On December 6, the EastWest Institute and the European Parliament convened the first Global Conference on Preventive Action. The conference produced several concrete recommendations for more effectively preventing conflicts, many focused on the United Nations.
While participants broadly agreed that the United Nations has made progress with efforts like the Responsibility to Protect, more needs to be done.
Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs in the United Nations, said that preventive diplomacy in the U.N. needs flexible funding to respond rapidly to conflicts. Of his department, he said, “We rely enormously on extra budgetary spending. What we do need is predictable, secure sources of funding.”
Dr. Antje Herrberg, who consults with the Crisis Management Initiative in Brussels, suggested the creation of a Global Trust Fund to support preventive action in the United Nations.
The conference also produced a number of suggested structural reforms to the United Nations: one participant recommended merging the Department for Political Affairs and the Department for Peacekeeping Operations’ country desks to integrate and improve the U.N.’s analytical capacity in regards to conflict prevention. Another suggested forming an Early Conflict Prevention Commission to complement the UN Peace Building Commission.
According to Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, former Secretary General of ASEAN, the number one way the UN can better prevent conflicts would be to better engage international NGOs – “some of the civil society bodies, which have resources to contribute more specifically to some of this preventive action.”
Ong’s point was borne out by several other conference participants, who noted that effective collaboration between personnel from the U.N., NGOs, and regional organizations already exists on the ground.