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UN chief calls for interdependence, inclusion to break poverty-conflict cycle

(Xinhua)    09:34, January 07, 2021

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for interdependence and inclusion to break the cycle of poverty and conflict.

"Addressing the links between fragility and conflict is an essential component of international peace and security. Fragility and conflict are among the greatest obstacles to implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda," he told the Security Council in an open debate on challenges of maintaining peace and security in fragile contexts.

Conflict continues to breed poverty and foster institutional fragility, which in turn decreases the resilience of these societies and the prospects for peace. The World Bank estimates that by 2030, two-thirds of the world's extreme poor will live in fragile or conflict-affected countries, he said.

To break the cycle of poverty and conflict, there is a need for a more ambitious approach based on two principles enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals: interdependence and inclusion, said the UN chief.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes that there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development, he said.

The pledge to "leave no one behind" must be at the center of collective efforts to promote sustainable development and to prevent and resolve conflicts, said Guterres.

"Guaranteeing equal opportunities, protection, access to resources and services and participation in decision-making are not simply moral and legal obligations. They are a necessary condition if countries are to truly break out of the conflict trap," he said.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict landscape was deteriorating. Conflicts have become more complex, fueled by greater regionalization, the proliferation of non-state armed groups, and their linkages with criminal and even terrorist interests. Conflicts last longer and become more difficult to resolve, he said.

According to the World Bank, one of every five people in the Middle East and North Africa lives in close proximity to a major conflict. As a consequence, humanitarian needs have multiplied, reaching the highest levels since World War II. The number of people at risk of starvation has doubled. International conflict management mechanisms have been stretched to the breaking point, he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these trends. In 2020, and for the first time in 22 years, extreme poverty was on the rise. The contraction of economic activity in fragile and conflict-affected settings is expected to push an additional 18 to 27 million people into extreme poverty, said Guterres.

The gender equality gap is widening, and women's labor force participation -- a key driver for inclusive growth -- has been set back decades.

The climate emergency is a further driver of insecurity. It is no coincidence that of the 15 countries most susceptible to climate risks, eight host a UN peacekeeping operation or special political mission. From the Sahel and Central Africa to the Horn of Africa, variability in rainfall patterns is disrupting long-existing patterns of transhumance, resulting in tensions and recurring clashes between communities, including across national borders, he noted.

The linkages between conflict and fragility have been particularly visible in the African continent, he said.

In the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, fragility has been exacerbated by transboundary threats such as climate change, terrorism, transnational organized crime, and the proliferation of armed groups. In the Great Lakes and Central African region, limited state authority, the continued presence and activities of armed groups, human rights violations, illicit exploitation of natural resources and unemployment continue to drive instability.

Guterres regretted the lack of commitment and financial resources for conflict prevention and resolution.

"We know that prevention and peacebuilding save lives and are cost-effective, especially when strategies come together across the peace, development and humanitarian nexus in support of national priorities. But they also require national leadership, political commitment and financial support. Yet, the international community continues to underinvest in these areas. That is why I have repeatedly called for increased financing for prevention and peacebuilding," he said.

Apart from the UN Peacebuilding Fund, partnerships with international financial institutions are another critical way to ensure that adequate funding reaches key areas. UN Country Teams and missions on the ground are working closely with governments and the World Bank in some 40 countries affected by fragility and conflict, he said.

"Together, we are focusing on food insecurity, supporting displaced people and host communities, and creating opportunities for women and young people. I want this partnership to grow in the years ahead."

The UN Security Council has a critical role to play in addressing the links between fragility and conflict.

By acting early and preventively, engaging strategically to address the root causes of conflict, and speaking with one voice, the council can mobilize the international community's political and financial support, shed a spotlight on critical areas of need, and foster the commitment of conflict actors where needed, said Guterres.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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