Politically Speaking: 2015 in Review

The past year was particularly momentous for the United Nations. As the Organization celebrates its 70th anniversary, it confronts a global peace and security landscape that continues to change, too often for the worse, at an astonishing pace.

You will see in Politically Speaking:  2015 in Review  a small sampling of the varied ways in which DPA contributed in 2015 to the UN‘s response to this fluid environment. These range from harnessing new tools to conduct preventive diplomacy, to supporting peace processes around the world. It is the frequently quiet work depicted here that leads to progress in making peace. Thus, as the year drew to an end, we are seeing some movement to end the devastating crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya. DPA provides substantive support to the peace processes in all three countries and is committed to maintain and accelerate in 2016 the momentum recently achieved.

The importance of conflict prevention, especially today, needs little demonstration.The number of active civil wars increased almost threefold between 2007 and 2014, following two decades of consistent decline, bringing the number of battle-related deaths and major civil wars back at mid-1990s level.

To adapt to this new environment, the Secretary-General appointed in October 2014 a “High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations” (HIPPO) to explore the implications of the changing nature of conflict on UN peacekeeping and political missions. There were also parallel reviews of the UN‘s peacebuilding architecture and of progress in ensuring women’s participation in peace and security processes.

One of the strongest messages coming from these reviews is the need to bring conflict prevention and mediation, elements of DPA’s DNA, back to the fore. This is a call to translate the formal recognition of the importance of conflict prevention – the UN Charter sets out the Organization‘s mission as striving „to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war“, after all – into more, and more effective, action.

Obviously, moving beyond rhetorical commitments will not be easy. But it is also eminently doable. Smart, targeted investments will be needed in order to overcome what the HIPPO called the “chronic under-resourcing of prevention”.

In particular, the Secretary-General has called for a significant strengthening of, and more reliable regular budget resourcing for, the Secretariat’s core prevention and mediation capacities. This is critical for DPA, which relies on voluntary contributions from Member States to perform significant aspects of its core mandates.

But the investment in prevention has to be as much political as it is material. Putting prevention where it rightly belongs in the UN’s agenda requires a renewed and demonstrable political commitment from Member States. I fervently hope that when we look back at 2016, we will be able to report that a critical mass of the international community has made, and acted on, such a commitment.