An increasingly important focus of inter-agency work is to enhance the system’s support for an effective response by the international community to the Secretary-General’s call for a strategic shift from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention. This requires a collective approach to conflict prevention and calls for a deeper understanding of the causes of tensions within and between nations. It also implies a sustained system-wide effort to effectively integrate a conflict-prevention perspective in development programmes at the country level.

Building on previous discussions on the subject, CEB has given further consideration to strengthening the system’s capacity for conflict prevention. The focus has been on;

  • ways in which the United Nations work in the area of preventive diplomacy and mediation can be advanced;
  • furthering thinking on and practice of “structural prevention” to better prepare the system to face the present-day threats to peace and security — including addressing the prevalence of poverty and inequality that exacerbate social and political tensions;
  • focusing on the immediate post-conflict period as the time when countries are most likely to fall into civil war;
  • strengthening the United Nations system’s ability to help countries develop their own conflict-prevention institutions and processes; and
  • ensuring that United Nations strategies to address armed conflicts are far-sighted but realistic, taking into account actual capacities both within and outside the United Nations system.

CEB considered that the system’s ability to diagnose and help resolve emerging conflicts will be enhanced by drawing more systematically on the diverse expertise that exists in various parts of the United Nations system and by basing the system’s interventions on deeper analysis of its comparative advantages, including better utilizing the convening power of the United Nations and its capacity to bring together all actors that can contribute to conflict prevention. It considered that a set of instruments, similar to those developed by the United Nations in post-conflict situations, will also need to be developed in the area of conflict prevention.

In the same broad context, CEB stressed that development should continue to be addressed by the United Nations system in its own right, as well as in its linkages with security, especially since marginalization, social exclusion and differential access to natural resources have been identified as important root causes of conflict. 

Steps identified by CEB to strengthen the system’s collective capacity for conflict prevention include:

  • Strengthening the United Nations system’s capacity to act as a mobilizer, helping coordinate the international efforts of all actors to carry out prevention and peacebuilding strategies;
  • Responding to economic dimensions of conflict in a more strategic way — for example, by exploring links between the management of natural resources and development, security and human rights;
  • Giving greater attention to the potential threats posed by environmental problems by building additional capacity to analyse and address these threats.

CEB agreed that the system must work to ensure that its analysis is better informed by a vision of the interconnectedness of threats and of the different priorities that countries and people have. By deepening its understanding of different risk factors, the system will be able to develop appropriate strategies for mitigating their effects. The system is making progress from the present focus on sharing experiences and information towards more systematic analysis and common strategies for collaborative actions involving organizations of the system, but also non-United Nations actors.