21 September 2005

United Nations, Regional Organizations Must Do more to Tap into Civil Society's Advantages in Conflict Prevention, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

NEW YORK, 20 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to the open debate of the Security Council on the role of civil society in conflict prevention and the pacific settlement of disputes in New York today, 20 September:

Last week, world leaders renewed their commitment to promote a culture of prevention of armed conflict as a means of effectively addressing the interconnected security and development challenges of our time.  They also pledged to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations for the prevention of armed conflict.  And they decided to establish a Peacebuilding Commission that will play a key role in preventing the recurrence of armed conflict.

Civil society made a significant impact on the process leading to the Summit.  Last June's hearings marked a new and welcome step forward in UN-civil society relations.  So did the Conference on the role of Civil Society in Prevention and Peacebuilding, held in New York last July, where 500 representatives from civil society around the world gathered to adopt an Action Agenda

My message to you today is simple:  civil society's role in conflict prevention needs to be fully recognized.  Both the United Nations and regional organizations have to do more to tap into civil society's comparative advantages, namely a strong local presence and experience.  Local ownership and participation are essential for the success of peace processes, be it conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding.  Dialogue, transparency and accountability must remain a priority.

Civil society is often far out in front of us in identifying new threats and concerns.  This is certainly one of its most important roles.  Civil society organizations are also indispensable in "track-two" and "people to people" diplomacy, which is often integral to successful official diplomacy and post-conflict political and reconciliation processes.  At times, they can reach parties on the ground that Governments or the United Nations cannot reach.

Civil society organizations can also complement the UN's work by offering valuable analysis originating from the field, by forging partnerships to implement UN decisions, by increasing the sustainability of UN operations and by creating networks to advocate for peacebuilding.  For all these reasons, civil society organizations would have an important role to play in the deliberations of the Peacebuilding Commission.

The 2005 World Summit produced some remarkable commitments from Member States.  However, for these words to be turned into action, and for prevention and peacebuilding strategies to become more effective, all actors -- civil society, Governments, international financial institutions, regional organizations and civil society -- need to work together as partners.  I am committed to doing my part, and urge you all to do yours.

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