Secretary-General’s first report on Preventive Diplomacy
In September 2011 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon published an important report on Preventive Diplomacy: Delivering Results, which he did at the request of the Security Council. After Dag Hammarskjold’s initial advocacy of preventive diplomacy, it is the latest in a line of reports submitted by Secretaries-General, commencing with Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s landmark report, Agenda for Peace, published in 1992. The report is essentially recapitulatory, recording efforts for preventive diplomacy during the first term of the Secretary-General. It discusses ‘the changing landscape’ of preventive diplomacy, efforts to make a difference on the ground, key challenges and elements for success, and thoughts on the way forward. The Secretary-General concludes with the affirmation, “I firmly believe that better preventive diplomacy is not optional, it is necessary… It is without doubt one of the smartest investments we can make.”
What new insights does the report offer and what innovative recommendations does it present. The report avers that through a combination of analysis, early warning, rapid response and partnerships, the UN can help to defuse tensions in escalating crises and assist parties in resolving disputes peacefully. It sees signs of the emergence of stronger normative frameworks in favour of international efforts to prevent violent conflict and mass atrocities. It sees growing indications that collective efforts at prevention are responding better to the needs on the ground.
It recalls that since 2008 the Security Council has held informal interactive dialogues on a range of situations intended to promote a more proactive approach to preventive diplomacy. It notes that the Security Council has requested DPA to deliver monthly ‘horizon scanning’ briefings that focus on current and emerging conflicts. This had been one of the key ideas in the first draft of Agenda for Peace, which had recommended fortnightly such briefings.2
According to the report, DPA has the lead role in preventive diplomacy and its standby team of mediation experts is available to deploy within 72 hours to assist negotiators on peace process design, security arrangements, constitution-making, gender, power-sharing and wealth-sharing. The Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the prevention of genocide and the responsibility to protect and other important crosscutting concerns bring thematic expertise to the table. OHCHR and the Office of Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities play a key role in filtering information and drawing attention to such dangerous indicators as patterns of human rights violations or hate speech, which might otherwise escape detection.
The report notes that in situations of internal crisis there may be concerns about undue interference or unwanted ‘internationalisation’ of a country’s internal affairs. However, in recent years the UN had increasingly been asked to act in preventive diplomacy mode in the context of severe constitutional crises such as unconstitutional changes of government and violent electoral disputes.
1 Author, Preventive Diplomacy at the UN (2008,Indiana University Press), Preventive Human Rights Strategies (2010, Routledge).
2 This author wrote the first draft of Agenda for Peace.