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UN official hails action plan on civil society's contribution to conflict prevention

22 July 2005 Hailing a new plan of action for cooperation between civil society and the United Nations for peacebuilding and preventing violent conflict, a senior UN official today stressed that it was cheaper to head off potential flashpoints than to deal with their aftermath.

Recapping the outcome of a landmark three-day conference on civil society’s contribution to conflict prevention, which wrapped up at UN headquarters yesterday, Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told a news briefing that the world body was looking forward “with renewed focus” to cooperating with grass roots organizations on issues that were vital to the international community.

The Global Conference on the Role of Civil Society in the Prevention of Armed Conflict and Peacebuilding, which was co-sponsored by the UN Department of Political Affairs, was aimed at implementing a global agenda to prevent conflict.

It came in response to Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s recommendation in his 2001 report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict “to organize an international conference of local, national and international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) on their role in conflict prevention and future interaction with the United Nations.”

Mr. Gambari said that the Secretary-General had been pleased with the conference’s outcome and remained committed to working towards the creation of a sustainable network of individuals and groups – including partnerships with governments and UN agencies – committed to prevention and peacebuilding at global, regional, and national levels.

The gathering had been successful in not only creating a truly global network of civil society groups active in the field, but had also produced a concrete and challenging programme of action for the coming years aimed at real policy change on peace and security issues, he said.

The UN 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.

Mr. Gambari stressed that he would encourage the participation of civil society in the joint project that his Department and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) had developed on boosting national capacity for peacebuilding, as well as training for civil society organizations.

Also attending the press briefing were Tatjana Popovic, 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. Popovic 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 UN and its agencies at the regional level. 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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