To-do list for 2017 : prevent and invent

To-do list for 2017 : prevent and invent
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The target for 2017 is clear: let us make 2017 a year of peace. This is what our new Secretary-General António Guterres has set out as our shared New Year's Resolution. It is also the wish and hope of millions who continue to suffer in brutal conflicts and those living in fear that the next terrorist attack strikes their local market, their favourite café or their morning commute. But peace is not just the absence of war. Peace matters to everyone and it is our responsibility to ensure that our New Year's Resolution is more than a slogan. To walk the talk, a new approach is needed. With a system geared to react, we are not getting ahead of the curve. In 2017, prevention and innovation must be at the top of our to-do-list. We have the tools, and we must use them. Business as usual will not turn this into a year of peace, but we have a choice to change and here are three important steps to tackle with force in 2017.

First of all, we have to look at what is left on our to-do list from 2016. Climate change, migration, demographic changes, resource scarcity, huge humanitarian needs and other trends continue to stretch our capacities. At the end of last year, just above half of the global humanitarian appeal was funded and yet, we are starting 2017 with an even bigger appeal (USD 22.2 billion). Our humanitarian agencies are extremely innovative in how they use scarce resources as efficiently as possible, from cash and vouchers to drone-delivery of aid in hard-to-reach areas. Similarly, our mediators have never stopped looking for new ways to help conflict affected countries. Last year, the Colombian people overcame one of the world's longest standing civil wars and we are starting 2017 with the hope that negotiators in Geneva will also agree on a shared and peaceful future for Cyprus. However, Colombia and Cyprus show that peace processes take time. With conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Mali and other countries raging on, it is clear that unless we prevent such catastrophes from happening, we will never close the gap between needs and resources. Innovation without prevention is not sufficient.

Second, we have to realize that innovation does not happen in isolation. Economists and business analysts have written paper after paper about why new technologies thrive in places like Silicon Valley and not elsewhere. Collaboration is always part of the answer. I encourage anyone who questions this to come to Geneva and see for themselves: the unparalleled diverse nature of actors in Geneva working together for peace, rights and wellbeing continue to forge partnerships and solutions that cannot be found elsewhere. In the 21st century, there is not one company, one organization or one country that leads innovation all alone. Globalization opened the doors to entirely new scales of progress through cooperation and multi-stakeholder partnerships. The Millennium Development Goals and other initiatives helped us reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty by more than half since 1990. The same happened to the global under-five mortality rate. These and other examples show what is possible when all actors - states, companies, universities, NGOs and many others - collaborate. This is what we stand to lose, if we give in to the isolationist tendencies that have picked up pace in 2016. This year, with elections and new governments taking office in many countries, including some permanent members of the UN Security Council, we have to rekindle global solidarity as an enabler of innovation and prevention.

Third, we have to become smarter at using the tools we already have to merge prevention and innovation. Over the last two years, global leaders agreed on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and other major policy frameworks. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals will enable the international community to target root causes of conflicts and disasters in a much more strategic and holistic way. Preventing conflict and creating sustainable peace is not possible without the promotion and protection of human rights and development. If we deepen the implementation of these frameworks in 2017, we have a chance to make prevention a reality through the most comprehensive, integrated and innovative global approach the world has ever seen.

What does this mean concretely? On the one hand, the United Nations has its internal to-do-list. Our new Secretary-General has shown that he is willing to tackle that list from day one, having announced new, more integrated structures at the United Nations, including at the top management level. Our task for 2017 will be to adopt these changes quickly and enthusiastically and to expand a matrix approach to management across the entire organization. From New York to Geneva and elsewhere, bureaucratic structures must enable - not hinder - the exchange of ideas and innovation. A new "SDG lab" and other initiatives in my own office will facilitate this process with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, we need to further strengthen our analytical capacity to ensure that conflicts and disasters are detected, reported and acted on preventively before they occur.

There is also a to-do-list external to the UN. The partnerships required to innovate and prevent go far beyond the organization. Leadership at national, local and even the individual level is required. In the age of social media and other transformative technologies, old structures are challenged and new opportunities for collaboration arise. We all have a role to play in making 2017 a year of peace. Let us think preventively, be innovative and work together on our collective to-do-list for 2017.

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