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    30 November 1999
    Secretary-General Says Global Effort against Armed Conflict Needs
    Change from ‘Culture of Reaction to Culture of Prevention’


    Security Council Told Key is Effective Deterrent Action; As Debate Begins, 23 Nations Also Present Views on United Nations Role

    NEW YORK, 29 November (UN Headquarters) -- The international community needed to move “from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention”, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this afternoon in an open Security Council debate on the prevention of armed conflict.

     Echoing a theme subsequently taken up by other speakers, and outlining measures the Council might take, such as encouraging States to bring potential conflicts to its attention, the Secretary-General said the Council should also give urgent attention to States which suffered acute economic, environmental and security strains because they were hosting large refugee populations from neighbouring countries.  Prevention was not cost-free, yet it was cost-effective in human and financial terms.

     The Council alone could not remove the long-term causes of conflict, he continued.  Healthy and balanced development was the best form of long-term conflict prevention.  Effective action would often require joint action by many different organs and agencies.  There was scope for closer policy coordination between them, and in many cases between them and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private corporations.  A key role in preventing conflict and maintaining order was deterrence.  Nothing would be more effective in deterring States and other parties from resorting to the extreme measures of present-day conflicts, than a clear demonstration that the Council was prepared to take decisive action when faced with crimes against humanity.

     Japan's representative said that while timely action was the key to conflict prevention, the Council's recent actions did not entirely record success.  In the case of Iraq, it had been almost one year since the inspectors of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) left the country, yet the Council had not been able to reach a decision as to how to deal with the situation there.  While the Council had been able to act more quickly on East Timor, an even quicker response would have been welcome.  The Council should take the lead in moving from a culture of reaction to one of prevention.

     Delayed action meant delayed peace and prolonged suffering, the representative of Namibia told the Council.  If the Council had acted swiftly in Sierra Leone, it could have saved the lives and limbs of thousands of innocent civilians.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, delaying the deployment of
    military observers to preserve the peace might not only unravel the regional peace process, but also result in a recurrence of the conflict that could engulf much of the continent.  The Council must show the same resolve in African situations as it did in others, he stressed.  The presence of African States in the Council would help Africa participate meaningfully in the prevention of armed conflict.

     Several speakers expressed concern that the Council was not representative of all the Member States and employed a policy of double standards in its actions.  The representative of Libya asked why the Council had not responded to the United States aggression against his country.  The representative of Sudan said the Council sometimes ignored threats that actually endangered international peace and security.  The Council had never responded to Sudan's request for a fact- finding mission to investigate the United States bombing of a pharmaceutical company in Khartoum.

     A number of States expressed concern about the concept of intervening on humanitarian grounds, as this might violate national sovereignty and territorial integrity.  In the course of the five-hour debate, speakers also stressed that parties to a dispute must exhibit political will to resolve their differences through peaceful means.  While there was need to work cooperatively with regional organizations, this must be done strictly according to the Charter's provisions.  Others drew attention to the need to strengthen the Secretary-General's preventive diplomacy role, and enhance the Secretariat's ability to provide early warning information.

     The United States representative said his country would welcome a ministerial level meeting on conflict prevention during next year’s Millennium session of the General Assembly.

     Statements were also made by the representatives of France, Argentina, Canada, United Kingdom, China, Russian Federation, Bahrain, Malaysia, Brazil, Gabon, Gambia, Netherlands, Finland (speaking for the European Union and associated States), United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Australia, Republic of Korea and Belarus.

    Council Work Programme

     The Security Council met this afternoon to consider its role in the prevention of armed conflict.

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