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PRESS BRIEFING ON CIVIL SOCIETY CONFERENCE

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

22 July 2005

It’s cheaper to prevent conflict than it is to deal with its aftermath, Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said as he hailed a plan of action for cooperation between civil society and the United Nations for the prevention of violent conflict.

At a headquarters briefing this afternoon at the end of a three-day conference on the role of civil society in the prevention of armed conflict, Mr. Gambari said the gathering had been successful in not only creating a truly global network of civil society groups active in the field, but the conference had also produced a concrete and challenging programme of action for the coming years.

Mr. Gambari said the United Nations shared the conference’s assessment that there was a crucial need for local ownership and participation at all stages of the political process of conflict prevention and peacebuilding and that dialogue, transparency and accountability must remain the priority.

He would encourage the participation of civil society in the joint project that the Department of Political Affairs and the United Nations Development Fund had developed on building national capacity for peacebuilding, as well as training for civil society organizations.

Also attending the press briefing were Tatjana Popović, of the Nansen Dialogue Network and Global Programme for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC); Samuel Rizk, Director of the Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue and GPPAC Regional Initiator for the Arab Partnership; and Paul Tongren, Executive Director of the European Platform for Conflict Prevention.

Mr. Tongren said that one of the recommendations that had emerged was the need to incorporate a more prominent civil society component into the mandate of the proposed peacebuilding commission through a structural mechanism for consultation with civil society, as well as for its mandate to include a focus on preventive measures, rather than just on post-conflict issues as the case was now.

Ms. Popović highlighted the value of the opportunity for conference participants to meet and interact with others from around the world working on the same issues in their various countries and regions. All recognized the importance of strengthening cooperation with the United Nations and its agencies at the regional level.

Mr. Tongren said 15 regional processes had led to the conference and now the conference groups would go back out to the regions to implement the programme of action. The invitation from Secretary-General Kofi Annan several years ago to organize the conference had helped to strengthen the cooperation between civil society, national governments and the United Nations.

Mr. Rizk noted that this network initiative had succeeded so well in his region, where others had failed, because it was purpose-driven.

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