New ‘Developments’ in the Council’s Sphere of Concern Dr. Robert Zuber

18 Jan

On Monday January 19, Chile (president of the Security Council for January) will lead Council members and other state representatives in a debate on Inclusive development for the maintenance of international peace and security.  It is anticipated that the Secretary-General will brief the Council as will Peacebuilding Commission President, Amb. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota (Brazil), and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee.

In preparation for the debate, Chile prepared and distributed a fine Concept Note that provided a rationale for Council deliberations on this important linkage at this critical time.  Indeed, consistent with Chile’s competent and comprehensive grasp of security issues, the Note squarely hit a number of high points, including a focus on women’s participation in all aspects of peacebuilding, a reaffirmation of the primacy of states in the prevention of conflict, and a clear signal of Council recognition regarding the corrosive influence of “exclusion” on efforts to preserve peace and security. Highlighting  contributions to these sorts of discussions from the 2010 Dili Declaration was also most appropriate.

From our standpoint, perhaps the most important affirmation in the Concept Note highlighted the role of armed conflict as an obstacle to development, noting its potential to destroy “the political, social, economic and cultural fabric of societies.”   Indeed, the impacts of armed violence on all dimensions of development – including environmental protection – are staggering.  This is in part what seems to be motivating so many in the development community to advocate for a ‘peace goal’ within the post-2015 framework as highlighted in, among other publications, WFUNA’s latest issue of Acronym.

In addition, as noted in our own forthcoming publication with Mexico’s Instituto Mora, in sectors of Latin America and other global settings the reverse is also the case – poverty, discrimination and broken development commitments exacerbating trafficking in narcotics, persons and weapons, all of which undermine social cohesion at many levels.   This ‘violence’ might not rise to the level of ‘armed conflict’ that triggers direct Council response, but its exacerbating characteristics are clear and compelling, precisely what Chile’s admonition to pursue more robust ‘early warning’ mechanisms should motivate us all to address more actively.

As usual, we will be in the Council on the 19th listening attentively to member state concerns, and there surely be many, from suggestions of enhanced linkages to concerns about Council over-reach.   We share these and other concerns.   Regarding linkages, there are few examples of Council engagement as ‘ripe’ for recognition of complementary efforts as this one.  Indeed, during the time of this Council debate, the GA will be meeting on stocktaking in the process of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.  The Disarmament Commission (not noted for its wide-ranging commitment to UN system complementarity) will also meet during this time to discuss its April session goals.   Moreover, the coming week is full of relevant side-events, including a Netherlands-sponsored event on Women, Peace and Security, “Seeking Synergy with the Reviews on Peace Operations and Peacebuilding.”

While recognizing that the Council is not structured to be a ‘bulletin board’ of overlapping events, the failure of the Concept Note to make more specific mention of the timely and far-reaching efforts by the UN system to harmonize the development and security pillars seems needlessly negligent to us.   The Concept Note does mention the work of the Peacebuilding Commission, and certainly with good reason. But given recent, dramatic, systemic efforts on post-2015 goals and growing, global concerns about security relationships (with or without support for a stand-alone ‘peace goal’), it would have been wise for the Note to have been more generous in its complementary recognitions, especially given the ‘downstream’ nature of much PBC activity and the compelling ‘upstream’ mood characteristic of so many post-2015 discussions.

And this leads to our second point, that the failure to recognize these other, active agents of change on security and development reinforces for some a concern that the Council still has not yet satisfied its ‘appetite’ for the control of thematic interests more skillfully engaged elsewhere in the system.  We have commented many times on why an expanding Council understanding of peace and security responsibilities must come attached to more humble and accountable ‘seizings’ coupled with a robust and generous recognition of related work taking place elsewhere in the UN system.   We strongly urge member states during Monday’s debate to offer this recognition at every relevant opportunity.

The Council simply must learn to better engage issues of interest without appearing to control policy outcomes or undermine colleagues active in other parts of the UN system.  As it rightly prepares for security-related challenges posed by development inadequacies and outright failures, the Council still has a small ‘development’ issue of its own to deal with.

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