UN Secretary-General António Guterres says forced displacement is at its highest levels since the Second World War. Guterres also says space for civil society is shrinking. Addressing the United Nations Security Council meeting on conflict prevention and mediation on Wednesday, Guterres said the human and financial costs of conflict are high, and rising.
“Forced displacement is at the highest levels since the Second World War, and hunger is resurgent after years of decline,” he said. “We cannot afford to reduce the energy and resources we invest in prevention and mediation. But let’s not fool ourselves. Prevention and mediation will not work without broader political efforts.”
Guterres urged Council members, and all UN Member States, to strive for greater unity so that prevention and mediation efforts are as effective as possible.
He said that was the only way to meet “our responsibilities to the peoples we serve.”
Guterres regretted that despite all efforts, peace faced enormous obstacles.
“Divisions in the international community mean that wars continue to rage as external actors dither or even fuel the violence. Civilians pay the price,” he noted. “The fragmentation of non-state armed groups and militias causes even greater chaos. There is a resurgence of populism and policies that contribute to resentment, marginalisation and extremism, even in societies that are not at war. There are attempts in some countries to roll back human rights and the progress that has been made over recent decades on gender and inclusion. Space for civil society is shrinking.”
Guterres said his Special Representative in Libya had detailed the Security Council on the heavy toll in human lives resulting from armed clashes and fighting in that country, and the lack of “moral motivation” to end the war.
“The continuing crisis in Venezuela, and its humanitarian impact, are a grave concern,” he said. “I support international ongoing efforts to find a peaceful, negotiated solution reached by the main Venezuelan political actors, and have been following closely the process in Norway. My good offices remain available to support serious negotiations when required by the parties.”
Guterres said in Syria, “we face a scenario of ongoing cycles of instability, violence and suffering.”
“We cannot have a sustainable peace if different parties continue to conduct military operations in the country,” he cautioned. “There is no military solution to the conflict. Without a comprehensive political solution, based on this Council’s resolution 2254 that addresses the root causes of instability, Syria will never know stability or peace.”
Guterres said UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions undertake vital conflict prevention and resolution efforts.
He said in some situations, the prospect or application of well-targeted sanctions regimes, in accordance with the United Nations Charter can also help move parties towards peace.
“Sustainable development is an end in itself, but it is also one of the most effective tools we have to prevent conflict. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our blueprint to create resilient, stable societies and to address the root causes of violence of all kinds,” Guterres said. “This means a strong focus on inclusivity, with a special emphasis on mainstreaming women’s rights and gender equality across our prevention and mediation work.”
He observed that progress on women’s participation in formal peace processes was still lagging.
Guterres said some 600 million young people living in fragile and conflict-affected states have a vital contribution to make to mediation and peacebuilding processes.
He said the first International Symposium for Youth Participation in Peace Processes earlier this year was an important step forward.