21 September 2012
“Placing inclusiveness at the heart of peacebuilding? Limits and opportunities”
Opening remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
“Placing inclusiveness at the heart of peacebuilding? Limits and opportunities”
Palais des Nations, Room VIII
Friday, 21 September 2012 at 16:00
Ladies and Gentlemen:
As we come together on the International Day of Peace, it is a particular pleasure to welcome you here at the Palais des Nations. This remarkable building exemplifies, more than any other, the international community’s aspiration for peace and progress. And the history that is encapsulated here reminds us that peace is fragile, that it must be nurtured over time and must include all stakeholders to be sustainable. The occasion of the International Day of Peace and the setting of the Palais des Nations combine to provide a most appropriate context for discussion of a key issue in peacebuilding: namely, inclusiveness.
I should like to thank our partners – the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform and Interpeace – for the excellent collaboration in organizing today’s event. I think our partnership is, in its own right, an illustration of an inclusive approach. I hope we not only set the tone for a good discussion, but also an example in how to achieve inclusiveness by joining the strengths of different stakeholders. Let me also extend a special welcome to our panellists for being with us.
The debate today will draw on their expert knowledge for a targeted and detailed exchange. I appreciate being with you at the opening, to demonstrate UNOG’s support for the important peacebuilding work in Geneva in line with the Secretary-General’s priorities. Ensuring that the rich research and academic strengths in Geneva feed into the work of the United Nations is a key priority for me.
Your discussions today could hardly be more timely. The President of the United Nations General Assembly, which opened on Tuesday, has proposed for next week’s general debate to focus on the peaceful settlement of international disputes. So, when more than 120 world leaders gather in New York over the coming days, prevention, peaceful means of resolving conflict and peacebuilding will be central themes. Because the foundations for inclusive peacebuilding should be established early, including during the negotiation of peace or political accords.
The United Nations estimates that one and half billion people still live in fragile or conflict-affected countries. Peacebuilding and conflict prevention therefore feature prominently in the action agenda of Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon for his second term. Inclusiveness is at the core these objectives.
The need for inclusiveness in peacebuilding is increasingly well-recognized. We lose opportunities for sustainable peace when stakeholders in a society’s future peace are excluded from the process. Inclusiveness goes to the heart of the root cause of many conflicts: lack of effective institutions to deliver to all citizens meaningful political participation, core services, security, respect for human rights and good governance.
But, our intuitive understanding of the importance of inclusiveness is not yet matched by experience and adequate tools to implement it effectively. We need to narrow that gap. Many areas still need to be clarified so as to guide our work: Who do we need to include – and in what? Which are the critical processes where we need to include more actors? Who defines and determines the criteria for who is to be included? And how do we operationalize inclusiveness in complex political contexts that may not be conducive to dialogue?
It is clear that success stories in peacebuilding, such as Timor-Leste and Sierra Leone, have been associated with genuine inclusiveness and social engagement. Our challenge is to replicate these lessons.
Let me share with you a couple of thoughts on where I see opportunities for greater inclusiveness:
First, in designing peace agreements we must work to address structural inequalities and patterns of discrimination. In many cases, these will have been contributing factors to conflict and violence in the first place. This requires a strong focus on protection and promotion of human rights.
Second, while we must embrace all groups, we need to maintain a particular focus on the inclusion of women and youth.
A study published by the United Nations University earlier this week under the title, “Defying Victimhood: Women and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding”, showed that women remain among the most competent, yet marginalized, unnoticed and underutilized actors in peacebuilding. Less than 6 per cent of post-conflict spending is budgeted specifically to empower women or promote gender equality. The Secretary-General’s seven-point action plan for women’s participation in peacebuilding already provides a practical framework for further progress.
Youth groups also remain disenfranchised in many peacebuilding processes. Youth unemployment is a particular challenge. 40 per cent of the jobless worldwide – some 75 million – are young people. Many of these live in fragile or conflict-affected countries. Confronting youth unemployment is included as a priority in several of the peacebuilding strategies in the framework of the Peacebuilding Commission. Yet, much work lies ahead of us to ensure meaningful inclusion of youth.
The United Nations does have positive experience on the ground to draw on. In Liberia, for example, former child soldiers or unemployed youth were provided with an opening to education and sports-based training to keep them away from violent gangs. In some cases, they were taught a trade. Also in Liberia, channelling aid through the women of the communities ensured more transparency, more effective implementation and speedier results, deterring the role of local spoilers in the process.
Third, we must apply the concept of inclusiveness broadly, specifically beyond political processes and actors. We often focus on inclusiveness in electoral processes and in formal institutions of legislation and Government. There is no doubt that this is critical. But, we must not limit inclusiveness to this area. We must ensure inclusiveness in educational systems and curricula, the security sector, the judicial system, economic development and in health provision.
Such a broader application of inclusiveness should also, I believe, lead to greater integration of the private sector. As I already mentioned, lack of employment opportunities remains one of the most crucial challenges in post-conflict peacebuilding. Business needs to be engaged to generate jobs, develop skills and build a more inclusive economy.
Four, and most importantly, we need patience. It can be tempting to rely on already formally constituted and well-organized civil society groups. Yet, traditional groupings and divides may impede the visibility of other actors. Paradoxically, the inclusion of some well-structured civil society groupings can lead to perpetuating certain patterns of excluding other groupings. We also need to be sensitive to the complex – and sometimes – painful challenge of how to do deal with groups that may not be considered legitimate by all segments of society, but may still command support, such as former perpetrators of crimes during conflict, extremist religious groups and others.
United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammerskjöld – who died 51 years ago this week – once said that “the pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned.”
I believe that this is particularly true of a post-conflict peacebuilding. We need to allow space for trial and error, for different groups to form and to be included. Local populations and the international community share an interest in results. At the same time, we need to be conscious that those results take time. If not, our search for immediate solutions may undermine our own efforts, as processes become narrow and exclusive to serve as a quick fix.
I hope that some of these themes will be revisited in the debate later, and I wish you a most stimulating discussion this afternoon.
Let the spirit of the International Day of Peace guide us in all our work for a better world.
Thank you very much for your attention.