15 September 2014, Geneva, Switzerland - With the number of refugees and internally displaced persons now higher than at any time since World War II, efforts to strengthen capacities for the prevention of violent conflict and the peaceful settlement of disputes are needed now more than ever. This was the conclusion of the eminent panel of speakers at the “Training Peacemakers” event held at the United Nations Office in Geneva Library on 15 September to launch the new publication Strengthening the Practice of Peacemaking and Preventive Diplomacy in the United Nations: The UNITAR Approach. (The electronic version of the book is available at our website.)

Strengthening UN Practice book launch eventThe book describes the approach adopted and refined by UNITAR over the past 20 years to strengthen – through advanced training – the skills and capacities of senior and mid level diplomats, and United Nations and Regional Organization staff many of whom now occupy key roles in the prevention and resolution of conflict.

The panel was chaired by UNITAR’s Acting Head and Executive Director, Sally Fegan-Wyles. The Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Mr. Michael Moller stressed that "a culture of prevention should be in our bloodstream, it should be second nature to us, as it is the very first sentence of our Charter. It is why this Organization was created….This is why the training that UNITAR provides is critical, as it is strategic and aimed at building capacity to address the root causes of conflict rather than simply dealing with symptoms."

He further noted, "In all discussions on peacemaking we hear that prevention is better than cure. That investment in prevention saves lives and money in the long term. Yet, programmes such as the ones provided by UNITAR continue to be chasing resources, while Member States are obliged to fund large-scale operations to address conflicts after they have erupted. We need to prioritize early and constructive action, also through our funding channels."

Dr. Connie Peck who founded the programme, gave some examples of contributions  to the United Nations and international system of the 766 alumni of the Fellowship Programme to date, who include a number of Special Representatives of the Secretary-General and Deputy SRSGs, senior United Nations and regional organization staff, and Ambassadors and senior diplomats effectively analyzing conflict and contributing to negotiation and mediation processes at multiple levels. UNITAR’s Training Programmes for Africa, and Training Programmes for Indigenous Peoples’ Representatives to strengthen capacities in conflict prevention and peacemaking were also highlighted. The Project for SRSGs, and Seminar for Special and Personal Representatives of the Secretary-General, with the purpose of enhancing UN practice, were presented as well.

Former Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, Francesc Vendrell, who serves as a senior resource person in the Fellowship Programme, shared observations from his more than 34 years of experience in peacemaking with the United Nations. The importance of engaging in a timely manner to deal effectively with conflict, and the constructive role the good offices of the Secretary-General have played in a number of regions to assist parties in resolving conflicts were among the many lessons he highlighted. He spoke highly of his association with the Fellowship Programme and the crucial training being provided to key actors.

UNITAR is grateful to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway for the support for publishing the book and for hosting the annual Fellowship Programme. Support from the two Co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Mediation, Finland and Turkey, as well as New Zealand and Sweden towards the 2014 Fellowship Programme in Peacemaking and Preventive Diplomacy is also highly appreciated.

Ambassador SinjelaAmbassador Encyla Sinjela, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zambia, an alumna of the Fellowship Programme, described how the training has helped in her work in conducting conflict analysis and contributing to peace and mediation processes in a number of regions. “The training programme is important because it teaches participants how to deal with and diffuse situations before they become explosive. It also teaches one to be patient and to build trust because the results from the negotiations in any conflict resolution are not immediate.” Ambassador Sinjela called on current and potential funding governments to provide resources to help make UNITAR’s important capacity development programmes on the continent possible. To date 525 officials from Offices of Presidents and Prime Ministers, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, UN and AU peace missions and regional and sub-regional organization staff have been trained in UNITAR’s Training Programme to Enhance Conflict Prevention and Peacemaking in Africa./p>

Fundraising is ongoing for the 2014 Africa Regional Training Programme. To date, the Governments of Norway and Turkey are contributing to the Programme to take place in November/December, which is most-appreciated. Additional support for this strategic and much-requested training programme is sought. For more information, please contact the Manager of the Programme in Peacemaking and Conflict Prevention at: pmcp@unitar.org

Photo 1: (From left) Ms. Sally Fegan-Wyles, UNITAR Acting Head and Executive Director; Dr. Connie Peck, founder of the Programme and Co-editor of the book; Mr. Michael Moller, Acting Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva; H.E. Ms. Encyla C.T. Sinjela, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zambia to the United Nations; H.E. Mr. Francesc Vendrell, Former Personal Representative of the Secretary-General.

Photo 2: Ambassador Encyla Sinjela, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zambia