15-16 August, New York, USA - From 15-16 August, the UNITAR New York Office organized and developed a specialized  training programme for the Permanent Mission of Malaysia on conflict prevention and crisis management.  Ambassador Ahmad Kamal, senior fellow with UNITAR, opened the first session discussing the paradox of the UN’s goals for peace and anti-war, and pointed out that major disputes have taken place in the Middle East, South Asia, Far East, Africa, for decades. On the other hand, parties’ steadfast commitment to participate around the negotiation table remains a significant impediment for future conflicts.

Mr. John Filson, Policy Program Manager in the Alliance for Peacebuilding shared his civil society based perspective in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. More than 1.5 billion people live in fragile and conflict affected states, and the cost of conflicts to the global economy is more than $10 trillion annually. Preventing war is 60 times cheaper than fighting. Besides all those efforts to prevent conflicts, peacebuilding requires a broader approach and participation. He said that there are two types of tools for Conflict Prevention: structural and direct.

Mr. Devanand Ramiah, Regional Team Leader for Asia Pacific in UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, discussed Conflict Prevention Concepts and Methodologies. In 2012, there were 396 conflicts in the world, 43 of them were highly violent, and there were violence of in total of 208 conflicts. Almost half of the conflicts were non-violent. Mr. Ramiah created a model on conflict, demonstrating that while trying to solve a conflict between parties, future conflicts can be created. Therefore, the underlying causes of the conflicts need to be addressed.

Ms. Claudia Diaz, UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, discussed that extreme violence such as Mass Atrocities, Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing, and Crimes Against Humanity can occur during the peace times. She also said that Ethnic Cleansing is still seen as a Human Rights violation in terms of international law.  Her office tries to bring prevent conflict and manage crisis by bringing issues and advice to the attention of the Secretary General.

Sapna Chattpar Considine, Program Director of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), said that often some countries remain skeptical about the R2P as a conflict prevention tool because military intervention comes to mind.   On the other hand, R2P enhances sovereignty because it protects citizens from government actions. She also mentioned that the revision of the R2P in 2005, four crimes and violations were included to the draft UN resolution on R2P - they are:  Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Ethnic Cleansing.

Dr. Minh A. Luong, an expert on Crisis Management and Conflict Prevention, described how to avoiding conflicts through negotiations. Dr. Luong also said that knowing parties’ best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) definitely helps negotiators to reach an agreement. Another thing Mr. Luong mentioned that 80% of successful talks are made informally as a result of less external pressure and less need for posturing.

Ms. Yvonne Lodico, Head of UNITAR NYO, closed the specialized workshop mentioning that conflict prevention is increasingly recognized as one of the most important diplomatic tools in the UN, and to this end expressed appreciation for the Permanent Mission of Malaysia’s determination to enhance its use of this essential form of diplomacy.