6th Kofi Annan – Dag Hammarskjöld Annual Lecture / Seminar

Early warning and action, respect for human dignity and rights, strong state institutions and civil society groups, inclusiveness are key to armed

conflict prevention –  Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to the

UN Secretary-General

Accra, 8th October: “Preventing Armed Conflicts: Identifying and Mitigating Risks” was the theme for the annual Kofi Annan – Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture held on Wednesday, 3rd October 2018 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra. The Guest Speaker was Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General.

Starting off, Mr. Dieng paid tribute to the late HE Kofi Annan for his excellence and values that continues to inspire and underpin collective efforts for a better world. He said HE Kofi Annan always stood up for global peace, representation for disadvantaged and minority voices, rule of law, tolerance and friendship among nations.

Speaking on the theme, Mr. Dieng stated that, prevention of conflict and protection from atrocity crimes remain a primary responsibility of states, citing the World Summit Outcome Document in 2005, where UN Member States had committed to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity as well as their incitement. He emphasized that early warning is a critical component in conflict prevention and mitigation, pointing out that violent conflicts do not happen overnight and that there are early sign that could be detected and prevented at national, regional and international levels. He shared that the African Union, under its constitutive Act (Article 2 under the legal framework) has one of the most developed early warning mechanism with the requisite legal framework for prevention, noting that, if this legal framework is practiced actively, it could go beyond the United Nation to prevent armed conflicts.

He argued that sovereignty should not override protection; rather, it should recognize sanctity of human life. He pointed out that early warning is fruitful only when it is linked to early action, adding that although member states have consistently shown support for prevention, concrete steps and actions to back this up has been insufficient, even on occasions of credible imminent threats to populations.

Commitment to the primacy of human dignity and the respect for human rights is fundamental to preventing conflicts. Unfortunately, he observed, some states have been resisting the international framework of human rights and humanitarian law, and further undermining this long-standing system through beliefs that human rights are culturally and politically determined according to the realities of each society. This flawed belief, he said, legitimizes human rights violations and does not promote sustainable peace.

Mr. Dieng emphasized the centrality of strong rule of law institutions to efforts on preventing conflict, and that accountability, peace and justice are essential, especially in post-conflict situations. He touched on the core issue of exclusion, marginalization and under-representation of certain groups of people in the access and distribution of resources and opportunities, how such inequalities can trigger conflicts, and the need for governments to commit to proportionate supply of these resources.

One key mitigating factor against the break-out of conflicts, according to him, is the presence of a strong, representative civil society. He noted that through advocacy, monitoring and reporting, and holding governments and the international community to account, civil society groups play a key role in preventing atrocity crimes.

“I must submit that for prevention of armed conflicts to be achieved, we need to do more   individually and collectively. It would mean that our governments, regional and international organizations build resilient and cohesive societies…we should be open to mediation, dialogue and technical assistance in areas that could trigger conflict for example in electoral processes or constitution making. In unfortunate conflict cases in which international crimes are committed, we must pay full spectrum of ensuring justice for the victims…we should all be protected under international norms, our rights are inseparable and indivisible…we must implement collective decisions we undertake at multilateral institutions to prevent conflicts and protect populations”, he concluded.

The event was chaired by Her Excellency Christine Evans-Klock, UN Resident Coordinator for Ghana.

KAIPTC and the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation (DHF), Uppsala Sweden, instituted the Annual Kofi Annan/Dag Hammarskjold (KA-DH) Lectures in honour of the two former Secretary-Generals of the United Nations. Subsequently, an inaugural lecture hosted by the Centre was held in February 2013.

The lecture was attended by government functionaries, members of the diplomatic corps, senior military officers, defence advisors, senior police officers, the academia, civil society organizations and persons working in the diplomatic service.