Civil Society - UN Prevention Platform luncheon discussion on ‘Sustaining Peace and the 2030 Agenda: Opportunities for Prevention?’
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Quaker House, 247 E 48 Street
Civil Society – UN Prevention Platform
List of Speakers
Cedric de Coning, Senior Research Fellow, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding NUPI/ACCORD (Moderator);
Stephen Jackson, Chief of Policy Planning and Guidance, Department of Political Affairs
Bridget Moix, US Senior Representative, Peace Direct;
Joy Onyesoh, President, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Nigeria;
David Steven, Senior Fellow, Center on International Cooperation;
On 24 January 2017 the Civil Society – UN Prevention Platform held an informal discussion on the opportunities for strengthening the effective conflict prevention in the context of the 2030 Agenda. The event was moderated by Cedric de Coning. The panel was composed of four speakers from civil society and UN organisations who each explained different ways in which effective conflict prevention can be strengthened.
David Steven, Senior Fellow and Associate Director at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, noted that the reduction in all types of violence could be credited to the commitments made by Member States to the 2030 Agenda. However, worrying signs remain. Steven noted that the attitude towards militarism remains “business as usual”. In this vein, he suggested four ways in which civil society and the UN can raise policy awareness and devise strategies to combat militarism and prevent conflict. First, a consensus on structural, external and internal risks is needed. Second, operational prevention must be strengthened. Third, long-term investment strategies should be developed to ensure political, social and economic prevention. Fourth, expanded systemic prevention to mitigate external stressors must be implemented.
Stephen Jackson, Chief of Policy Planning and Guidance at the UN Department of Political Affairs, drew an analogy between the UN and a supertanker ship, both of which are “good at going hard and fast in one direction but not so good at turning around”. However, he described that it could be turned around, with a move from a normative to an operational approach. Jackson observed that sustainable development and sustainable peace converge. For the UN a big challenge is knowing which level - regional, country, or local - is the right one to address root causes of conflict. Jackson noted that the national level should be a predominant entry point.
Bridget Moix, US Senior Representative at Peace Direct, observed three new realities posed by the contemporary context. First, drawing on the recent women’s marches all around the world, she noted that “civil society is the new superpower” and that the UN needs to think about new practical ways to engage with civil society. Second, for the first time, conflicts among the big powers – the US, China and Russia – are at the top of the Agenda. In this vein, Moix asked how the prevention agenda looks in this context. Finally, she observed that when local communities are able to design their own peacekeeping and peacebuilding solutions, they are more effective and much less costly than international intervention. Moix concluded by noting that funding to local civil society from donors and the UN needs to be increased. And both civil society and the UN must find ways to build up an evidence base to monitor and demonstrate the impact of local civil society.
Joy Onyesoh, President of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Nigeria, gave an insight into how UN agencies and civil society work together on the ground. Onyesoh noted that the bureaucratic nature of the UN can prohibit inclusive and meaningful participation of civil society. Moreover, Onyesoh observed that “donors and UN agencies tend to approach funding in a ‘fire fighting’ rather than preventative manner”. Civil society organisations on the ground do not receive funds for training and development which are not seen as fundamental for building sustainable peace. Onyesoh stated that there are many complexities with regard to collaboration between UN entities and civil society on the national level. There can sometimes be friction among UN agencies themselves, and there needs to be a greater clarity of responsibility to prevent local civil society organisations from getting caught in the middle and choosing not to participate as a result.
The session was opened up to comments from the floor. It was noted that while there are financial outlays for civil society organisations, actually delivering them is difficult because of structural challenges in disbursement, monitoring and implementation. Moix noted that in her experience, even when donors had agreed to fund an organisation on paper, getting that money to organisations in a reasonable way in a reasonable time is a challenge. She called for a donors’ conference to discuss these problems and possible solutions such as multi-year funding and quick response.
Steven answered a question about what is different about the Agenda 2030 and its relationship to sustainable peace. He noted that rather than being a paradigm shift, the Agenda 2030 is a paradigm inversion. Instead of looking at how we respond to violent conflict, both pre-, during and post-conflict, sustainable peace and development are not about preventing a conflict that might be about to happen. The idea is to prevent a conflict that should never happen.
Onyesoh closed the discussion by noting that the UN agencies have internal requirements that they need to meet demonstrating that their actions have results. This can be productive and counterproductive at the same time as it results in reactionary rather than preventative approach. Onyesoh gave the example of her home country Nigeria. “It is ‘sexy’ to work in the North East responding to violent extremism, but little is being done in the North West where women are being marginalised”, she said. These are some of things civil society and the UN need to work together to create change.
The flier for the side event is available for download below.