UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that the world organization must pay much more attention to preventing conflicts, and let it be known that he is already promoting reforms to make that happen.
“We must rebalance our approach to peace and security. For decades, this has been dominated by responding to conflict. For the future, we need to do far more to prevent war and sustain peace,” Guterres said in his first speech before the United Nations Security Council.
The Portuguese diplomat said he is launching reforms with that in mind, beginning with changes in the decision-making process of the UN Secretariat, with the creation of a new executive committee and a special adviser for political affairs.
Guterres emphasized that conflict prevention should be the UN’s top priority, and called for making 2017 a “year for peace.”
To do that, he said, it is necessary to make changes in the “culture, strategy, structures and operations” of the organization, and also to work more closely with member countries and promote cooperation among them.
“Too many prevention opportunities have been lost because Member States mistrusted each other’s motives, and because of concerns over national sovereignty,” said Guterres, adding that he understands those fears, given the imbalance of power in the world and the fact that in the past, certain principles have sometimes been applied “selectively.”
He therefore insisted that conflict prevention can never be applied for political purposes nor with a “double standard.”
“But that does not mean that there are no standards at all. Preventive action is essential to avert mass atrocities or grave abuses of human rights,” he said.
Guterres then urged the Security Council to take action at the first sign a conflict could break out and recalled the enormous costs of doing nothing.
With his speech the secretary-general kicked off a debate in which more than 90 addresses are expected, including a number by foreign ministers.