UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – The United Nations may be spending a lot of money on peacekeeping missions ($18 billion over five years), but the world body isn’t doing enough on preventing conflicts–the conclusion of a daylong session on August 28, which saw 35 speakers take their turn at the microphone in the Security Council chambers.

UN Secretary-General told the meeting that improved mediation, a new focus on achieving political settlements, and new approaches to addressing the underlying causes of conflict “could save us considerable pain and expense.” He made it clear that resolution of African conflicts was a top priority of his administration.

The open meeting was called by the government of the Republic of the Congo, the rotating president of the Security Council for the month of August. Republic of the Congo deputy permanent ambassador, Pascal Gayama, in his presidential statement, which was issued after all the speakers finished, stated: “The Security Council underlines the need for a stronger and more structured relationship between the Security Council and the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU).”


The presidential statement also made mention of the AU’s Panel of the Wise and Continental Early Warning System, saying that this was a welcome step.

Namibia’s deputy ambassador, Frieda Ithete, said Africa was the scene of at least half of the world’s armed conflicts. She said it was important to strive to establish an early warning system that would enable the international community to detect and arrest situations head-on before the real conflict started. “We all share the responsibility for one another’s security,” she said.

Ambassador Mutalaq Majed Al-Qahtani of Qatar said the council should change its approach and working methods to truly prevent conflicts. “We need a balanced and professional approach, focusing not only on existing resolutions, but also on means of preventing conflicts,” he said.

The ambassador from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ileka Atoki, said another important step was the recent decision by ministers of the AU to establish a mechanism for regular consultations with the Security Council. “The stability and security of Africa is important to all countries,” Amb. Atoki stressed.

Amb. Zachary Muburi-Muita of Kenya told the meeting he welcomed closer cooperation between the UN and the AU, but he cautioned that the UN’s
“precondition that a country at conflict have a peace to keep before UN deployment was untenable.”

Uganda’s ambassador, Francis Butagira agreed, stating, the council must “liberate” itself from the traditional approach of not authorizing peacekeeping operations when there was no peace to keep. “Sadly, that had been the case in Somalia. My government urged the council to expeditiously deploy UN peacekeepers in Somalia to replace the AU force, and still believe it should be done now,” Amb. Butagira said.

A story appeared on the allAfrica.com website on September 5, noting that “seven people had been killed inside a marketplace in Somalia’s Bakara province and 26 more were wounded after fighting exploded between government forces and an opposition group.”

Algeria’s Ambassador Yousef Yousfi said the council should reflect on the lessons of Somalia and other crises. “I expect this debate will produce the political will to break with certain reticence that has prevailed in the past and continued to be very costly to the international community. When evaluating the destructive consequences of conflicts, it is important to consider the millions of lives lost and the suffering of the civilian populations,” the Algerian ambassador said.

U.S. deputy ambassador, Alejandro Wolff and Britain’s Ambassador John Sawers asked for better coordination between the Security Council and the AU and other regional groups to help prevent conflicts. Amb. Sawers said he agreed the council needs to be engaged “long before problems turn into conflicts.”

Russian Federation Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said African states and institutions had made great strides in addressing many socio-economic and development challenges. Those efforts deserved support from Africa’s friends.

“At the same time, Africa must continue its own efforts to address the causes of underdevelopment and political instability,” the Russian ambassador stressed.

Ambassador Dumasani Kumalo of South Africa stressed that conflict prevention could not be addressed in isolation. He said that former Secretary-General Kofi Annan had called on the UN to adopt a prevention strategy, rather than rely on the usual reactive response to conflict, and had argued that such a move called for a focus on development and root causes of conflict, including socio-economic, cultural, environmental, institutional and other structural factors.

“Yet, after countless reports and studies, Africa remains confronted by conflicts driven by underdevelopment, poverty and hunger, lack of democracy, injustice, religious extremism and ignorance,” Amb. Kumalo stated. The active role that the AU played and continues to play in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa was a huge asset in complimenting United Nations efforts, he added.

Ambassador Emad Ben Shaban of Libya reminded the meeting that Africa was the “theatre of important developments.”

“The African Union, since its inception, has taken on a partnership role vis-a-vis the United Nations. Therefore, it is necessary to support the African Union’s needs in financing its peacekeeping operations.” The Libyan representative reminded the Security Council that it adopted a resolution in 2005, calling for increased contributions to the AU from regional organizations.

France’s new UN ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, during his Sept. 5 press briefing of reporters on the council’s program of work for the month of Sept. stated that again, the 15-member body’s priority would be Africa. France holds the rotating presidency for the month.

The French ambassador announced that on Sept. 25, the Security Council would hold a high-level summit meeting on Africa in New York, which would build on the Aug. 28 debate. He said the summit would look at how the UN could assist African governments and organizations in dealing with crisis. “Eleven heads of state or government have indicated an interest in participating, as well as Secretary-General Ban and Alpha Oumar Konare, chairperson of the African Union,” the French ambassador announced.