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Secretary-General says global effort against armed conflict needs change from "culture of reaction to culture of prevention"

Press Release - SC/6759

Security Council Told Key is Effective Deterrent Action; As Debate Begins, 23 Nations Also Present Views on United Nations Role

The international community needed to move "from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention", Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this afternoon in an open Security Council debate on the prevention of armed conflict.

Echoing a theme subsequently taken up by other speakers, and outlining measures the Council might take, such as encouraging States to bring potential conflicts to its attention, the Secretary-General said the Council should also give urgent attention to States which suffered acute economic, environmental and security strains because they were hosting large refugee populations from neighbouring countries. Prevention was not cost-free, yet it was cost-effective in human and financial terms.

The Council alone could not remove the long-term causes of conflict, he continued. Healthy and balanced development was the best form of long-term conflict prevention. Effective action would often require joint action by many different organs and agencies. There was scope for closer policy coordination between them, and in many cases between them and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private corporations. A key role in preventing conflict and maintaining order was deterrence. Nothing would be more effective in deterring States and other parties from resorting to the extreme measures of present-day conflicts, than a clear demonstration that the Council was prepared to take decisive action when faced with crimes against humanity.

Japan's representative said that while timely action was the key to conflict prevention, the Council's recent actions did not entirely record success. In the case of Iraq, it had been almost one year since the inspectors of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) left the country, yet the Council had not been able to reach a decision as to how to deal with the situation there. While the Council had been able to act more quickly on East Timor, an even quicker response would have been welcome. The Council should take the lead in moving from a culture of reaction to one of prevention.

Delayed action meant delayed peace and prolonged suffering, the representative of Namibia told the Council. If the Council had acted swiftly in Sierra Leone, it could have saved the lives and limbs of thousands of innocent civilians. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, delaying the deployment of military observers to preserve the peace might not only unravel the regional peace process, but also result in a recurrence of the conflict that could engulf much of the continent. The Council must show the same resolve in African situations as it did in others, he stressed. The presence of African States in the Council would help Africa participate meaningfully in the prevention of armed conflict.

Several speakers expressed concern that the Council was not representative of all the Member States and employed a policy of double standards in its actions. The representative of Libya asked why the Council had not responded to the United States aggression against his country. The representative of Sudan said the Council sometimes ignored threats that actually endangered international peace and security. The Council had never responded to Sudan's request for a fact-finding mission to investigate the United States bombing of a pharmaceutical company in Khartoum.

A number of States expressed concern about the concept of intervening on humanitarian grounds, as this might violate national sovereignty and territorial integrity. In the course of the five-hour debate, speakers also stressed that parties to a dispute must exhibit political will to resolve their differences through peaceful means. While there was need to work cooperatively with regional organizations, this must be done strictly according to the Charter's provisions. Others drew attention to the need to strengthen the Secretary-General's preventive diplomacy role, and enhance the Secretariat's ability to provide early warning information.

The United States representative said his country would welcome a ministerial level meeting on conflict prevention during next year’s Millennium session of the General Assembly.

Statements were also made by the representatives of France, Argentina, Canada, United Kingdom, China, Russian Federation, Bahrain, Malaysia, Brazil, Gabon, Gambia, Netherlands, Finland (speaking for the European Union and associated States), United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Australia, Republic of Korea and Belarus.

The meeting, which began at 3:14 p.m., suspended at 8:17 p.m. and will resume tomorrow morning.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this afternoon to consider its role in the prevention of armed conflict.


Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN told the Council prevention was one of the main tasks of the United Nations. Far too often, however, the effects of conflict were dealt with rather than its roots. There was need to move from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention. Prevention was cost-effective in financial and human terms. While that was widely recognized, arguments for delaying or refusing action could always be found. There was no substitute for recognition by the parties themselves that their actions were moving toward conflict, and that preventive action was needed. But there were ways in which the Organization should and could do more to make that clear to the parties.

The Council should use this meeting to examine how it could make prevention a tangible part of its day-to-day work, he said. It could make greater use of fact-finding missions at earlier stages of a dispute; encourage States which became aware of potential conflict within or among their neighbours to bring the issues to the Council’s attention; and give urgent attention to the problems of States which suffered acute economic, environmental and security strains, with risks to their internal stability, because they were hosting large refugee populations from neighbouring countries. Guinea, with 500,000 refugees in its territory from Liberia and Sierra Leone, would be a strong candidate for such attention in the immediate future. Also, the Council should consider establishing an informal working group or subsidiary organ to study early warning and report thereon; and institute regular meetings on prevention, to identify areas requiring urgent action. Finally, the United Nations must address the issue of resources. Preventive action was not cost-free.

In the longer term, it was important to address the deep-rooted causes of conflict, which often lay in the economic and social spheres, he said. Poverty, repression and undemocratic government and endemic underdevelopment, weak or non-existent institutions, political and economic discrimination between ethnic or religious communities -- these were the long-term causes of conflicts.

Ultimately, it was the responsibility of every Member State to prevent conflict by practising good governance, he said. Member States must resolve internal differences peacefully and through negotiation. They must allow dissent, establish the rule of law, protect the rights of minorities and ensure that elections were free and fair. They must adopt enlightened economic and social policies, which did not allow any group of the population to feel excluded from its share of wealth or decision-making. Healthy and balanced development was the best form of long-term conflict prevention.

The Council alone could not help Member States to remove the long-term causes of conflict, he continued. Many of those fell within the terms of reference of other parts of the United Nations, including the Bretton Woods institutions, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Court of Justice. Effective action would often require joint action by many different organs and agencies. As those entities often had separate agendas, in the past they had not been used to working together. But that was now improving, though there was still scope for much closer coordination of policy among them, and in many cases between them and non- governmental agencies (NGOs) or private corporations. The Council might wish to take the initiative in organizing discussion of the many issues involved at the highest level - perhaps at a meeting to be held during next year’s Millennium Assembly.

In the domestic affairs of Member States, he said, conflict-prevention was usually described as the maintenance of order. And a key role in maintaining order was played by deterrence. He recalled that he had appealed to the General Assembly for a new consensus on intervention, defined in the broadest sense. Any armed prevention was itself a result of the failure of prevention and he stressed the value of deterrence in preventing conflict. Nothing would be more effective in deterring States and other parties from resorting to the extreme measures that characterize too many present-day conflicts, than a clear demonstration that the Council was prepared to take decisive action when faced with crimes against humanity. (For text of statement, see Press Release SG/SM/7238 - SC/6760 issued today).

RICHARD HOLBROOKE (United States) said that despite enormous advances in this century, war was still viewed by many as the best means to settle differences. That fact must be recognized and addressed.

Summarizing his observations during his recent trip to East Timor, he said that while there was some hope and progress in East Timor, the situation in West Timor refugee camps was not as positive. The thousands of refugees were being fed misinformation and made afraid to return to East Timor. Money would be best spent in an effort to get people out of the camps and back to East Timor if they wished to return. There had been a massive failure of public information in West Timor and no effective counter to the propaganda that was being spread. Recently, messages from East Timorese leaders were being distributed in the camps.

Much of what the Council did was indispensable in dealing with the consequences of conflict, he said. It was also the Council's responsibility to address the underlying causes of conflict but the record in that regard had been less than exemplary. He cited Bosnia and Rwanda as examples of places where more could and should have been done. "We can and must do more from now on", he stated.

Ultimately, however, government leaders must answer for their actions, he said. The international community must focus on the tools needed to mitigate tensions and commit to early preventive action. Above all, a comprehensive approach to conflict-prevention activities was needed. The Secretary-General's role in identifying and mitigating potential conflicts was important, and the United States continued to encourage him to intercede in deteriorating situations as soon as possible and to keep the Council informed of his actions.

Greater engagement by the Security Council was also required, he continued. The Council should consider the deployment of missions similar to those in East Timor to other conflict situations where appropriate.

The United Nations could not always act alone. It should augment existing efforts through better coordination with regional and subregional organizations, informing the international financial institutions of potential crisis situations, so that they could respond appropriately, and enhancing the Organization's capability to recruit, train and deploy international civilian police. It was also important to take effective measures to combat the illicit trade in commodities -- like small arms and diamonds -- that helped to prolong conflicts.

He said the entire United Nations system must support the Secretary- General's efforts to strengthen and mobilize resources for conflict prevention activities. The United States would also welcome a ministerial-level meeting on conflict-prevention during next year's millennium assembly. In the interim, it was vital that the Security Council, the Secretariat and all Member States played an active role in ongoing efforts to prevent international conflict.

ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said the provisions of the United Nations Charter enabled the Council to act in preventing armed conflict. Chapters VI and VII dealt with actions available to address threats to peace, including preventive actions. The Council had a range of resources available to it, including enforcement measures. It was important to consider the difficulties that the Council faced in playing its role in preventing conflict. At a time of influence by mass media, events leading up to conflict drew less attention than conflicts already under way. Preventive action often required discretion and steadfastness, which were virtues that were not well adapted to media.

Sometimes it was useful for the Council to deal with an issue openly to mobilize pressure on the parties, he said, as in the case with the Council body sent to Jakarta and Dili. In other cases, however, it was preferable to act discretely. While aware of the desire for increasing transparency of the Council’s activities, there was need to take advantage of discrete ways and means, and the advantages inherent in informal consultations or other formulae that allowed direct dialogue with the parties.

Most conflicts were internal and preventive action might be viewed as infringing on States’ sovereignty, he said. Yet failure to act could lead to the destabilization of an entire region. A balance between those apparently contradictory concerns must be achieved. The Charter, in legal terms, did not prevent the Council from discussing an internal situation if the continuation of a dispute was likely to endanger international peace and security, as stipulated in Article 34. The use of force, which was subject to other provisions, should not be confused with Council debate.

Another challenge was to take sufficient steps, in time and with sufficient resources. The Council was often accused of doing too little too late. Sufficient resources were needed to take action. There was need for courage and political will to act before it was too late. A proper balance must be struck between needs and resources. Resources should not be a constraint or a requirement for Council action.

The role of the Council could not be isolated from the roles played by other United Nations bodies, he continued. The Secretary-General must rely on expertise in the Secretariat as well as resources for information and early warning mechanisms. Since the essential causes of conflicts must be addressed, States and donors should ensure sustainable development, proper distribution of wealth, good governance and protection of human rights and minorities. Combating the trafficking in small arms was a key area of preventive action. Another key was the proper reintegration of former combatants; for this, economic viability was necessary. Regional organizations had an important role to play, there should be more official contact between the Council and officials from these entities. Preventing conflicts was an area in which the Council could do more and do better, he said.

FERNANDO PETRELLA (Argentina) said there was a need for cooperative security policies that would strengthen the security of all. At the same time, the root cause of conflicts must be confronted.

The power to adopt preventive measures resided mainly with the Security Council, he said. That was where political will must be created. The Council should intensify its use of all options available under the Charter to establish conflict prevention. The Secretary-General contributed to the Council's conflict-prevention efforts through early detection of situations that might endanger peace and security. He underscored the importance of the role of international criminal tribunals and said that role would be enhanced when the Rome Statute of the permanent International Court entered into force.

Member States must see to it that the climate of international security in the coming decades was one in which the interests of collective security prevailed over national and individual interests, he said.

ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said his country had consistently called for greater Council activism on conflict prevention. He supported the Secretary- General's appeal to the Council to embrace a culture of prevention. The Secretary-General had noted that even the most costly prevention policy was far cheaper, in lives and resources, than the prevailing culture of reaction. The Council would be required to embrace a broader definition of security, one which took into account the multiple factors that contributed to conflict and addressed them in their earlier stages and manifestations. It meant focusing not only on aggression between States, but also on intra-State security issues, such as gross and systematic human rights abuse or catastrophic humanitarian emergencies, utter failures of governance and the rule of law and gross instances of economic deprivation. In short, it meant paying greater attention to threats to human security. Responding to such threats early and effectively required a political decision by the Council. Early preventive action by the Council, whether persuasive or coercive, would help to pre-empt both the emergence and the escalation of conflict, providing an important deterrent.

The Council should consider deploying more preventive presences, both military and civilian, he continued. The creation of the international criminal tribunals had been an innovative and progressive step. Until the International Criminal Court was established, he hoped that the precedent set by the tribunals would be followed in other situations. The Council should also take full advantage of the preventive capacities of the Office of the Secretary-General and ensure that the Secretary-General had the necessary resources and political support to act. More importantly, the Council needed to take action in response to his advice. It should also make greater use of the provisions for the peaceful settlement of disputes under Chapter VI of the Charter, in particular by launching its own investigations into potential conflicts and encouraging Member States to bring such matters to its attention. He suggested that Council delegations be dispatched to conflict situations, but cautioned that such a practice should be used sparingly, so as not to "devalue its currency".

If the Council were to be an effective tool of conflict prevention, it must adapt its "conclave and privileged" working methods to the new security environment by broadening its range of interlocutors and sources of information, he said. There should be more scope for the participation of non-Members in its deliberations. It should also explore more innovative formats to permit interaction with non-State actors who could contribute to its efforts at conflict prevention. Canada supported cooperation between the Council and regional and sub-regional security organizations; they could play key roles in averting conflicts because of their proximity to the issues and their intimate knowledge of the protagonists. However, there was a continuing tendency for the Council to devolve, or at least discuss the devolution of, its own security responsibilities to such groups, often in the full knowledge that they were neither competent nor capable of assuming such responsibilities.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said that too often Security Council intervention came too late to prevent widespread death and destruction. Disputes had to be prevented from escalating into armed warfare. The role of the Secretary-General was essential and he must be given the support he needed to work for peace on his own initiative. That meant building the capacity of the United Nations Secretariat. It must be able to produce sharper analyses of potential conflicts. Also, the ability of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to rapidly deploy United Nations peacekeepers, police and civilians had to be reinforced.

The Secretary-General must have the freedom to work up more creative approaches to preventive diplomacy, he said. He must be allowed to carry them forward discreetly and under his own tactical judgement if they were to succeed. Member States, too, must play a stronger role, not least in Africa. The Security Council must work harder and show more initiative than others. Where the Council failed to prevent genocide and other massive abuses of human rights, others were encouraged to believe that they too could get away with crimes against humanity. The fact that so many of those conflicts were internal should not bar collective steps to resolve them.

There was a shared responsibility to act when confronted by genocide, mass displacement of people or major breaches of international humanitarian law. Preventive action could take many forms, and military action would not always be desirable or feasible. But when the international community did use force in response to humanitarian crises, it needed a framework for that response: a common understanding within the Security Council and wider United Nations membership of the circumstances and conditions of action. Force should be used as a last resort. It must be limited in scope. It must be proportionate to the humanitarian objective of preventing major loss of civilian life.

If the United Nations was to live up to its goals, the Council must work in concert with the Secretary-General, with the Funds, Programmes and Agencies and with the wider membership. "With a shared commitment and a clear purpose, we will begin to make a difference", he said.

QIN HUASUN (China) said that there seemed to be a tendency for the Council to put too much emphasis on intervention while neglecting effective prevention. All too often there was heated debate on intervention, while neither prevention, nor serious inquiry into the root causes of conflicts, was given adequate attention. Timely and effective preventive measures would get twice the result with half the effort. They not only helped avoid loss of life and property, but also saved resources.

The United Nations’ successes in settling regional conflicts had always been the natural result of adherence to the Charter, he said, while contravention of Charter principles led to failure and setback. That was also true of armed conflict prevention. All preventive measures should only be taken on condition of respect for the political independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and for the will of the Government and people of the country concerned. They could only be taken upon request, or with the consent and cooperation of the country or parties concerned, when it comes to issues involving the country’s sovereignty -- such as setting up early -warning systems or sending fact-finding missions. Before making any major decisions, the Security Council must listen to the views of all sides in a neutral and fair manner.

The majority of armed conflicts in the world occurred in developing countries, he observed. For too long, the unreasonable old international political and economic order had seriously hindered the economic development and social progress of those countries, putting them at a disadvantage in the new wave of globalization. That was undoubtedly the major cause of the turbulence and frequent conflicts in some countries. Promotion of the economic growth of developing countries was of important practical relevance in preventing armed conflicts. Also, peace in different regions of the world was an indivisible and related whole. In the context of conflict prevention, the Council should treat all regions in the world equally. Concluding, he said the United Nations must stop paying lip-service to Africa, and start allocating more human and financial resources to that region.

GENNADY GATILOV (Russian Federation) said the discussion was timely and useful. The United Nations played a key role in preventing conflicts. In fulfilling its Charter role as the body with major responsibility for international peace and security, the Council had the right to use a broad set of instruments established in the framework of the United Nations to prevent disputes becoming conflicts. But this must be done on a voluntary basis, and only with the unequivocally expressed support of the host country, to be legal and effective. Any United Nations action -- including situations with humanitarian profile -- must be undertaken in accordance with the Charter.

It was advisable to develop new norms of international law and adapt these to new realities, but it must happen in accordance with the Charter. For States in a dispute situation, Chapter VII of the Charter, provided for a broad set of instruments for preventing conflict. Stressing the importance of arms control, he said an arms embargo "full of holes" would only worsen the military confrontation of conflicting parties. Preventive measures should also include demobilizing, disarming and reintegrating former combatants. Without effective implementation of an arms embargo, the situation in Kosovo and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would not be resolved favourably. The failure to disarm had led to a breakdown in the peace process in Angola.

The Russian Federation felt that more effective involvement of a civilian component of multi functional peacekeeping operations, and particularly civilian police, was another key. However, it had principled disagreement with endowing such components with enforcement rights.

Regional organizations and subregional structures were playing an important role in early warning and the prevention of conflicts, but their participation must comply with that Chapter of the Charter, he stressed. There should be a study on more rational cooperation between the United Nations and the regional organizations on the basis of Chapter VIII. The Russian Federation was prepared to consider ways to enhance the Council’s role with a view to preventing armed conflicts.

JASSIM M. BUALLAY (Bahrain) said the roles of the Council and the Secretary-General were important to ensure success in the prevention of armed conflict; there must be cooperation and coordination of efforts. Not all of the issues regarding the Middle East were on the Council's agenda, even though Council resolutions affecting the area had not yet been implemented and the occupying power was disobeying the will of the Council.

Pointing out that many conflicts had economic and social causes, he stressed the importance of post-conflict reconciliation and peacebuilding. He hailed the role of fact-finding missions and stated that any request for a country to have such a mission should be considered. Many other peaceful means for the settlement of disputes were available. Currently, United Nations bodies worked without proper coordination, leading to waste. There was a duplication of effort in consolidating peace and maintaining peace.

Although the Council was indeed the major body for the settlement of conflicts, was it not better to prevent conflicts? he asked. The United Nations was not a government and did not have an army. What happened when there was a contradiction between United Nations policy and actions of Member States? Citing the uninterrupted flow of arms, he said the United Nations was powerless in the face of the interests of certain Member States.

Turning to refugee camps, he said the Council should study the fate of refugees seriously, even though that was not strictly within its responsibilities. It was unacceptable for refugees to be forced by a party to a conflict to bear arms for it. The culture of conflict prevention required a heightened awareness of the harmful consequences of conflict. Citing United Nations activities in Haiti and Guinea Bissau, which demonstrated the link between peacekeeping and peacebuilding, he said there must be coordination between the Council and United Nations bodies in fact not just in words. There must be strict implementation of arms embargoes, the status of refugees must be dealt with in a positive way and a targeted culture must be created to highlight the harmful consequences of conflict must be created. The Council had a duty to act as coordinator among United Nations bodies striving to prevent conflict. In that way it could rebut arguments that it was a private club, not connected to the outside world.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that timely action was of critical importance if conflicts were to be addressed before they exploded into violence. The prevention of armed conflict was multi-dimensional in nature and required the resources of a comprehensive and integrated United Nations system. That system was vital in any effort to prevent the emergence or re-emergence of armed conflict. It was also imperative for the Organization to oversee the successful implementation of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programme of ex-combatants in all post-conflict activities and to address the root causes of the conflict. Further, there should be greater recourse to the use of preventive diplomacy and the good offices of the Secretary-General. The positive outcome of the Council's recent mission to Jakarta and Dili would argue for greater utilization of that mechanism with respect to future conflict situations.

He noted that the alarming increase in intrastate warfare was fast changing the landscape and nature of modern day conflicts. In the context of the changing nature of current conflicts, the Council must re-examine past approaches and formulate new strategies. Even in respect of classic inter- state conflict situations, it was regrettable that the Council had not been successful in bringing warring parties to a negotiated settlement. The Charter provided the Council with options, including the invoking of certain provisional measures not involving the use of force to defuse such situations. He cited Article 40, which provided an avenue for Council action, including the imposition of arms embargoes and targeted sanctions. However, in contemplating such actions, every effort must be made to ensure that they did not lead to any undesirable humanitarian impact on the general population.

At the core of the issue, he said, was the effectiveness of the Council in responding to crisis situations, including humanitarian calamities. The contradiction between respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, on the one hand, and the moral and ethical imperative to stop massacres within States, on the other, was real and difficult to resolve. What was important was the Council's ability to consider such situations in a dispassionate manner and to find the political will to act decisively to prevent or contain such conflicts whenever or wherever they occurred. Regrettably, however, the narrow interests of some Council members, particularly the permanent members, had often gotten in the way of effective decision-making. Clearly, a more cohesive and united Council would make an enormous difference in addressing the issue of the protection of vulnerable populations in situations of armed conflict.

GELSON FONSECA JR. (Brazil) said that conflict prevention measures must be predicated on the consent of the Government -- or Governments -- concerned, in full respect of their sovereignty. Secondly, a progressive engagement of the Council in which preventive measures were adopted gradually, was always preferable. Thirdly, the Council should keep a sense of proportionality between the situation it intended to address and the measures it considered applying. Finally, in the face of extreme situations, the Council might be compelled to resort to enforcement measures based on Chapter VII of the Charter.

In such cases, he continued, everything must be done to preserve the authority of enforcement actions in the name of prevention and to insure that they met with the principles of international law. The means at the disposal of the Council were vast and should be applied without selectivity. However, they were not the only measures available. Other United Nations bodies also had a responsibility with regard to conflict prevention.

There was no single formula for conflict prevention, he said. Preventive actions, thus, should be taken after an assessment of the specifics of each situation. Encompassing strategies would have to be based on a deep understanding of the multiple root causes of conflict. Hopefully, the conditions for a strong concrete basis for a comprehensive conflict-prevention strategy would be available when eradicating poverty was no longer a vague ideal but a common endeavour, and when the respect of human rights became a universal concern in daily life in all countries. A successful long-term strategy for conflict prevention should be based on the sense that the international community was united in struggling for development and for justice. Lack of development should never be used to justify the horrors and atrocities seen in recent conflicts, he stressed.

CHARLES ESSONGHE (Gabon) said the Charter contained the guidelines for United Nations action to promote peace and security in the world. A good early warning mechanism would make it possible to detect signs of threats to peace and would offer better possibility for preventive diplomatic action to encourage the parties to negotiated settlement rather than armed confrontation. The principles of peaceful settlement, through dialogue or legal settlement, were enshrined in the Charter. The Charter was clear: it gave a mandate to the Council in the field of armed conflict prevention, and elaborated the steps to be taken. The Council had the power to help stop a dispute before it turned into an armed conflict.

The difficulties in that task involved two areas: the speed of preventive action and firmness of commitment, he said. Diplomatic action must be initiated as soon as the signs were detected. Criticism had focused on hesitation depending on whether conflicts were taking place in Africa or elsewhere. Several conflicts could have been avoided had the Council not "dragged its feet". Yet in the enormous task of preventing conflict, the Council did not hold a monopoly. It would not be fair for the Council to address the situation alone. The bodies of the United Nations system and Member States of the Organization must all be called upon to combine efforts.

If there was one field that related directly to prevention, it was post- conflict peace-building, he continued. Demobilizing and disarming must receive special attention. The question of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons remained a major concern which must be faced by an any post- conflict peace-building operation, or any peacekeeping operation in the framework of a broad mandate. Countries that produced and sold arms must transcend their desire for profit and focus their efforts on eliminating and preventing arms. The parties to an armed conflict must display a sense of responsibility to achieve a negotiated settlement, instead of opting for extreme measures. The use of traditional methods must also gain ground. Those with clear influence on the parties to the dispute should be involved in resolving conflict, rather than fuelling conflict.

BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said that the Council was capable of fulfilling its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. However, the weight of its power and prestige was only worthy if it drew inspiration from the principle of fair play and even-handedness in dealing with all conflicts no matter where they occurred. Then, and only then, could the Council claim the moral authority to offer solutions to problems of common concern. "Let us not be lulled into believing that relative security and stability in some parts of the world is enough to proclaim that our collective security is guaranteed."

He commended Slovenia for elaborating a comprehensive draft Presidential Statement, which constituted a blueprint for the preponderant role that the world expected the Council to play in the prevention of armed conflicts. The draft contained useful guidelines to help the Council be more proactive. In that context, he called for greater emphasis on early-warning mechanisms, preventive diplomacy and preventive deployment, which also included Council missions abroad. It was one thing to be forewarned, but it was another to take urgent and appropriate action. Unfortunately, experience had shown that more often than not, there was too little done, too late, especially in Africa.

For the Council to succeed in resolving problems around the world, the parties concerned must cooperate fully and unconditionally, be they State or non-State actors, he said. Among the issues to be borne in mind were small arms, light weapons and arms embargoes. Sustained concerted international efforts were desirable and absolutely necessary to tackle the difficult problems of post-conflict peace-building, as well as poverty eradication. Poverty was one of the root causes of armed conflicts. He was pleased that that point had been raised in the draft Presidential Statement, which underscored the need for all United Nations organs and agencies to assist Member States to eradicate poverty. By scrupulously following the guidelines outlined in the draft Statement, the Council's credibility would be enhanced, its authority strengthened and a stable world guaranteed for all.

MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the Carnegie Foundation estimated that the seven major wars of the 1990s - not including Kosovo - had cost the international community $199 billion, in addition to the cost to the countries actually at war. Most of those wars could have been avoided if more attention had been paid to prevention. While the primary responsibility for maintaining peace and security rested with the Council, preventing conflict required a multifaceted approach by the Council and other principal organs.

Internal wars continued to take a heavy toll on the civilian population, and especially the most vulnerable persons. Therefore, early warning was the best way to avert tragedies going on in different parts of the world. Where peace agreements had been secured, the Council must act swiftly to assist in facilitating implementation. Delayed action meant delayed peace, and prolonged suffering.

In Sierra Leone, the swift action by the Council would have saved the lives and limbs of thousands of innocent civilians. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, prolonged delay to deploy military observers to preserve the peace might not only unravel the regional peace process, but also result in a recurrence of the conflict that could engulf much of the continent. The Council must show the same resolve in African situations as it did in others.

He recalled that at their most recent summit, the Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had declared that the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution was a valuable asset for the African continent that must be nurtured and consolidated. Yet they had also made it clear that the mechanism, which symbolized the continent’s concerted resolve to assume its responsibilities, did not exonerate the United Nations from its obligations under the Charter. The Council must assist the OAU in its early warning capacities. Regional arrangements could contribute to the maintenance of peace only if their actions were consistent with Chapter VIII of the Charter. He welcomed the increasing cooperation between the United Nations and the OAU, and said the tendency to undertake peace enforcement without specific mandates from the Council and without acting in accordance with the Charter should be discouraged, as it undermined the Council’s credibility and diminished its peacekeeping role.

He said Namibia supported the view that before sanctions were imposed, their scope and purpose should be defined, and duration clearly specified, in the resolution imposing them. Resolving the problems that arose from the application of sanctions must rest with the United Nations under whose name they were imposed. Stressing the need for cooperation between the members of the United Nations and regional organizations, he called for a revitalized Council. The presence of African States in both categories in the Council would help Africa participate meaningfully in the prevention of armed conflict, particularly in Africa. The OAU Heads of States had called for the democratization of the United Nations and the Council, and the recognition of Africa’s legitimate place in that organ.

PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said that the cost of an armed conflict in humanitarian, social and economic terms would always exceed the outlay for even the most intricate preventive action. Conflict prevention by the Council rested on three pillars -- early warning, early attention and early action. The Council had to be warned about an impending crisis early enough for it to be able to act; it had to give sufficient and timely attention to the case, and then it had to act effectively to prevent the conflict from erupting. The problem nowadays was not a lack of early warning of impending crises but rather the follow-up to it. Of fundamental importance, therefore, was the attitude of the 15 Council Members. "It is they who make or break the relevance of the Council to the maintenance of international peace and security," he said.

He said everything in the Charter with regard to the prevention of armed conflict -- in Chapters VI and VII and in Article 99 -- appeared to have been drafted with conflicts between States in mind. However, the overwhelming majority of present-day conflicts on the Council's agenda were of an internal, domestic nature. Against that background, a rigid interpretation of Article 2 paragraph 7 would preclude adaptation to that reality and, in effect, make all the Charter's provisions on the prevention of armed conflict ineffectual. [Article 2 paragraph 7 stipulates that nothing shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State.] He said that the paragraph could not possibly be "the alpha and the omega of the Charter today".

One of the most telling indicators of impending conflict was the occurrence of rampant human rights violations, he said. Such abuses reflected a breakdown of the rule of law and could be a preclude to violent domestic conflict with consequences for international peace and security. For that reason, the Council should treat the reports of the Human Rights Commission and the High Commissioner for Human Rights as potential early warning documents.

In the context of conflict prevention, the Council could not avoid addressing the internal situation of States wherever negative developments were apt to degenerate into large-scale atrocities and massive dislocation of civilians. That could not be rejected on grounds of domestic jurisdiction.

Given the nature of the security challenges faced, it was evident that the Council could not operate alone, he said. Ideally, its political measures should be integrated with structural measures, which addressed the root causes of an approaching crisis, such as building democratic institutions, strengthening the rule of law and promoting development. Nationally, as well as internationally, the preventive impact of an effective legal system for the prosecution of human rights violations was obvious. For situations in which States themselves were unable or unwilling to prosecute and punish perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, the International Criminal Court had been created. That Court would also act as a powerful deterrent to potential perpetrators. Therefore, he urged States to sign and ratify the Court's statute, so it could start its operations as soon as possible.

ABUZED OMAR DORDA (Libya) said the Charter entrusted the maintenance of international peace and security to both the Council and the General Assembly. Thus it was not solely a prerogative of the Council. Many felt that the Council was not acting on their behalf, but in the interests of one or a few Member States. Open discussion should be the basis for any resolution of the Council. Closed door discussions did not represent the views of all Member States.

For example, the Presidential Statement to be adopted today had been discussed and drafted before the present open meeting. How could the Council expect Member States to implement its resolutions if it modified or changed its resolutions in response to the wishes of one or another of its members? he asked.

He said removal of the threat to international peace and security would not be successful unless the Council played a crucial role in achieving the total elimination of nuclear weapons. That would be possible only if certain permanent members were serious in their wish to get rid of nuclear weapons.

He asked what happened to the capability of the Council when it did not act to deter the actions of Israel which continued to disregard its resolutions and why it did not stand against the United States military aggression against Libya, an aggression which had targeted civilians. What had the Council done to stop the daily bombing of Iraq? He asked.

The Council was expected to deter aggressors to promote peace and build a durable peace, he continued. Instead, it took up a number of issues that could be addressed up by other United Nations bodies. It had virtually ignored conflicts in Africa, failing to take long-overdue resolutions. How long did it take to deploy observers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone? he asked. The Council treated Somalia as though it was on another planet. It did not act on grounds of international security or the collective interests of Member States. It should respond to genuine potential threats anywhere in the world.

He said humanitarian intervention must be serious and dispassionate. It was not difficult to cite problems in other countries to justify intervention. Libya had lost half of its population to gain independence. It was not ready to accept any intervention in its domestic affairs even on the pretext of humanitarian concern.

MARJATTA RASI (Finland), also speaking for the European Union, said the Security Council should actively direct its attention to areas of potential conflict, including the regular holding of forward-looking discussions and the maintenance of a high degree of readiness to take preventive action. After the success of United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, there was wider acceptance of preventive deployment missions among Member States. In search for long-term solutions to conflicts, especially in Africa, high priority should be given to curbing arm supplies and the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. Likewise, action was needed against the illicit traffic in diamonds, gold and other precious materials, which provided with financing of arms.

She said the capacity of the United Nations Secretariat needed to be enhanced to enable the Security Council to conduct regular surveys of potential conflict areas. The Secretariat should be made capable of providing the Council with an independent assessment on different regions, including early warning on emerging crises as well as proposals for action. Fewer conflicts should be allowed to reach the point where enforcement action by the Security Council was required.

Conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacemaking must not become an area of competition between the United Nations and regional organizations, she went on. The United Nations and regional organizations possessed various strengths and capabilities in the area of conflict prevention.

The best strategy to maintain peace and security was to address the root causes of conflicts, with attention to underlying economic, social and other conditions. Today conflict situations were often internal in nature and associated with violations of human rights, in particular those of persons belonging to minorities, regular analysis of the impact of development and humanitarian assistance was needed.

She said one third of African countries were at present, or had recently been, involved in civil wars. Sustainable development in Africa was the priority. An enabling political environment conducive to human rights, good governance and a vibrant civil society were essential for sustainable development. "Prevention may not be visible and make no headlines", she added, "but it is and will remain the supreme task of this Organization and the Security Council".

MOHAMMAD SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said there were ongoing conflicts and occupations that required urgent attention. The Council must act in a transparent and methodological fashion, and also with fairness, to settle ongoing problems in a peaceful manner, in accordance with its resolutions, the Charter, and the norms of international law. While he supported proposals aimed at further coordination between the Council and other United Nations organs and regional organizations to promote peace and the deployment of preventive forces to prevent crises, there was still need to further develop the Council’s role in post-conflict peace-building. That role should involve disarming and demobilizing combatants, rehabilitating them, ensuring the return of refugees and also ensuring development aid to meet the needs of those affected. Regional and international cooperation in the judicial sphere for pursuing those responsible for genocide in times of armed conflicts was essential to counter crimes against humanity.

He reaffirmed the responsibility of the international community in supporting national, regional and international mechanisms to deal, in particular, with crimes of genocide, and the taking of hostages.

Humanitarian assistance in an affected region should not be an alternative to overcoming conflicts, but rather an integral part of peacekeeping operations, he said. There was need for neutrality of the Council and all involved to relieve suffering, and to fully respect the sovereignty of States. He reaffirmed the need for respect for United Nations staff in the territories concerned, and called for the protection of those working in humanitarian assistance during armed conflicts. International efforts in furthering the role of the Council in preventing conflicts should be respected, recognizing that this should not run counter to the Charter and international law.

DUMISANASA SHADRACH KUMALO (South Africa) said the recent proliferation of intra-state conflicts demonstrated a fundamental connection between inequalities between states and within states. Unless there was simultaneous commitment to address those inequalities through reform and democratization, equality would be difficult to attain. The Security Council was struggling to come to terms with that reality.

It was worth noting, he said, that the United Nations had only twice authorized the relatively inexpensive preventive deployment of United Nations peacekeepers to the field. He cited UNPREDEP and United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA). The United Nations still focused the bulk of its efforts and resources on stopping rather than preventing, managing and resolving conflicts. The Council should commit to promoting and supporting the efforts of regional early warning mechanisms; to responding to the recommendations of such mechanisms with early action; and to facilitating the establishment of an environment in which the root causes of a conflict might be addressed.

He said questions were often raised concerning issues of legitimacy and sovereignty. The Secretariat must often tread a minefield of controversy when it responded to requests for information about conflict situations. Nevertheless, the Organization should continue to focus on building early warning and conflict prevention partnerships with regional and subregional organizations. Member States needed to consider appropriate ways and means of contributing to the early warning capacity of the United Nations system. The NGOs and the media also had a role in delivering early warning information. The key to useful and credible information was the timely dispatch of United Nations fact-finding missions to conflict situations. The Council should support regional and subregional initiatives, and at the same time Member States should accept and cooperate with such missions. Efforts by regional and subregional organizations should be supported both politically and materially by the United Nations at an early stage.

PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) said the interdependent networks of international cooperation - in economic, social, humanitarian, legal and other fields - all played a part in building a culture of prevention. Strong global norms were a crucial part of that equation. International law must be consistently applied and rigorously enforced. The network of international non-proliferation and disarmament machinery was equally important. When one of those threads in the fabric of collective effort to prevent conflict broke, the fabric could begin to fray. That was why Australia was so concerned by the recent decision of the United States Senate to vote against ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The United States and other countries whose ratifications were required for the Treaty to enter into force should take that step quickly. At the local level, conflict could be provoked and fuelled by illegal and excessive stockpiling of and trafficking in small arms. More needed to be done in that area as a contribution to the prevention of armed conflict. Australia was ready to contribute to international efforts to that end.

Australia was working with its Asia-Pacific neighbours, through the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, to explore ways of preventing disputes from escalating into armed conflict, she said. While the work was still in an early stage, it was nonetheless relevant to the current debate. There were two aspects to the work: developing a common understanding of the principles of preventive diplomacy and exploring the overlap between preventive diplomacy and confidence-building measures.

Early warning was an area where the Council could play a stronger role, she said. The Council should be ready more often to deal directly with parties to a dispute, directly at Headquarters or through special missions, such as the recent successful mission to Indonesia to discuss the situation in East Timor. Such contacts could help ease tensions, provide a "circuit breaker" to a dispute or inform both sides of the risks of escalation and of possible responses of the Council and the international community should conflict ensue. Effective early preventive action depended in part on the quality and timeliness of information about potential sources of conflict. The capabilities of the United Nations Secretariat should be strengthened in that regard. Further, the Secretary-General should make greater use of his authority under Article 99 of the Charter to bring to the attention of the Council any matter which in his opinion might threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.

ELFATIH MOHAMMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said he welcomed the draft presidential statement before the Council. He called attention to the important role of regional organizations in joint efforts to prevent conflict. There was a close relationship between the prevention of conflict and United Nations actions to end poverty and strengthen national security. Cooperation between the Council and all bodies of the United Nations system must be consolidated. The Council's role must be concentrated on urging parties to end conflicts through peaceful means, while respecting the principles of sovereignty of states and the non-intervention in the affairs of states.

He said the Council could not maintain international peace and security unless it was reformed to become a more democratic body. In many of the issues it considered, and particularly those dealing with aggression, the Council had undertaken a policy of double standards. It sometimes ignored cases of threats that actually endangered international peace and security. Sudan's request for a fact-finding mission to investigate the United States bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum had stayed in the files of the Council, which had not even responded to the request. The American aggression was a blatant violation of the principles of the Charter, and the United States had failed to provide any proof to justify its action.

He said Sudan shared the concern over the escalation of conflicts throughout the world, but the taking of collective measures should be enacted only with the full agreement of the concerned States and within the principles of the Charter. It was ironic that at the time when the Council meeting on this item, the United States was attempting to fuel the fires of war in southern Sudan. What were the United States intentions? he asked. He referred to Sudan's efforts to bring about national reconciliation, and said he would have expected the United States to have supported those efforts instead of trying to destabilize Sudan and the whole African continent through its narrow and limited views. He hoped the Council would do its duty in accordance with the Charter, but Sudan would defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and would not allow any party to violate them.

LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said that contrary to expectations of peace at the end of the cold war, conflicts had persisted. Any form of war had grave humanitarian consequences but post-cold war intra-state conflicts had proven tragic and devastating. The reality was that the international community and the United Nations had not always been successful in preventing conflicts and atrocities, and therefore it was clear that the Council must make further serious efforts to reinforce its role in conflict prevention. It needed to develop an effective early warning mechanism for conflict prevention and take specific early response measures. He said he supported the Secretary-General's proposed proactive use of United Nations deployment of preventive missions. The Secretary-General should be encouraged, in close consultation with the Council, to make greater use of preventive actions. Their collaboration in monitoring and assessing potentially combustible situations should be strengthened. Experience in Guinea-Bissau and Liberia should be used by the Secretary-General to set up mechanisms within his authority to monitor ongoing and potential conflicts. The Trust Fund for Preventive Action, to which the Republic of Korea had contributed since 1997, was welcome and he encouraged other States to contribute to it.

The strengthening of the international legal framework would serve as a deterrent to conflicts, he said. The adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was a welcome development, as were the establishment of the Rwanda and Former Yugoslavia Tribunals by the Council, but he agreed with the Secretary-General that enforcement measures to facilitate arrest and surrender of those accused should be considered. Because an integrated approach was required, the Republic of Korea sought increased cooperation between the Council, other United Nations organs and the specialized agencies, as well as between the United Nations system and regional organizations.

Armed conflicts were too often the manifestation of unsustainable social, political or economic situations, he said. Effective prevention therefore required the devotion of resources to long-term development initiatives to address root causes. On the cusp of the new millennium, the international community must rise above narrow self-interest and a short- sighted world view and seek global long-term common interest, for the sake of lasting peace and prosperity for all humankind.

ALYAKSANDR SYCHOV (Belarus) said the importance of an early warning system in the prevention of armed conflict was hard to over estimate. The Council and the Secretariat should become central links in the prevention of armed conflict with the assistance of the United Nations system. Great importance should be given to measures to prevent the illegal spread of light arms and to ensure the reintegration of combatants into peaceful life.

He said the Council's search for new ways to prevent violence had been stepped up. The members of the Council and all other States had engaged in an intensive search for diplomatic methods. He supported the concept of preventive diplomacy, with the idea of protecting the individual, but he was concerned about the concept of crossing national borders to protect human rights.

The principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity were paramount and could not be violated, he continued. The new approach, which allowed interference in the internal and sovereign affairs of states, should be carefully considered and studied by the world community. It was impermissible for one state or a group of states to decide on that question. He supported the point made by many States regarding the need to discuss intervention on humanitarian grounds. The General Assembly should designate an open-ended working group that could work out general conclusions and recommendations on this issue.

YUKIO SATOH (Japan) said the Council, though working with a "culture of reaction", had devised a number of measures that served the purpose of preventing the occurrence and recurrence of conflicts, and which, if used appropriately and in a timely manner, would also be effective to that end. Timely action was key to the Council’s role in conflict prevention, but in that area the record of the Council’s recent actions was not one of total success.

In the case of Iraq, it had been almost one year since the inspectors of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) left the country, yet the Council had not been able to reach a decision on how to deal with the situation there. His delegation hoped that negotiations now under way in the Council would be successful in resolving that issue as soon as possible. On Kosovo, too, the Council had initially failed to function effectively. While the Council had been able to act more quickly on East Timor, a quicker response would have been welcome. As both Kosovo and East Timor needed support for rehabilitation and construction, the Council must play a catalytic role in mustering international support for both cases.

He said the recurrence of conflict and the prevalence of poverty were the two major issues that had been hampering Africa’s development. Conflict prevention was, thus, extremely important for many countries on the continent. There were some encouraging examples of local initiatives to stop fighting, but it was obvious that African countries needed support from developed countries in order to cease the recurrence of conflicts and engage themselves in efforts for development. And to date, such support and assistance had not been sufficient. Stronger than ever leadership by the Council in focusing international attention on crises in Africa was now needed. The Council should use African crises as test cases to develop a culture of prevention.

While preventing conflicts required participation by other actors within the United Nations, as well as regional organizations and the countries concerned, it was still obvious that the Council must play the central role in preventing conflicts, he said. The culture of prevention must be nurtured through the experience of crisis management, which the Council would undergo in the coming years. Its leadership in shifting the focus from reaction to prevention