Thank you Madam President for convening this important debate. It is indeed good to see you back here in New York. I would also like to thank the Secretary General, Ambassador Patriota and Ms Leymah Gbowee for their important and inspiring comments this morning.
This year, the United Kingdom celebrates the eight hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. This was a ground-breaking moment in the history of my country’s inclusive development. The Magna Carta introduced the concept of a fundamentally different relationship between the State and individuals. In essence the monarch agreed for the first time that his power could not to be exercised in an arbitrary and unconstrained way. That the State was answerable to its citizens. That there should be due process. It was the beginning of the “rule of law” - the most important of the principles that underpin inclusive institutions and accountable government.
History teaches us that where there is an absence of inclusivity, rule of law and political pluralism, instability - and possibly conflict - will inevitably ensue. Conflicts erupt for many reasons. But there is growing evidence that the social, political and economic marginalisation of specific groups in society can be a major driver of conflict.
In 2004, the United Nations’ Arab Human Development Report warned us, and I quote “of an acute deficit of freedom and good governance” in the Arab World, and predicted that it could lead to instability. Six years later, in 2010, a street vendor in Tunis named Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in response to police harassment, triggering seismic upheavals across the Arab World, the consequences of which this Council is still dealing with today. Our collective failure- as so often in this Council – was not one of prediction, but the lack of political will to take early action.
The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has consistently argued that inclusive institutions, open societies and economies, and the rule of law – what he calls the ‘golden thread of development’ – are essential for countries to thrive economically and to avoid conflict. Governments should be the servants of its citizens, not their masters or the servants of a narrow, powerful clique.
The Security Council should therefore reflect on how it can support countries to develop inclusive national institutions. I believe that there are four key challenges:
Firstly, we need to be patient. There are no short-cuts to building inclusive national institutions. The World Bank estimates that, in a best case scenario, making meaningful improvements to institutions takes between ten and seventeen years. Sustained political and financial support to institution-building is therefore critical. The United Kingdom will do its part. Uniquely among G20 countries, we have kept our promise to spend 0.7% of our gross national income on overseas aid, at least 30% of which will be spent in conflict-affected states. And we are now the second-largest overall financial contributor to the UN system.
Secondly, where national political institutions are not inclusive, we must recognise that the potential for conflict increases. In August last year, when this Council adopted Resolution 2171 on conflict prevention, I said that the Council was designed to be a smoke detector, not just a fire extinguisher. Too often we are trying to manage crises, and failing to take seriously our conflict prevention role. We need to do better at monitoring situations in which political processes or institutions exclude or marginalise specific groups. And we need to have the political will to take appropriate early action, if necessary. We welcome the Secretary General’s Human Rights Up Front Initiative, which seeks to ensure that the UN does all it can to help protect people at risk or those subject to serious violations of human rights before events escalate into armed conflict and mass atrocities.
Thirdly, the relationship between violent extremism and the absence of inclusivity is complex. We have already seen this year shocking and deadly attacks in France, Yemen, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan. Extremists by their very nature are opposed to inclusivity. Their narratives tend to be revolutionary, uncompromising, elitist and exclusivist in nature. They foster a world view based on “them” and “us”. And they often seek to exclude women and persecute minorities. We cannot allow these ideas to take root. They are the antithesis of fundamental UN values – and must be confronted.
But we must also understand better the drivers of extremism. In some cases, marginalisation and exclusion can play a part in radicalisation. In addition, weak, fragile and conflict-affected states create a permissive enabling environment within which violent extremism can flourish. Effective UN peacebuilding interventions can play an important role in promoting inclusive political institutions, democratic processes and accountable security and justice services. This is best way to choke off extremist narratives.
Finally, Madam President, inclusivity is meaningless without women’s active participation in political institutions, peace negotiations, and policy-making. Without women, we will only achieve unbalanced and unsustainable peace, which ignores the needs of half the population. It is now nearly 15 years since the landmark Resolution 1325 which, for the first time, recognised the unique impact that conflict has on women as well as the significant contribution women can make to conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding. There has been some progress since then, but much more needs to be done to ensure the meaningful participation of women in all the different processes needed when building an inclusive society. This should include greater women’s participation in elections; peacebuilding processes and mediation. It should mean more women in the police and security services; and better training for armed forces and rule of law actors in gender and women’s rights. In this context, we warmly welcome the UN’s decision to commission a global study on the implementation of Resolution 1325, which will feed into the High Level Review in October.
I thank you.