system, and all participants here in NY in person and online, 

A warm welcome to you all on behalf of PBSO and UNDP.

As we gather here today – as champions of peace –, resurging conflict, violence, uncertainty, and insecurity appear to be drowning our collective voices.

Today, violent conflicts have reached their highest levels since the end of the second world war. 

The toll is beyond alarming: two billion of our fellow human beings live in conflict-affected contexts or are displaced because of it, with dire consequences such as unsustainable humanitarian needs and derailed progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Global indicators for peace and development have regressed over consecutive years. And, even before the War in Ukraine in 2022, six out of seven people surveyed for UNDP’s Special Report on Human Security reported feeling insecure. 

We have not progressed on the pathway toward sustaining peace or sustainable development by failing to adequately address the root causes of conflict, by under-investing in development as the most effective conflict prevention strategy, by sticking to our funding and programming silos, and by being risk averse amid growing uncertainty. 

Despite our best efforts, we continue to ask ourselves what has gone wrong. I hope today’s meeting further contributes to this self-reflection, to enable us to re-articulate our ‘peace’ effort as a necessary building block toward human security.

Too often, ‘peace’ – and prevention – are relegated to the back burner, because they are politically sensitive.  In their absence, we tend to resort to securitized and humanitarian responses. But given the protracted, multidimensional nature of conflict today, it is incumbent upon peace, development AND humanitarian actors to consciously consider prevention and peace entry points at all stages of crisis. 

The UN-World Bank Pathways for Peace report, whose fifth anniversary we commemorate this Spring, makes a compelling case that investing in prevention not only saves lives but also significantly reduces the economic, social and humanitarian costs associated with conflicts

Despite this clear business case for prevention, conflicts still drive 80 percent of all humanitarian need. A mere 12 percent of ODA is dedicated towards peace objectives with only four percent towards prevention. This resource imbalance has led to missed opportunities, lost decades of development, and increasing fragility, and longer, uncertain recovery.

This state of polycrisis that we face today, with intersecting, multidimensional threats such as climate change, the cost-of-living crisis, conflict and disasters, compel us to do better together, act faster and at scale, deliver smarter, and be transformative in our ambition.

So where do we go from here?

Firstly, as development and peace practitioners, articulating and clarifying our principled approach to working in complex nexus settings is critical. Addressing ‘peace’ in the HDP nexus requires us to wrestle with difficult, complex political contexts coinciding with deepening development failures. 

Rather than succumbing to a ‘clash of principles’ between humanitarian, development and peace actors, we should rightly embrace a people-centered approach where impartiality, independence, neutrality and humanity sit side-by-side with dignity, inclusion, justice, human rights, agency, and social cohesion.

In a context of uncertainty and polarization, we must ensure that our individual and collective efforts are holistic, tailored to the specific environment and informed by - and accountable to - the communities most impacted by conflict to avoid creating long-term dependencies.

Secondly, thus our approach to the HDP nexus must be true to people’s needs and their ability to become agents of change. We need to proactively support and invest in the capacities of our national partners, capacities that are essential to building stable, resilient communities and institutions, that can prevent conflict escalation and relapse. 

I have just returned from Ukraine where UNDP has been supporting the continuity of basic services through state institutions which are essential to saving lives and sustaining livelihoods. But our community-oriented local development programming in Syria and Afghanistan, which focuses on resilience and social cohesion, is no less critical to life-saving, despite political challenges.

We can navigate the risks and opportunities of operating in complex and protracted contexts through risk-informed development. Conflict-sensitive, risk-informed approaches can help us better address challenges of financing in settings where transparency and accountability are of concern. 

At UNDP, we designed our Crisis offer, a framework for development solutions in crisis and fragility, to ensure that communities and national institutions remain capable, before, during and after crises, and to give voice, choice, and dignity to the billions of people impacted by conflict and crisis today.

Thirdly, more determined efforts are needed to overcome our divides in financing, incentives, toolboxes, policies and programmes, and learning to enable the most effective responses. 

Today's complex environments require us to constantly be ahead of the curve. We need to make full use of data, evidence, studies, analyses and foresight to be smarter. That is why we have built a learning infrastructure in UNDP – the Crisis Academies – that expand the cadre of practitioners, not only for UNDP staff but also extended to partners and other agencies to deepen their knowledge in areas such as the nexus, prevention, stabilization and others. Joint learning enables the international community to foster a shared understanding of how to better collaborate.

Distinguished participants,

Today's dialogue is both a forum for honest discussion and a call to action. 

Prioritizing prevention, managing and mitigating risk empowers us to build resilient communities and systems that can resist shocks and avert crises. 

By rightsizing peace in the nexus, we can tackle vulnerabilities, address root causes, and transition from reactive responses to more longer-term interventions with lasting impact.

The tools are at our disposal. The path is clear.

Together, let us make this moment a catalyst for change. 

Thank you.