8 December 2017: A UN-led dialogue at Columbia University explored ways to prevent and address the root causes of conflicts through partnerships, with participants stressing the need for predictable and sustained financing for sustaining peace, identifying and responding to early warning signs, and focusing on gender equality and women’s empowerment in both prevention and peacebuilding.

The event titled, ‘Sustaining Peace: Partnerships for Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding,’ took place on 8 December 2017, in New York, US, with the participation of governments, the private sector, civil society and academia. It was organized by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the New York University Centre on International Cooperation (CIC), the UN Global Compact, the UN Foundation, and the Quaker UN Office (QUNO). The multi-stakeholder meeting is part of the outreach agenda of UN General Assembly (UNGA) President Miroslav Lajcak ahead of the High-level Meeting (HLM) on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace, on 24-25 April 2018.

Lajcak opened the meeting by reflecting on the changing nature of conflicts: more conflicts within states than between states; a surge of non-state actors; and citizens being targeted more than before, rather than experiencing collateral effects. He noted that the UNGA’s and UN Security Council’s twin resolutions on review of the UN peacebuilding architecture in 2016 (A/RES/70/262 and S/RES/2282) are built around three key elements: focus on conflict prevention; the need for predictable and sustained funding for sustaining peace; and partnerships – more collaboration and coherence both within the UN system and with stakeholders. He stressed that local stakeholders see early warning signs and can signal the need for intervention.

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the UN Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, identified current emerging global challenges that drive conflicts: population growth; water scarcity; food insecurity; rabid and chaotic urbanization; technology development, including artificial intelligence; climate change; and cybersecurity issues. She noted that global anxieties related to nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the cold war. She said the Secretary-General has established a high-level advisory board on mediation, but the UN also needs support from local mediators such youth, women and religious groups. Ribeiro Viotti announced that the Secretary-General will publish a major report ahead of the UNGA President’s high-level event in April.

Sachs said the cost of war should be internalized through a “warmonger pays” principle.

Jeffrey Sachs, SDSN Director, said the cost of conflict is more than US$10 trillion per annum. Noting that war is “the ultimate externality,” he called for internalizing its costs through a “warmonger pays” principle similar to the “polluter pays” principle. He explained that those who start the war should pay for the reconstruction of what they destroy. The costs of war should be borne especially by UN Security Council members, specifically the Permanent Five, he added. He said the P5 are responsible for peace in the international system, and thus should be responsible for “cleaning up the mess” when peace fails.

Shamina Singh, President of Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, emphasized the role of the private sector in achieving SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions) by helping tackle corruption, illicit arm flows and trafficking, and by providing legal identity for all. She noted that terrorism is funded in cash, black money moves across borders in cash, drug wars are fueled by cash. Therefore, although cash still accounts for more than 80% of the world’s transactions, it is “a saboteur that we cannot afford.” She underscored the need to eliminate cash through financial inclusion and low-cost ways for small merchants to join the digital economy.

Asif Khan, UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), identified as fundamental for sustaining peace: working with the host government and ensuring that the peace vision is owned by the host government; predictable and sufficient financing; and change of mindsets and of the UN’s bureaucratic culture. Narinder Kakar, University for Peace (Costa Rica), highlighted the importance of education in the “disarmament of the mind” for peace.

B. Abel Learwellie, Executive Director and Founder, Camp for Peace Liberia, spoke about the Camp’s efforts at national reconciliation focused especially on youth perpetrators’ reintegration in communities. María Emma Mejía Vélez, Permanent Representative of Colombia, said her country has created a multi-stakeholder “umbrella” partnership, through the SDG Fund, to advance national reconciliation and sustain the peace work.

Bridget Moix, Peace Direct, emphasized the role of local civil society in prevention, peacebuilding, and healing after conflict. She noted that a recent survey with local civil society identified three key gaps: a recognition and respect gap; a resource gap; and a solutions gap. She said partnerships with the UN and international community are essential for designing better solutions.

Owen Pell, Chair of the Auschwitz Institute, stressed the need for national mechanisms to identify early warning signs and contribute to prevention and reconciliation. He also highlighted the Ecuador Principles, which he said have helped banks identify projects that they should not fund, and invited governments to encourage the expansion of participation in the Principles.

Hahn Choong-hee, UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) Chair, highlighted a framework recently signed by the UN and the World Bank, the ‘New Framework to Build Resilience and Sustain Peace in Conflict Areas.’ Henk-Jan Brinkman, UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), presented the PBSO’s ‘Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative,’ which provides funding to civil society, and said the role of regional mechanisms and organizations is often stronger than the UN’s. He underscored the need for effective grievance mechanisms at the national level, and for intervening early in conflicts, as later-stage interventions narrow the spectrum of options available. He added that the private sector needs to see sustaining peace not as corporate social responsibility (CSR) but as risk management.

Alexandre Marc, World Bank, called for incentives to promote solid partnerships among development, security, and political actors. He argued that political exclusion has a stronger link with conflict than does poverty. František Ružička, Chef de Cabinet to the UNGA President, said there are three root causes of conflict: “men, politics, and profit.”

In the ensuing discussion, participants commented on: ways to engage governments that do not want to engage in peace, the role of gender equality in sustaining peace, and the role of human rights in sustaining peace.

According to the UNGA President’s ‘Roadmap for Sustaining Peace,’ issued on 17 November, his Office will undertake several types of preparation for the HLM in April 2018: outreach, supporting the UN’s work, focusing on experiences and good practices, making a strong financial case for peacebuilding and sustaining peace, and strengthening links to human rights and sustainable development. [Event Website] [UNGA President’s Letter] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on UNGA Draft Resolution on Peace and Security Reforms] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Sustaining Peace Roadmap]