Shifting from a reactive to preventive approach

MangalaOP-ED on behalf of the Governments of Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sweden and the United Kingdom

The tragic death of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who drowned off the Turkish coast a year ago, triggered a global outpouring of emotion and calls for a more effective and humane response to support refugees and migrants.

More recently, the picture of another Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, sitting dazed in the back of an ambulance after an airstrike in Aleppo, drove home the immense cost of war and spurred a renewed call to end the misery.

Responses to ease suffering, however, come after the fact, after communities have been uprooted, economic livelihoods destroyed and generations lost to violence. For moral reasons, for security reasons and for economic reasons we must become more effective in preventing violent conflicts before they start.

United Nations member states now stress the need to shift from a reactive to a preventive approach and focus on addressing root causes to prevent conflict, known as the “sustaining peace agenda.”

Last year, governments committed to “leave no one behind” in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Drivers of conflict originate in the kinds of structural inequality that foster grievances and hopelessness. And once allowed to take hold, violent conflict is probably the biggest obstacle to the goals included in the 2030 Agenda to end poverty, foster prosperity, promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies and protect the planet. The sustaining peace agenda and the 2030 Agenda are mutually reinforcing and need to be implemented in tandem.

The complexity of conflicts based in inequality and exclusion means that sustaining peace requires a long-term and comprehensive approach, involving political, security, justice, development, and human rights actions in support of national efforts, with women and youth playing a central role.

This demands constant focus and leadership by the international community. In April, member states agreed to provide that. Landmark resolutions in the General Assembly and the Security Council called on the UN system to move away from siloed approaches and act in unison to achieve sustainable peace.

We, the governments of Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sweden and the United Kingdom, hope to provide momentum to the sustaining peace agenda by co-hosting a Pledging Conference for the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund.

The event, on September 21, seeks $300 million for three years’ worth of projects. Considering that 80% of humanitarian needs stem from violent conflicts, if we can prevent them, we would avoid tremendous suffering and save billions of dollars in intervention.

The Peacebuilding Fund is uniquely positioned to support countries emerging from violent conflict or at risk of descending into violence. The fund can take financial and political risks that others are not able to assume. As such, it often lays the groundwork for much larger funds to come in.

In Sri Lanka the PBF funded the resettlement of 7,000 people on land they had lost during years of conflict. In Mali, the Fund initiated the process on cantonment camps to house combatants to hand over their weapons, spurring the World Bank to commit $26 million toward their reintegration into society after they demobilize. And in Somalia, the Fund is financing the establishment of local governments in places that have not enjoyed legitimate institutions in more than a generation.

Recapitalizing the Fund is a minor cost to pay for an effort that yields enormous dividends in terms of creating stable and just societies and the underpinnings of viable economies, not to mention prevent countless victims of violence. That is why we call on our fellow member states to invest in the Fund.

Beyond financial commitment, the sustaining peace agenda also calls for cooperation in knowledge sharing and peacebuilding through the exchange of expertise between countries facing similar adversities. Each actor has a role to play.

Because of the work of the Peacebuilding Fund and other peacebuilding initiatives in the past 10 years, we know better how to tackle the root causes of conflict and how to foster sustainable peace.

With the sustaining peace agenda now becoming a core goal of the UN’s work, the organization is better positioned than ever to live up to the first line of its founding Charter: “We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…”


H.E. Ms.  Amina C. Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kenya

H.E. Ms. Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico

H.E. Mr. Albert Koenders, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

H.E. Mr. Yun Byung-se, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea

H.E. Mr. Abdusalam Hadliyeh Omer, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Somalia

H.E. Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

H.E. Ms. Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden

H.E. Baroness Anelay, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom