Conflict Prevention: Giving Substance to the Rhetoric
The growing awareness that it is possible to prevent the outbreak of widespread violence, manage, and resolve crises, has translated into a global dialogue about the urgency of conflict prevention. Yet developing and integrating effective policies for conflict prevention—within governments, international organizations, NGOs, and other facets of society—has been easier said than done. On June 28, Mark Schneider, Senior Vice President of the International Crisis Group suggested how the lofty goals of conflict prevention can be implemented into pragmatic strategies, in particular in places such as the Balkans, Indonesia, and Central Africa. He also discussed ICG’s recent publication, “Beyond Public Health: HIV/AIDS as a Security Issue.”
The International Crisis Group (ICG), was founded to unite grassroots reporting with access to world leaders in order to effectively prevent international conflicts. The ICG stresses the need for a culture of prevention rather than a culture of reaction. Currently, most international groups address what is most urgent and plan ahead for only six months at the most. Schneider emphasized the need for the international community to look further, as well as to coordinate their efforts.
In order for successful conflict prevention to take place, three criteria must be met. The first is early warning, as prevention is more cost-efficient than reaction. We must also be able to recognize the forces that increase the risk of conflict. Secondly, preventative measures must be set in place. This includes long term development work, such as building up democratic institutions and securing human rights. Currently, the UN has no specific unit to deal with conflict prevention; therefore, the creation of a group with the sole charge to evaluate future concerns is imperative. Schneider notes that NGO’s may be extremely helpful in this area. Lastly, there must be the political will to use the preventative measures. This may be done by creating an institutional focal point, showing the cost-efficiency of prevention, addressing legitimate national interests, assessing international obligations, and dealing with domestic political institutions.
Schneider also spoke about broader global issues that have an impact on conflict prevention. The ICG recently published a report entitled “HIV/AIDS as a Security Issue.” The report examines how the threat of AIDS in not solely a health problem, but is also a security issue. The problem becomes increasingly pressing as AIDS is rapidly spreading not only throughout Africa, but also Ukraine, India, Russia, and China. Specifically, the report evaluates AIDS as a personal security issue, an economic security issue, a communal security issue, a national security issue, and an international security issue. As the disease spreads through a nation’s institutions of governance and infects teachers, police, health care officials, military personnel, and peacekeeping personnel, the security threats to a nation become more apparent. Unsurprisingly, the recent UN report also studies the political implications of AIDS. Both the UN report and the ICG report recommend creating a single international plan to deal with the spread of AIDS and its implications, and establishing a yearly ten billion dollar fund.
As Schneider responded to questions, he emphasized the ICG’s goal to provide unbiased information to assist governmental organizations. He further stressed the need for political leadership involvement in providing information and services to those infected with AIDS, as was done in Senegal where the HIV infection rate is now one of the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa.