UNDP Prevention Forum kicks off Development Dialogues series

New York: With less than a decade left to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, ambitious and urgent action is needed to accelerate progress on conflict prevention and peacebuilding. With the COVID-19 pandemic spurring the first decline in human development in 30 years, the international community must commit to bolder and more agile efforts to prevent further crises from unfolding.

This was the conclusion of the Prevention in Action – Global Forum 2021, a two-day virtual forum hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on 3 and 4 March, 2021. The Global Forum examined the critical link between development, conflict, prevention and peacebuilding, and delineated challenges and failures, lessons learned and good practices, as well as aspirations, and opportunities.

Speaking at the Forum’s opening on Wednesday, Asako Okai, UN Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) and Director of the UNDP Crisis Bureau, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had pushed the world into a development emergency.

“The pandemic has led to the first decline in human development since UNDP started measuring this 30 years ago. Current projections also indicate that by 2030, one in four people will live in a crisis. We must urgently rethink how we – as development and peacebuilding actors – work together to respond to and prevent violent conflict,” she said.

The Prevention Forum marked the official start of Development Dialogues: Rethinking Solutions to Crisis in the Decade of Action, a new campaign launched by UNDP to shine a spotlight on the most urgent action required to support vulnerable populations in crisis-affected contexts to help them move towards sustainable development.

UNDP’s work in prevention is focused on three objectives: stabilizing and protecting development gains; mitigating risks of relapse or recurrence; and building institutional and community resilience to sustain peaceful development pathways.

Central to achieving these objectives are strong partnerships capable of delivering agile, integrated solutions at scale, which ensure sustainable impact. This theme was underscored in the keynote address by President of the Islamic Development Bank, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, who emphasized the importance of coordinated global action.

“An important lesson we can learn from the COVID-19 crisis is that the current challenges are beyond any single country’s capacity,” he said. “The international development community must take immediate actions to better adapt to the changing needs of the post-COVID-19 world, which demands more international cooperation than ever.”
Mourad Wahba, UNDP Associate Administrator ad interim, asserted that while investing in conflict and crisis prevention was not new, it has taken on new urgency.

“Development failures and deficits lay at the heart of what is making our world a more perilous, fragile place, and the reversal of this trend offers the way out,” he said. “Given existing vulnerabilities and COVID-19’s multiplier effect, we are redoubling our efforts on prevention while supporting conflict-sensitive and risk-informed national capacities for development.”

Six panel discussions were held over the course of the two-day Prevention Forum with the participation of UN partners, development cooperation actors, think tanks and civil society organizations, including UNDP Regional Director for Europe and the CIS Director Mijrana Spoljaric Egger, Regional Director for Africa Ahunna Eziakonwa, Regional Director for Latin America Luis Felipe López-Calva, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Kanni Wignaraja and Director of Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy Ulrika Modeer.

In closing the two-day forum, Deputy Director of UNDP’s Crisis Bureau George Conway said the conversations during the forum were “pivotal to accelerate progress of development action on conflict prevention and peacebuilding in the Decade of Action.”