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U.N. Spent $18 Billion On Somali Peacekeeping
Mogadishu August 29, 2007 - The United Nations spent $18 billion on peacekeeping missions around the globe in the past five years — mainly in Africa — but not enough on preventing conflicts from erupting in the first place.
That was a key conclusion of a day-long meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday which called for stepped up efforts to address the root causes of conflicts, develop early warning systems, mediate disputes, and coordinate efforts of U.N. bodies, regional organizations and others trying to prevent new wars.
The open meeting, organized by the Republic of Congo which holds the council presidency this month, focused especially on conflicts in Africa. The continent's hotspots currently account for about 60 percent of the issues on the council's agenda.
Namibia 's U.N. deputy ambassador Frieda Ithete said "about half of the world's armed conflicts and some three-quarters of the U.N. peacekeepers are in Africa."
"As we speak," she said, "there are over 6 million displaced people in the world, out of which approximately 3 million are in Africa."
Itheke underscored the need for greater investment in conflict prevention and establishment of an early warning system that would be "cost effective in saving lives and financial resources."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting that there has been a 40 percent decline in armed conflict around the world since the 1990s by some estimates, with recent research crediting U.N. peacemaking, peacekeeping and conflict prevention as a major factor, "but it is not good enough."
"Violent conflicts continue to inflict immense suffering on countless people, mostly civilians, around the world," he said. "For these victims, and for the sake of future generations, we have an obligation to take more seriously the challenge of prevention."
Ban said "a greater investment in prevention could save us considerable pain and expense — in Darfur, in Somalia, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in northern Uganda, in Western Sahara and elsewhere."
He called for improved mediation, a new focus on achieving political settlements, and new approaches to addressing the underlying causes of conflict.
But Ban said the complexity of many of today's conflicts require that "prevention must go beyond mere diplomacy" to promoting tolerance of diversity within societies. This can require promoting human rights and the rule of law, helping organize elections, building democratic institutions, training police and taking steps to prevent weapons smuggling, he said.
China 's deputy U.N. ambassador Liu Zhenmin noted that while the Security Council has often underscored its determination to prevent armed conflicts, its progress has been "less than satisfactory" because of the council's focus on conflict resolution.
"In the past five years, the United Nations has spent more than $18 billion on peacekeeping operations," he said. "If more effective efforts had been carried out in the area of conflict prevention, much less would have been spent, and many more lives would have been saved from the scourge of conflicts."
Ghana 's U.N. Ambassador Leslie Christian strongly backed a report by Ban which concluded that there was an unacceptable gap between rhetoric and reality in the area of conflict prevention, "and that too often the international community spends vast sums of money to fight fires that could have been extinguished through preventive actions."
"A fraction of the $18 billion ... could have been extended on efficient and effective preventive action," Christian said.
He blamed a lack of political will, a lack of commitment to addressing the root causes of conflicts and a "one-size fits-all" approach to implementing development programs.
Tanzania 's U.N. Ambassador Augustine Mahiga called on the Security Council and the secretary-general to launch an initiative on conflict prevention in partnership with regional organizations that would be similar to the new U.N. Peacebuilding Commission.
World leaders decided to establish the commission at a summit in September 2005 to bring together all the key international players involved in ending conflicts and promoting reconstruction and economic development of countries ravaged by war.
Mahiga said a comprehensive conflict prevention strategy would bring together the "fragmented and under-resourced" initiatives by governments and non-governmental organizations.
This would complete the third pillar of the global peace architecture — conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, he said.
U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff and Britain's new Ambassador John Sawers called for better coordination between the Security Council, the African Union and other regional groups to help prevent conflicts.
Sawers said the Security Council also needs to be engaged "long before problems turn into conflicts," which will require better political analysis and conflict assessment by the U.N. Secretariat.