United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told an IPI audience that a series of reviews undertaken to mark the UN’s 70th anniversary had revealed that efforts to bring better governance to the world were falling behind evolving threats to political and social stability.
The reviews “all share a sense that global governance is not keeping pace with the challenges of a more complex and interconnected world,” the Secretary-General said. “We need to tune all of our institutions to the times – times in which even the most local problems have a global dimension.”
Referring to three of the reviews—on peacebuilding, peace operations, and women, peace and security— he said, “A common narrative is emerging – one that recognizes that failure to more effectively prevent and address interconnected problems such as conflict or inequality or climate stress will have severe and costly consequences across all dimensions of our work.”
The Secretary-General cited the widely hailed Sustainable Development Agenda adopted in September, as outlining a crucial framework to work towards resolving these interconnected problems over the next 15 years. He expressed his hope that a universal climate accord will join the SDGs as part of that framework, following the UN’s climate conference, COP21, in Paris, this December.
The Secretary-General’s remarks kicked off a high-level panel discussion on “The Future of Global Governance: A Commitment to Action,” appropriately held at IPI on October 23rd 2015, to mark United Nations Day.
Taken together, the three peace & security reviews and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make clear four priorities for the international community to “take a people-centered, planet-friendly approach,” to the challenges of the global era, the Secretary-General said.
First, under “resilience,” he emphasized the SDGs’ promise to “leave no one behind.” He called for a greater focus on prevention to make possible the future that the SDGs envision. “This will not happen by solely fighting fires, when evidence shows that they could have been prevented had we acted and invested early,” he said.
The second theme he identified was “strengthening partnerships.”
“The various reviews uniformly recognize that implementing ambitious goals cannot be done by the UN system alone—or by member states alone,” he said. “Achieving a peaceful, sustainable future is a collective effort, starting now.”
On the third theme, “getting the financing right,” he called for more resources, more flexibility in the use of funds, and a greater share of public and private funding to meet shortfalls. “For the UN, the need is for better interconnection and sequencing of financing requests,” he said.
The final theme he identified was the critical need for greater participation of women and girls. “Excluding women from employment opportunities hinders sustainable development and economic growth,” he said. “Excluding women from peace processes hinders peace. Excluding girls from schools holds societies back.”
Gender equality, he said, is a universal goal, and will have a range of benefits. “We need an all-of-society-approach that fully and equally incorporates the contributions of women in every aspect of our work,” he said. “The reviews rightly prioritize gender mainstreaming and the role of women as central to success.”
Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly, called for reflection on what the reviews tell us about the UN for the future. He listed questions for the members to consider, like how the UN might address intractable conflicts like the Syrian crisis, asymmetric warfare, and the very divides within the UN and among its members that paralyze action. “This is the type of conversation I want to advance during my Presidency,” he declared.
Yannick Glemarec, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, elaborated on the shared conclusion of the three peace and security reviews that women’s engagement is critically important to sustaining peace. “We have now a huge body of evidence that shows that women’s engagement in peace and security will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, will increase the success of negotiation efforts, will accelerate the economic revitalization, and will dramatically reduce the likelihood of relapse into violence.”
Mr. Glemarec, an Assistant Secretary-General, also quantified the impact women have on peace processes with statistics from the Global Study on the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. “Women’s engagement in peace and security increases the likelihood that peace will be sustained by 20% over a period of two years, and 35% over a period of 15 years,” he said.
Sarah Cliffe, Director of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, talked about Sustainable Development Goal 16, which says that peaceful and inclusive societies, with accountable justice institutions, are central to achieving sustainable peace.
Leaving a less violent world for future generations is a desire shared worldwide, she said. “Goal 16 shows that the preoccupation with preventing violence and achieving peace is really a common preoccupation across all societies, not only the most vulnerable.”
To prevent the lapse and relapse into conflict, the UN will need better cooperation between its peace and security organs, and those focused on development, she said.
A priority of Goal 16 is institution-building, and she provided an illustrative example of the myriad of actors involved in giving a person legal identity.
To register just one person, cooperation in the development system means “engaging with new government partners, like ministries of justice and interior, with national planning and civil registration and statistical systems, with hospitals, with birth registration systems, with schools, with immigration, policing, efforts to recognize different forms of documentation.”
In conclusion, IPI Senior Adviser Youssef Mahmoud recalled the title of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operation’s report, “Uniting our Strengths for Peace: Politics, Partnerships and People.”
He outlined three practical ways we can move closer to a more peaceful future. “The first is communication, that enhancing the participation of people is not challenging the credibility or legitimacy of governments, on the contrary, people are partners,” he said.
“Secondly, we need to create fora that are safe and protected for people to voice without fear their view,” he said. “Three, we need to involve people in analyzing the problem and determining the solution. If we don’t understand the views of those we are supposed to serve how can we aspire to do anything sustainable?”
Ambassador Terje Rod-Larsen, President of the International Peace Institute, moderated the conversation.