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Prevention at the United Nations

In recent years, the United Nations (UN) has put prevention front and center, including through the adoption of 2016 twin Sustaining Peace resolutions, SDG 16.1, and the secretary-general’s prevention agenda. But the political sensitivity surrounding this issue and the lack of clarity of what prevention means in practice have slowed down progress for addressing prevention at the UN. CIC has sought to overcome those concerns by supporting a nationally led, upstream, and universal approach to prevention, focusing on violence from armed conflict, violent extremism, and violent crime. We have documented concrete examples of sovereignty-supporting prevention initiatives, facilitated dialogue, and produced policy advice. Within this initiative, we’ve developed a special thematic project to highlight the role of mental health and psychosocial support as part of a preventive and peacebuilding approach.

Operationalizing the Prevention Agenda at the UN

Target audience of this project

  • Member states and UN staff in New York
  • At country level, UN staff and national and local actors charged with implementing a preventive approach

What we offer

  • Unpacking prevention and finding common ground. The UN and its member states have yet to develop a concrete definition of what prevention entails, despite pervasive use of the term. Through research, interviews, and country visits, we have unpacked different interpretations of prevention in order to find the common ground among diverse views.
  • Creating the political space for prevention. Different interpretations of prevention trigger different political sensitivities. CIC has created a space to make progress on an upstream prevention approach that benefits from broad political support.
  • Developing options for operationalization. While member states agree on the importance of prevention, UN staff often struggle to operationalize it. CIC has identified some of the challenges they encounter and opportunities to overcome them.

What we do

  • Dialogues with member states. CIC engages bilaterally with and organizes workshops for a group of geographically and politically diverse member states to discuss prevention in an informal setting and to advance towards more informed consensus.
  • Dialogues with UN staff. CIC organizes workshops with UN staff across the whole system—including PBSO, agencies, funds, and programs (AFPs), peace and development advisors, the Secretariat—to discuss the operationalization of prevention.
  • Policy briefs. CIC produces policy briefs on prevention to feed into political negotiations (for instance, the 2020 Peacebuilding Architecture Review) and support the operationalization of prevention.
  • Briefing diplomats on prevention. CIC briefs diplomats in New York on prevention and supports effective negotiations.

Topics We Cover and Key Publications

Operationalizing the New Agenda for Peace

Unpacking Prevention

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) to Prevent Violence

Prevention and Political Negotiations

The COVID-19 Crisis and Violence Prevention

Photo: “Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the virtual informal meeting of the General Assembly on the Report of the Secretary-General on the Review of the Peacebuilding Architecture,” © UN Photo/Loey Felie.

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