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"Common Commitment": Moderator's Conclusions Remarks by Gareth Evans at "Partners in Prevention" Conference

Remarks by Gareth Evans at “Partners in Prevention”, Regional EU Conference on Conflict Prevention, Helsingborg, Sweden

We have a common commitment to prevent the outbreak, escalation and recurrence of deadly conflict. To translate that commitment into cooperative action, practical institution-strengthening and process measures should be taken aimed at improving the capacity to:

- analyse situations requiring preventive action;
- identify appropriate policy responses; and
- agree upon and effectively deliver such responses.

Practical measures that would improve the analysis and understanding of situations requiring preventive action include:
- increased transparency and substantive exchange of relevant information among partner organisations;

- development of common indicators and checklists for root causes of conflicts, including the role of democracy, human rights and the rule of law;
- joint fact-finding missions;
- unqualified support for improved UN analytic capability as recommended by the Brahimi Panel; and
- support for non-government actors capable of adding value to the understanding and analysis of potential conflict situations.

Practical measures that would improve the capacity to identify appropriate and workable conflict prevention strategies include:
- support for research on lessons learned in the application of major conflict prevention toolbox measures (political/diplomatic, legal/constitutional, economic and military);
- sharing of experiences on conflict prevention between organisations in different regions;
- sharing of experiences on how to strengthen conflict prevention in development cooperation;
- development of joint training programs for conflict prevention (along the lines, eg, of the UNITAR program).

Practical measures that would improve prospects for agreeing upon appropriate strategies and ensuring effective and timely policy implementation include:
- further strengthening formal institutional capacity for conflict prevention within governments and intergovernmental organizations;
- cooperating in defining goals and strategies in specific situations, and following through on their delivery, including through the establishment of ad hoc working groups of relevant actors;
- better articulating the political case for conflict prevention in terms of common values, international law and practice, financial cost benefit and national interest;
- devising strategies that so far as possible are non-intrusive and fully respect national sovereignty, and where coercive strategies are unavoidable characterising them where possible as an exercise of a “responsibility to protect” rather than a “right to intervene”; and
- maximizing efforts to recognise and honour successful conflict prevention efforts (eg. by the EU, NATO and others in Macedonia in 2001, and by the OSCE’s High Commissioner for National Minorities).

In terms of follow up action from this conference, perhaps the most immediately useful step that could be taken would be for Sweden as convenor to initiate the establishment of a specific Working Group or Contact Group for a specific geographical area of conflict prevention concern. The ‘Contact Group’ model has become increasingly familiar in the context of crisis management (eg the Dayton process in Bosnia, and the Quartet now focusing on the Middle East), but not so far in the context of conflict prevention.

- Such group would seek to systematically work through the analytic and policy identification and implementation tasks sketched above, and give practical shape to the general cooperative strategies recommended by conference participants.
- It would be important for any such group to be constituted only by those organisations capable of genuinely adding value to the process.
- An obvious candidate for an area of focus within the Europe/OSCE region would be Central Asia.
- The successful operation of such a group could serve as a model for future such operations elsewhere in the Europe/OSCE region, and in other regions of the world (eg. Mano River region of West Africa, Great Lakes region and Andean region).

The difficulties and sensitivities associated with any such approach should not be underestimated, but if conflict prevention rhetoric is to be translated into systematic, focused action, arrangements of this kind – even if informal in character in the first instance – would be a highly desirable addition to the international repertoire.

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