UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- President of the UN General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak on Monday stressed the importance of conflict prevention with regard to peacekeeping.
"The United Nations was created to save people from the horrors of war, not to react once those horrors are in motion," Lajcak told the opening session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations of the General Assembly. "We can never lose sight of this. And we need to do more to translate it into everything the United Nations does -- from the work of UN country teams in the field to discussions between delegates in New York."
But he explained that more conflict prevention does not necessarily mean less peacekeeping. "Yes, earlier action for prevention could in some cases avoid the deployment of military missions. However, in others it could mean sending our blue helmets to less hostile environments. It could give them a chance to keep peace while it is still there, rather than to respond to its loss."
Prevention and peacekeeping do not have to be distinct activities, said Lajcak. "When it comes to conflict prevention, our focus is often on special political missions, mediation teams, or the UN's good offices. But, prevention must be a UN-wide activity."
Peacekeepers often work in support of political, or mediation, processes. They have key relationships with national actors. They can help to flag early warning signs of conflict. "The fact is: prevention is already part of our peacekeeping."
He cited as examples the success stories in Liberia and Abyei, a disputed region between Sudan and South Sudan.
In the run-up to last year's elections in Liberia, the UN mission mobilized to calm tensions and prevent an upsurge in violence. UN blue helmets were instrumental in Liberia's peaceful transition of power, said Lajcak.
UN personnel in Abyei are doing innovative work. They are engaging closely with local communities to prevent conflict. And this has allowed the area to remain relatively stable despite the volatility surrounding it, he said.
"We need to see even more of these best practices. We need a stronger prevention focus throughout all missions."
This will mean ensuring that they can rapidly deploy and adapt in response to warning signs of conflict. It will mean developing tools for conflict mapping and analysis, including at the local-level. And it will mean strengthening capacity for prevention and mediation, across the board.
Lajcak also stressed the need for a more inclusive approach to peacekeeping.
When it comes to gender, some progress has been made, he said. In late 2016, half of all UN peacekeeping missions included military gender advisers. And, these advisers reported directly to the highest levels of mission management. Furthermore, many countries have made public commitments to increase their deployments of women, he noted.
"But this cannot distract us from the reality. Which is that, when it comes to gender, peacekeeping is in a bad state. We do not have enough women troops. We do not have enough women police. We do not have enough women military observers. And, we do not have enough of a gender perspective mainstreamed throughout our peacekeeping work -- neither in the field, nor at headquarters."
"We need to ask ourselves why. We need to talk frankly about this issue. And we need to take proactive steps toward a new reality."
Inclusive peacekeeping is not just about gender, he said. It is also about ensuring more participation, and more partnerships, with actors outside UN missions. This includes regular liaison with UN country teams. It also involves greater links with regional and sub-regional organizations, particularly on the African continent. And it means more engagement with civil society, and local communities -- with a particular focus on young people.
"This is how our missions will strengthen their situational awareness. It is how they will gain expertise and insight. And it is how they will build trust among the people they are sent to protect."