United Nations: Prevention is better than cure

THE CALL by Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, to invest more energy in the prevention of conflicts for better protection of civilians in war-torn areas is one that everyone should support.

THE CALL by Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, to invest more energy in the prevention of conflicts for better protection of civilians in war-torn areas is one that everyone should support.

The United Nations system, as it presently is, reacts to situations when it is too late to minimise civilian deaths. There has to be a better way to handle this. As Minister Mushikiwabo told the UN Security Council, “the protection of civilians in armed conflicts requires action before the conflict begins”. This approach makes total sense.

It costs more, in terms of troops, resources and equipment, to send UN peacekeepers into a warzone in order to separate belligerent parties. For example, the largest peacekeeping operation in the world, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, costs over a billion dollars a year to fund. 

However, if a fraction of this money was spent in preventing conflict by helping unstable nations build governance structures such as a reliable judiciary, a professional army and police and civil service, many of the underlying causes of conflict would be resolved.

The old way of doing things is clearly not working, as can be seen by the civilian deaths and suffering in places as diverse as DRC, Syria and Columbia.

Perhaps it is time the UN acknowledges this.

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