A Call for Stable and Peaceful Policies

4 May

On April 25, Global Action joined with other civil society organizations (WFUNA, FES, WILPF) in launching an initiative to support the work of the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly in promoting the cross-cutting theme, “Ensuring Stable and Peaceful Societies.”  These organizations affirm the important value of this theme as the UN seeks adoption of a new (and hopefully expanded) set of sustainable development goals.

Our event immediately followed a day and a half long Thematic Debate in the General Assembly on ‘Ensuring Stable and Peaceful Societies’ that sought to field comment outlining both state aspirations and responsibilities within this dynamic normative framework.

As one might anticipate, the range of lenses that diplomats sought to include in their analysis of ‘stable and peaceful societies,’ was quite broad.   This is as it should be.  The normative framework suggested by this Thematic Debate touches on all facets of the UN’s work as diplomats were quick to acknowledge.   Some, like Qatar and Israel, noted the need for more ‘honest and responsible governance.’ Cuba underscored the deep divides that must be overcome between rich and poor.  Switzerland called for dramatic improvements in accessible public space.  Japan called for more attention to the management of ‘disaster risk.’ Australia, Nicaragua and others highlighted the need for more efforts to empower women.  Ecuador called for restraints on over-consumption and the end of what it called ‘speculative economies.’  Argentina affirmed the need for more attention to ‘rule of law’ obligations.  Egypt called for more efforts to address ‘massive refugee flows.’  Kenya noted challenges to peace represented by both illicit weapons and shortages of precious water.  The US and others clarified and solidified the linkages between violence and impediments to the fulfillment of development priorities.  Indonesia called for internal UN reforms to better serve the interests of a ‘rebalanced’ economic system.

On and on it went for over a day: states sometimes being provocative but mostly pointing out diverse elements of the massive, multi-dimensional undertaking that is ‘stable and peaceful societies.’   The Thematic Debate in the GA underscored the degree to which challenges associate with all three pillars that delineate the UN’s primary responsibilities – peace and security, human rights and development –   must be addressed in tandem.  Indeed, our growing populations and shrinking access to available resources; our increasingly sophisticated, digitally-driven military tools; and a new set of often-gruesome human rights responsibilities from Damascus to Bangui are more than sufficient to keep the policy community engaged at multiple levels.    The bar is set high here. The expectations for action coming from beyond UN headquarters are considerable.   This is not a ball we can afford to drop.

We know from the NGO side that we need to do more to support states and UN secretariat officials in keeping linkages relevant to the promotion of ‘stable and peaceful societies’ fresh among diverse stakeholders.  This involves a deeper level of partnership commitment, more than simply telling diplomats what’s missing and what ‘they’ need to do about it.    Through our own related initiatives, we seek to take more responsibility for goal setting and implementation, to do more to redress imbalances and end violence than merely pointing out the limitations of others.

As the presidency of the General Assembly shifts from year to year, we can do our part to be both facilitator and ‘institutional memory’ when it comes to ‘stable and peaceful societies.’     This involves a commitment to work closely and effectively with the new GA president’s staff on another round of diplomatic engagements with this thematic issue.  But it also involves a commitment to take account of broader fields of inquiry and their stakeholders, to perceive wider relevance and open doors to different kinds of constituent participation. ‘Stable and peaceful societies’ represents both a compelling aspiration and a profound test of our policy commitment and maturity.   This is one test we need to study hard for.

Dr. Robert Zuber

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