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Geneva Declaration Regional Review Conference 2014 Plenary Session – High-Level Panel “Current challenges to armed violence reduction and prevention”

8 July 2014
Geneva Declaration Regional Review Conference 2014 Plenary Session – High-Level Panel “Current challenges to armed violence reduction and prevention”

Opening remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

Geneva Declaration Regional Review Conference 2014
Plenary Session – High-Level Panel
“Current challenges to armed violence reduction and prevention”

Tuesday, 8 July 2014 from 09:50 to 11:00 a.m.
International Conference Centre of Geneva


Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to be part of the discussion today, and a special thank you to our Host Country and UNDP for organizing this Review.

Let me just start with a few of words about the value of the Geneva Declaration itself, to frame our debate:

For me, the Declaration stands out as an innovative policy instrument that brings together the three dimensions of the work that we do here in International Geneva – peace, rights and well-being. It is an example of an inclusive partnership approach, especially with respect to research where key centres of excellence globally are connected to Geneva. And it is about making a difference for individuals and having an impact on the ground, especially by networking knowledge and experience.

These connections between diplomacy, research and programming provide a model for our work across the three dimensions – which I already mentioned – of peace, rights and well-being.

My fellow panellists are specialists when it comes to the humanitarian consequences of armed violence and the practical measures to address it. So, I would like to add a few reflections on trends and approaches at the global level that I believe we need to consider when looking ahead at how we can get more effective in preventing and addressing armed violence.

On urbanization and urban violence to start with: there is no doubt that the trends towards urbanization will continue to affect both the extent of armed of violence and where we find it. As most of you already know, we estimate that by 2050 close to 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. Today, 9 out of 10 deaths from armed violence occur outside of traditional conflict situations – much of this is in urban settings. And with increasing urbanization, this will only become more acute.

The trends in urbanization and violence are also connected to the ever-increasing fluid and transnational characteristics of armed violence. This is why the emphasis on measuring and monitoring violence trends is so critical, especially through local armed violence observatories.

What does this mean for us as policymakers?

Firstly, we need to re-consider the tools and policy frameworks that we use. Much of the debate about armed violence takes place in silos – both by policymakers and practitioners. Urban issues are dealt with by urban specialists; conflict-related violence is dealt with by peace-builders and, to some extent, by development specialists; disarmament and arms-control are dealt with by another set of experts. These distinctions are not really helpful anymore and prevent cross-cutting learning.

In International Geneva, the emerging infrastructure of ‘platforms’ is important to create new spaces for policy innovation across institutions and sectors. The Geneva Declaration is one example, and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, the Geneva Forum and the Geneva Internet Platform are also models in this respect.

Second, for us working at the global level, we must get better at including local change-makers. When it comes to addressing violence, local councils and mayors are the ones with the solutions and the experience, and we need to include them much more consistently. Bridging that local-international divide is, of course, a perennial problem but I believe that the trends in this area will force us to be much more serious and much better at it.

For our part, we hope that the technical working group on the confluence of urban safety and peacebuilding which my office, UN-HABITAT and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform will advance later this year will provide a space for these change-makers to connect.

On human rights: I believe that when it comes to armed violence, we also need to integrate a human rights-based approach much better.

The Geneva Declaration has been effective in highlighting the link between security and development, with the emphasis on armed violence. This has helped to move forward the understanding of the link between the two – even if we see that it is still a difficult topic to address in some contexts.

But we also know that many of the drivers of armed violence can be found in conditions that are the result of a lack of respect for human rights and flawed implementation of the rule of law, such as mistrust of state security providers, feelings of injustice, inequalities, exclusion and weak institutions.

Promoting respect for human rights is, in my view, one of the most effective prevention strategies. But we have not been very good in implementing it. All too often we react too late to exactly the lack of respect for human rights that eventually leads to armed violence. I hope that one of the main outcomes of the discussions over the next couple of days will be to highlight the human rights dimension in relation to prevention of armed violence.

This brings me to disarmament and arms control: overall, we need to strengthen efforts in the area of disarmament and arms control – including by raising awareness of their essential role in bringing greater security to all. Much has already been done here, by the wider United Nations system with our Office of Disarmament Affairs in the lead, but more needs to be done.

Reducing and preventing armed violence is not simply a question of reinforcing the more traditional efforts of limiting access to weapons – disarmament and demobilization at ground level.

Rather, to me, it is a call for the international community to be more serious about creating a safer and more stable world by addressing the illicit flows of small arms and light weapons. Such weapons undermine security and the rule of law, and they are often a major factor in the forced displacement of civilians and massive human rights violations

We have to change the narrative about security at the global level with disarmament at the heart of this narrative.

Last year’s adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty was a historic step forward and I encourage States that have not yet ratified to do so. The ATT has the potential to help reduce armed conflict and violence. It can help create a more conducive environment for the United Nations to carry out its mandates in a number of areas and can foster a safer environment for humanitarian actors.

In addition, I draw your attention to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention, both of which aim at banning particularly odious categories of conventional weapons and have had a huge impact both at the societal level and at the level of human security. Both are good examples to be emulated.

Let me conclude these initial observations with a few words about the post-2015 development agenda discussions, as our exchanges today and tomorrow will also feed into this broader global debate.

We cannot escape the fact that linking security and development, and also the debate on urban violence, are still areas where it is difficult for Member States to find consensus. There are different perspectives on this and, of course, also on the priorities when it comes to armed violence and development.

I believe that the expertise that has been accumulated within the framework of the Geneva Declaration can be helpful in a number of ways: first, by providing an example of what a normative framework can look like; second, by contributing examples of initiatives that have worked in different contexts so that we have a common, evidence-based body of knowledge that can help us prioritize; and third, by providing a practical platform where all the different stakeholders can come together on this issue.

Thank you very much.