Press Releases

          24 September 2004

    Building Durable Peace in War-Torn Societies Requires Long-Term Commitment, More Resources, Says Secretary-General in Security Council Remarks

    NEW YORK, 22 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks to the Security Council debate on civilian aspects of conflict management and peace-building in New York, 22 September:

    Thank you very much, Mr. President, and let me start by commending you, Mr. President, for taking the initiative to hold this open debate on civilian aspects of crisis management. This debate is extremely timely -- and the presence of so many foreign ministers is very much welcome.

    Yesterday, in the General Assembly, I stressed the importance of the rule of law.  Nowhere is its absence more keenly felt than in war-torn societies -- and nowhere is its restoration more vital to the maintenance of international peace and security.

    But that is far easier said than done.  Peace-building is a complex business.  It draws in many actors -- not just the operations mandated by this Council, but the vital work of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, of regional organizations, and of our non-governmental organization partners. And its goal is to build durable peace in societies shattered by war -- that is ambitious indeed.

    We have learned from experience that international interventions -- even those that carry the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations -- cannot quickly erase the noxious legacy of conflict.

    We therefore need to be realistic about what is achievable, and we must have a clear political strategy for success -- based on a sophisticated understanding of the context, and tailored to respond to it.

    That strategy must include benchmarks for progress towards the goal, not just of holding elections, but of building legitimate and effective States.

    And, since we have comparatively scarce resources, we must prioritize.  Without clear priorities -- particularly in the areas of security, the rule of law, and immediate economic opportunities -- the best-laid plans for long-term reconstruction and recovery will fail.

    I do not wish to sound pessimistic.  On the contrary, peace-building can be truly successful -- as we have seen in El Salvador and Guatemala, in Mozambique and Namibia, and more recently, in East Timor.  I am also heartened that a number of our ongoing missions are making solid progress in helping peace to take root.

    But I am very conscious that we face enormous challenges -- in Africa, where the demand for United Nations peacekeeping operations is huge, and in other places too, including some very dangerous ones. Your tangible support, in a number of ways, will make the difference between success and failure of our current and future peace-building efforts.

    First, the Council needs to sustain its interest and focus on each and every peace operation. The bit-by-bit building of peace, from the ground up, may not grab headlines -- but it must command your vigilant attention and your long-term commitment. Disinterest or division in the Council is a recipe for unfulfilled mandates and unsolved problems, leaving the root causes of conflict to fester and blow up again some day.  We saw the bitter consequences of failed peace-building in Haiti and Liberia, where we are now engaged once more.  We must not repeat those mistakes.

    Second, we need more resources –- and we need to get those resources more quickly than we do.  I am pleased that there have been improvements in the delivery of resources to post-conflict reconstruction.  But the needs remain very great.  United Nations peace operations are an excellent investment.  In the entire history of the United Nations, just over $30 billion has been spent on our peacekeeping operations.  That’s just one thirtieth, and I repeat, one thirtieth of the amount that was spent last year alone on global military expenditures.

    Third, we need to make sure that our efforts are well integrated, since the various elements of peace-building are interdependent, and failure in one sector can mean failure in the rest.  To that end, the United Nations, other international organizations, regional organizations, bilateral donors and non-governmental organizations must strengthen their institutional links and work together on the basis of shared goals and shared priorities.

    Fourth, we must make sure that we have the best people available to carry out the tough assignments you give them.  I am particularly speaking of civilian staff.  We need an international cadre of highly-skilled civilians for peace-building -– both technical experts and people with the ability to work closely with national actors and bring together the diverse perspectives of conflict management, State-building, development and transitional justice.  I am proud of the unique expertise of the dedicated staff who support me in carrying out your mandates.  But, Mr. President, we need to be given the resources to enhance the quality and quantity of that expertise.

    Finally, I cannot conclude this topic without mentioning the security of United Nations civilian staff.  Risk is an unavoidable part of our work.  But there must be a reasonable balance between the risk to be undertaken and the substantive contribution that civilians are called upon to make.  I ask for your full support in ensuring the security of our staff -– both by the provision of troops, where appropriate, and politically, when I propose new measures to the General Assembly, as I shall very soon.

    Peace-building requires a clear strategy, developed and executed by highly-skilled professionals, grounded in local conditions, and reflected in realistic mandates devised by this Council, and of course, supported by all parts of the United Nations system, and fully backed up by this Council and the membership of the Organization as a whole. With that support, our work can succeed, and the promise of peace-building can be realized.

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    *  Reissued to replace text inadvertently omitted.