Panafrican News Agency

Diversity is a ‘source of strength’, UN chief tells Security Council

New York, US (PANA) - Inclusion is fundamental to rebuild societies in the wake of war and achieve durable peace, UN Secretary-General told world leaders, ambassadors and prominent global citizens meeting in the Security Council on Tuesday. 

The UN chief addressed an open debate on diversity, state-building and the search for peace, organised by Kenya, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, a UN statement said. 

“For countries emerging from the horrors of conflict and looking to a better future - indeed for all countries - diversity must not be seen as a threat.  It is a source of strength,” the Secretary-General said. 

Stressing that ”peace is not found in a piece of paper”, but in people, the UN chief spoke of how inequalities and weak governance can create the space for intolerance and extremism to grow, which can spark violent conflict.  Inclusion has the opposite effect. 

By opening the door to inclusion and participation, “we take a giant step forward in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding”, he said. 

“As countries look to build sustainable peace, they need to include and involve all segments of the population in the process of rebuilding communities and sustaining peace,” he added. 

The meeting, chaired by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, was held because most situations on the Security Council’s agenda arise from internal conflicts in which identity issues -- whether ethnic, racial, religious or socioeconomic -- play a part. 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, as well as the first woman Deputy Speaker of Afghanistan’s Parliament, Fawzia Koofi, were among those briefing. 

The Secretary-General emphasised three areas for action, beginning with ensuring national institutions and laws work for all people, through protecting and promoting human rights. 

“It means implementing policies and laws that protect vulnerable groups — including laws against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. 

Countries emerging from instability cannot afford to ignore the views of entire segments of their populations, which could fuel future resentments, the UN chief warned. Instead, they should explore ways to give greater voice to subnational regions. 

“Governments must find ways to move people forward together, as one, through constant dialogue - recognizing and respecting differences - even if this means devolving some areas of authority,” said Mr. Guterres, speaking in French. 

UN operations on the ground, he said, work to keep dialogue open and flowing between state institutions and local populations “so that everyone can have a hand in shaping their country’s future”. 

For his third point, the Secretary-General stressed the importance of including women and young people because “building and sustaining peace requires their voices and actions”. 

This is something which UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions strongly emphasize, he said.   

In his address, President Kagame of Rwanda underscored how peacebuilding is an ongoing process.  While it will be impossible to prevent all conflicts, their intensity and impact can be minimised by remaining attentive to local needs and expectations. 

“This means investing in the capacity of institutions and individuals so they can deliver the results that citizens expect and deserve,” he said, speaking via videoconference. 

“Multilateral organisations such as the United Nations and the African Union have a central role in many situations.  Civil society groups, particularly those led by women also have a key role, as do business leaders.”

President Kenyatta offered several recommendations for the international community, which included reviewing whether global institutions currently are “fit for purpose” in building a more inclusive world. 

He also called for governments, the UN and social media companies to collaborate on combating hate speech and incitement. 

“This can include an agreed global code of conduct by companies, and the development of early warning tools to detect escalation trends and to facilitate pre-emptive measures,” he said.  

Kenya’s President also looked to the COP26 climate change conference in November, saying it provides an opportunity to ensure adaptation commitments will accelerate development, investment and job creation. 

He said climate adaptation must offer a clear path to green industrialisation for Africa and the Global South. 

-0- PANA MA 13Oct2021