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U.N. chief urges new efforts to prevent war and promote peace

Profile image for By Edith M. Lederer
By Edith M. Lederer

UNITED NATIONS — The new U.N. secretary-general urged the world organization and its 193 member states on Tuesday to stop focusing on responding to conflicts and do far more to prevent war and sustain peace.

Antonio Guterres said in his first speech to the Security Council since taking the reins of the U.N. on Jan. 1 that the multiplication of conflicts and the human and economic costs demand a new approach where a key is “translating early warning into early action.”

But he said it has proved very difficult to persuade national and international decision-makers to make prevention a priority, perhaps because “the television cameras are not there when a crisis is avoided.”

Guterres urged “a surge in diplomacy for peace,” in partnership with regional organizations and mobilizing religious authorities, civil society and the business community.

He announced a new initiative to expand mediation at U.N. headquarters and in the field and called on the Security Council to make greater use of the measures in the U.N. Charter for the peaceful resolution of disputes. He pledged to support the council through his “good offices and my personal engagement.”

“Too many prevention opportunities have been lost because member states mistrusted each other’s motives, and because of concerns over national sovereignty,” Guterres said.

While such concerns are understandable, he said, “preventive action is essential to avert mass atrocities or grave abuses of human rights. And we can achieve this only through reasoned discussion, based on facts and the pursuit of truth.”