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Geneva Peace Week 2017: Message from the President of the UN General Assembly

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Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to Geneva Peace Week 2017. I am sorry that my schedule did not allow for me to be with you in person. I am very glad, however, that technology has let me address you from thousands of miles away!

I want to start by thanking the organizers of this Week, including: The United Nations Office at Geneva, the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies, the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, and the Swiss Confederation.

The theme for the Week is very important. It will explore conflict prevention across sectors and institutions. And it seeks to identify pathways for effective implementation.

Today, I will make two brief points. I hope they will help to frame the discussions ahead.

First, I want to stress that prevention is not something the United Nations does. Rather, it is at the heart of what the United Nations is. In fact, for every one reference to war in the UN Charter, there are more than nine references to peace. The UN was therefore clearly intended to preserve peace, rather than respond to conflict. This gives us a compelling mandate to strengthen the UN’s role in preventing conflict. This week, you will be helping to do just that.

Another opportunity to meet this compelling mandate will be offered in April 2018, when I will convene a High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on Sustaining Peace. This event will take stock of what we have done in the area of peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace. Importantly, it will also highlight what we need to do differently. My team and I have planned a series of events as part of what we are calling a Roadmap to Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace. I look forward to engaging with many of you as this roadmap is implemented.

My second point is that we cannot meet this mandate alone. This is true both within and outside the United Nations system. No one person, department or organ of the UN can single-handedly strengthen the Organization’s conflict prevention capacity. Similarly, the United Nations cannot act in a vacuum. It will need partners across different sectors and institutions.

A stronger link between Geneva and New York is also crucial. Not only is Geneva home to actors and entities with rich experience in peace and prevention - it also acts as a hub of human rights expertise. As we have seen, the abuse of human rights acts as the flashing red lights, which warn us that conflict is on the horizon. The relationship between human rights, and Sustaining Peace must be further developed.

Excellencies, Dear Colleagues,

I will be following your discussions this week through the reporting of my team. The ideas and best practices you identify must feed into our preparations for the 2018 Sustaining Peace Event. I look forward to engaging with many of you throughout this process.

Thank you again. I wish you a successful and inspiring Peace Week!

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