DAVOS, Switzerland: The new head of the UN has said the organization will become more efficient and have a greater focus on conflict and crisis prevention.
In a session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, said his priority would be reform of the organization’s peace strategy and architecture to recalibrate focus towards prevention — and not just resolution — of conflict.
Pointing out that peace-keeping consumes over 70 percent of the UN’s budget, he said: “Today, most of our operations take place in countries where there is no peace to keep. Peace-keepers become, inevitably, parties to the conflict.”
By preventing conflicts and helping countries that finally emerge from conflict, the UN will be able to limit its peace-keeping role.
Guterres, who assumed office on 1 Jan. 2017, said his efforts at conflict prevention and resolution would not be limited to taking diplomatic action, but would attempt a comprehensive approach based on the UN’s core principles of ensuring peace, security, sustainable development and human rights.
“The best prevention is sustainable and inclusive development,” he said, pointing out that while the world is witnessing unparalleled technological progress, increasing volumes of trade, reduction of poverty and progress in living conditions, inequality has increased substantially. Meanwhile, the globalization of communication has made everyone aware of rising inequality, leading to frustration and fuelling conflict.
Having served on the UN Human Rights Commission for 10 years before his current appointment, Guterres said that it is unfortunate that 2016 saw the closing of borders and disintegration of the compact on refugee protection that obligated countries to protect those fleeing persecution in their home countries. He said the UN General Assembly is attempting a renewed global compact on refugee protection, which needs solidarity particularly from countries that form the first line of reception.
Guterres said that countries must take a fresh look at migration, which is here to stay, and is part of a solution and not a problem. It needs to be managed better, and stronger international cooperation is needed to make migration painless and a force of good for both migrants and receiving communities.