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Political leadership to prevent and end conflicts

An end to human suffering requires political solutions, unity of purpose and sustained leadership and investment in peaceful and inclusive societies.


W ars lead to prolonged human suffering and political turmoil. Humanitarian assistance may ameliorate such suffering and peacekeepers may stabilize situations, but they cannot create lasting peace and prosperity. Preventing and ending conflicts and building peace are recognized in the Charter of the United Nations as our first and foremost responsibility to humanity. Yet, that effort is not where our political leadership or resources are presently focused. The World Humanitarian Summit should be the turning point at which we reaffirm our commitment to our responsibilities as States, international organizations, the private sector, civil society and individual leaders

A fter declining in the late 1990s and early 2000s, major civil wars increased from 4 in 2007 to 11 in 2014. The root causes of each conflict are different and complex. The result is often the same: conflicts emerge in places once considered secure, they gain in intensity and they relapse where they were once thought to be resolved. A third of today’s civil wars include the involvement of external actors that support one or more parties to a conflict. This internationalization makes civil wars more deadly and prolonged. Transnational criminal groups thrive in fragile and conflict-affected States, particularly in urban cities, destabilizing post-conflict countries, undermining State-building efforts and prolonging violence.

N egotiating peace agreements and settlements has also become more difficult. The number of parties to a conflict has increased dramatically and their diverging interests now require the parallel engagement of a variety of actors: global powers, States with regional influence, international and regional organizations and individuals with political or economic influence. Involving more actors, however, can add to the complexity and duration of conflict resolution efforts and lead to duplication or counterproductive processes. Armed groups can be difficult to engage and negotiate with and may defy settlements that have been reached.

A s a result of those trends, the international community is in a state of constant crisis management. Between 2012 and 2014, non-United Nations peacekeeping forces increased by 60 per cent. Almost two thirds of United Nations peacekeepers and almost 90 per cent of personnel in United Nations special political missions are working in or on countries experiencing high-intensity conflict. Missions now last, on average, three times longer than their predecessors. Over 80 per cent of humanitarian funding requested by the United Nations goes towards meeting life-saving needs in conflict settings. The international community is increasing its response to crises while struggling to find sustainable political and security solutions to end them.

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