Prevent crises before the price spirals: UN chief

1st October 2014, Comments 0 comments

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged the international community to stem crises before they emerge, instead of waiting to pick up the pieces after they spin out of control.

"When there is a fire, everybody knows what to do. They bring all the fire engines to put out the fire. It looks very dynamic and heroic," Ban told a high-level meeting of the UN refugee agency.

"But preventive diplomacy, prevention of all these conflicts, is much more important. It's much less costly, it saves much, much more human life," he said.

"We have to invest more," he added.

Ban said there was a gulf between words and deeds, with donor countries pledging huge sums to deal with rampant crises but unwilling to provide lesser amounts to nip them in the bud.

"We should be wise. When we see some symptoms of a problem, we have to address these symptoms before they become festering," he said.

Ban said a major source of crisis-generation was the failure of leaders to heed calls for change within their societies.

"I'm asking world leaders to really listen to the voices and aspirations of their people. That's good governance, inclusive governance and rule of law," he said.

"When governments and leaders are not observing and bound by this rule of law themselves, and when they do not listen to the people's voice, then there are complaints, and complaints become anger, demonstrations and then violent demonstrations," he added.

That fed a tide of people fleeing their homelands, Ban said.

Worldwide, 51.2 million were forcibly displaced as of the end of 2013, according to UN figures, mostly remaining within their embattled homelands' borders or fleeing to neighbouring countries.

"Never before in United Nations history have we had so many refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers," said Ban.

"Some of the challenges are on the front pages. Others are far from the headlines. We are troubled by, and suffering from, many natural calamities but most of the crises we are seeing are man-made," he said.

Alongside headline crises in Syria and Iraq -- where Ban cited "new depths of barbarity" and "devastating spill-over effects" -- Africa's multiple hotspots or enduring situations such as the millions of Afghan refugees still in Pakistan grab less attention.

Ban, 70, said he felt a bond with crisis victims due to his boyhood in the 1950-1953 Korean War.

"One of my earliest memories is fleeing with my family into the hills surrounding my village. As we climbed in the rain and cold, I looked back on the only world I knew," he said.

"Where I had played, where I had gone to school, where I had lived with my family -- all of it was in flames. Our lives went up in smoke," he said.

© 2014 AFP

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