12 April 2005 – The United Nations is a more effective prevention instrument than many realize, but with reform, it can be far more useful in fighting poverty, promoting human rights, stopping the spread of illicit weapons and keeping violence in check, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said today in Stockholm.
A strengthened United Nations – with targeted development activities, a renewed human rights machinery and improved peacebuilding capabilities – will be a far more effective tool for saving future generations from the scourge of war, Ms. Fréchette said according to the text of an address to a seminar co-organized by Norway and Sweden on “Conflict prevention and resolution: challenges and changes for the United Nations.”
“Prevention of armed conflict by peaceful means is the cheapest most effective way to promote international peace and security,” Ms. Fréchette told the seminar, which was convened in connection with the preparations for the General Assembly’s summit-level review this September of the Millennium Declaration.
And while there was no blueprint for effective preventive action in every situation, and no single reform would ensure that all such actions would be effective, she said that it was a simple fact that “conflict is expensive, in both money and lives, while prevention is cheap.”
Ms. Fréchette noted that recent studies suggested that the overall cost of what the World Bank has termed “low income countries under stress” runs to some $82 billion per country. “This is more than the world’s entire aid budget,” she said.
“For all its weaknesses, the UN is able to bring a range of capacities to bear – from mediation through humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping to support for elections and reconstruction – and we can do it all in a framework of international legitimacy,” she said.
To strengthen that framework, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked Member States to consider an agenda of major policy commitments and far-reaching institutional reforms for decision at the September summit.
His report, “In Larger Freedom,” calls for action on three inter-related fronts: development, security and human rights. Ms. Fréchette said that nearly every recommendation in the report would, if acted on, contribute to the overall goal of preventing latent threats from becoming imminent, and imminent threats from becoming actual ones.
“If [world leaders] summon the political will to make bold decisions on development, security and human rights, our world will not only be freer, but also safer and more secure.”
She reiterated that prevention paid for itself many times over. And though effective, a reformed United Nations could be even better at such tasks – in the long-term efforts to fight poverty and promote human rights, head off terrorism and the proliferation of both small arms and weapons of mass destruction, and stopping violence from erupting, spreading and recurring.
“That may require a modest investment of resources – but is truly a case where an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” she said.