The Prevention Agenda: Mapping Out Member States’ Concerns

Despite recent positive developments making forward progress on the Secretary-General’s call for a more preventive approach to crisis, in New York, discussions on prevention remain focused on difficult moments of crisis and must navigate deepening divisions in the Security Council.

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Member states agree that more effort should be made to prevent violent conflicts farther upstream, rather than to address them mainly when they are imminent or in progress (or on the Security Council agenda).

However, as described in our previous briefing, “prevention” at the UN has not had enough conceptual clarity, which has raised sensitivities over a wide range of issues. This, in turn, has hindered implementation of a more strategic approach to prevention—especially upstream prevention—at the practical level.

Indeed, the prevention agenda arrived at the UN just at the moment when the forces shaping multilateralism were shifting underneath it. The period of liberal internationalism ushered in by the end of the Cold War—with the United States in the lead—has receded in the wake of more statist and sovereigntist approaches to multilateralism.

While member states support prevention as a general idea, they have a wide range of concerns regarding its implementation—making it difficult for member states to rally around it.

Read our latest paper: The Prevention Agenda: Mapping Out Member States’ Concerns.pdf 

Nevertheless, there are pockets of common ground:

  1. At the UN, prevention strategies that are based on consent and are nationally led, such as those discussed in the Peacebuilding Commission, will find the broadest and deepest buy-in among member state constituencies. Read also: Nationally Led Prevention: Practical Examples of Approaches to Risk and Resilience
  2. pproaches that focus on capacity building rather than on shaming countries or direct interference similarly will attract wider support, as they will be seen as enhancing sovereignty rather than reducing it.
  3. To the extent that there are opportunities to create more inclusion and transparency around processes that can support prevention, these might be seized.
  4. Most member states acknowledge the need for more spaces to discuss prevention among themselves and to increase their technical expertise.
  5. There is a call for the discussion on prevention to be to be applied more universally to all member states, acknowledging that no society is immune to conflict and that each of them should undertake conscious efforts at all times to build peaceful societies.

Read the full paper: The Prevention Agenda: Mapping Out Member States’ Concerns.pdf

More in the Prevention Series

  • Publication: Policy Brief June 25, 2019 Prevention at the United Nations

    Nationally Led Prevention: Practical Examples of Approaches to Risk and Resilience

    The United Nations acknowledges that prevention is first and foremost a national priority. Indeed, governments routinely undertake efforts to reduce the risks of violent conflict, even when such actions are not formally called “prevention.” Bringing attention to nationally led efforts to reduce risks and build resilience can provide opportunities to create a positive narrative around prevention and to improve their effectiveness through an accompaniment and capacity-building approach. Such efforts also show how nationally led prevention can strengthen sovereignty, particularly as it both strengthens protective factors against violence and addresses risks.

  • Publication: Policy Brief August 29, 2019 Prevention at the United Nations

    Creating the Political Space for Prevention: How ECOWAS Supports Nationally Led Strategies

    This policy brief examines how ECOWAS has successfully addressed the concerns of their member states in West Africa to build nationally led, upstream prevention strategies. ECOWAS’ upstream prevention approaches support national sovereignty by putting the ownership of early response and structural prevention in the hands of national actors.

  • Publication: Policy Brief August 30, 2019 Prevention at the United Nations

    Breaking the Silos: Pragmatic National Approaches to Prevention

    In this policy briefing, our fifth in our series on prevention at the UN, we draw on examples from Côte d’Ivoire and Timor-Leste to illustrate how countries have developed integrated actions on prevention that cut across sectors, including security, development, and human rights. We then highlight options for the UN to better support these strategies through cross-pillar approaches and identify practical ways forward for governments implementing prevention approaches.

  • Publication: Report August 31, 2019 Pathfinders

    Development and Prevention: National Examples of Linkages

    This paper highlights practical examples of how countries are using development tools for preventive purposes. We draw on field research from Colombia, where there has been a high degree of creative and innovative initiatives to address violence, as well as presentations for the voluntary national reviews on SDG16 at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

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