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A UN General Assembly (UNGA) Thematic Debate, hosted by UNGA President John Ashe, discussed the role of peaceful, stable and non-violent societies in promoting sustainable development.

The issues of peace and conflict were discussed in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, with many speakers highlighting their centrality to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNGA25 April 2014: A UN General Assembly (UNGA) Thematic Debate, hosted by UNGA President John Ashe, discussed the role of peaceful, stable and non-violent societies in promoting sustainable development. The issues of peace and conflict were discussed in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, with many speakers highlighting their centrality to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Held from 24-25 April 2014, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, the event brought together speakers from governments, civil society, the UN system and academia to discuss the relationship between peace and sustainable development. President Ashe opened the debate, emphasizing that stability and peace are essential enablers of sustainable development, and can lead to a more effective post-2015 development agenda. “The post-2015 framework must address the root causes of instability, conflict and violence in order to build sustainable peace,” Ashe said, “and it must recognize that it is impossible to achieve sustainable development in the context of violence, threats to the rule of law from criminal enterprises, fragility and armed conflict.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also delivered opening remarks, stressing that the nature of conflict is changing and including more complex and multi-dimensional issues of suffering and violence. He said all populations want to be protected against violence and crime, as evidenced by the global MY World survey, and the underlying causes of violence and conflict must be addressed in the post-2015 development agenda.

Over the course of the two days, panelists interacted on issues of: the nexus between sustainable development, peace and security; strengthening national institutions; and a global partnership for stable and peaceful societies. Sofia Mesquita Borges, Permanent Representative of Timor-Leste to the UN, recounted her country’s recent history of conflict and emphasized that weak state institutions can lead to entrenched conflict in society. Clare Lockhart, Institute of State Effectiveness, cautioned that efforts to gain peace often come at the expense of other development efforts, and called for a “recalibration of our approach to peace and development.” Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, said most conflicts in the world have extreme poverty and environmental shocks as main causes. He called on governments to demonstrate through the SDGs that “by fighting poverty, we are also enforcing peace.”

Yongmei Zhou, World Bank, recounted the Bank’s efforts to become a better development partner and look at root causes of conflict, including land conflict, legitimacy, and security capacity. Larry Attree, Safer World, said the worst-case scenario would be one of rising military spending, frequent crises and reactive responses, and failure to achieve the three pillars of sustainable development. He called for the multilateral system to focus on on-the-ground development partnerships and broader definitions of development success.

Member States delivered prepared statements and interacted with the panelists. Some called for SDGs on stable and peaceful societies, good governance and rule of law, and responsible institutions. Other States called for greater cooperation between the UN system and regional organizations, along with greater support for countries emerging from conflict to prevent relapses. Brazil called for addressing disarmament commitments, sanctions, and the notion of exceptionalism in a Goal on promoting peaceful societies. The UK emphasized that honest and accountable governments are top priorities for citizens and essential for a transformative sustainable development agenda.

This thematic debate was one in a series of events hosted by the UNGA President to “set the stage” for negotiations around the post-2015 development agenda. [Event Programme] [Statement of UNGA President] [Statement of UN Secretary-General] [UN Press Release] [IISD RS Sources]


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