The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
Round Table Discussion on Preventive Diplomacy: A Soft Power Tool
March 20, Conference Room 9
The concept of preventive diplomacy is not new. It began with Dag Hammarskjold in the 1950s. In many ways, successive UN Secretaries-General promoted preventive diplomacy as a key priority on their agendas. Most recently, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has emphasized, “preventing conflict and sustaining peace must be the priority of everything we do together”. He has urged member states to commit to a surge in diplomacy for peace in partnership with regional organizations, mobilizing distinct groups of those with influence, from religious leaders to civil society and the business community. In his address at Cairo University on February 15th, Mr. Guterres paid tribute to his predecessor, Dr. Boutros-Ghali, whom he said he so much admired.
Likewise, Ban Ki-Moon said in 2011, “Hammarskjöld articulated the very concept of preventive diplomacy. He spoke about how to use the preventive capabilities of the United Nations ‘to forestall the emergence of conflicts’”. Hammarskjold knew that the UN was the one place best suited to perform this task.
It was in 1992 that the concept was first described in detail, with guidance for its implementation. It was then that Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Former UN Secretary General presented his definition of Preventive Diplomacy in his landmark report, An Agenda for Peace.
He described preventive diplomacy as “action to prevent disputes from arising between parties, to prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur.”
Fundamental to Mr. Boutros-Ghali’s approach were these guiding elements: fact-finding, confidence building, early warning and preventive deployment.
It goes without saying that Mr. Ghali will always be remembered for his valuable services and continuous endeavors to achieve world peace. His Agenda for Peace continues to be a lasting legacy.
My good friend Kevin Cahill is here today to add his experiences to this topic. As a doctor, he sees the concept of prevention through a different lens. He sees patients who suffer from diseases or conditions that many times are not treated until discovered. He knows well how much pain, suffering and cost can be saved by early diagnosis and early intervention. He will talk to us today about the relevance of this logic to the efforts of the UN to prevent not disease, but the scourge of war.
Kevin’s thinking reflects his own observations, not to mention his own conversations with the late Secretary-General. I look forward to hearing from him.
Prevention is quiet work, frequently performed in ways we never hear about. Ban Ki-Moon recognized this. He told the Security Council in 2011, “We know when preventive diplomacy is effective, but proving this empirically is difficult. “ As Kevin will tell us, just because the effects are hard to quantify is no excuse for us to do the right thing.
And the right thing, for every patient, and for every conflict, is to try.