UNITED NATIONS: "Give Peace a Chance" was the longtime war cry of John Lennon and a growing number of voices say the UN Security Council should give it a try.
Midnight talks on the latest crisis have been the fuel of Security Council adrenaline junkies since it was created in 1945. The United Nations has had a peace building commission with a mission to keep countries out of the "conflict trap" of repeat wars for only five years.
With severe tests looming in Sudan and Ivory Coast, more and more countries are saying give peace building a chance.
About half of all countries hit by war "relapse into violence within 10 years," according to 2008 World Bank report. Haiti and Democratic Republic of Congo are considered textbook cases.
"That is a rather devastating statement for the international community," said Peter Wittig, Germany’s UN ambassador and outgoing chairman of the peacebuilding commission, who will open a special Security Council debate on the topic on Friday.
Germany is one of the new council members who say the international powers must look beyond erupting conflict for ways to make sure that long term peace holds. India and South Africa, which also joined the council this month, are also peace building supporters.
The UN has "under-performed" on peace building, Wittig told AFP in an interview.
"The council focuses on conflict management, it tends to underestimate the importance of prevention, before the conflict breaks out or before it is being managed, and to underestimate the post-conflict side," Wittig said.
"The conflict that kills people today is more interesting for the Security Council than the conflict which killed people five years ago," said Norway’s Deputy Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, who helped with the creation of the peace building commission.
"A couple of years ago nobody had really thought about the follow-up once peacekeepers withdrew. Now the awareness is heightened and that is a good development," said Wittig.
There are some "enlightened members" among the council’s permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — who appreciate the challenge of integrating peace building tasks, Wittig said.
"Others perceive this as a potential encroachment into the internal affairs of countries."
The peace building commission has a fund of several hundred dollars for projects — ranging from helping rebuild power grids to paying for political talks — that help nation-building and reconciliation.
"I think the council takes it seriously but it is much more difficult to generate the necessary, especially financial, resources for peace building," said Thomas Mayr-Harting, ambassador for Austria, another Security Council member.
"People decide much more easily to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for sending soldiers somewhere," he declared.
Wittig and Eide said there is sufficient money, but there has to be more synchronization between the United Nations, financial institutions such as the World Bank and major donors on the spending.
And Wittig said the first five years of the peace building commission had left a "mixed picture."
The first projects concentrated on Sierra Leone and Burundi. Sierra Leone is one of the successes. Burundi, where many opposition leaders have gone into hiding, "is not totally stabilized," he admitted.
Both highlighted East Timor and the Balkans among the success stories.
"East Timor is a tiny country and it might sound a little bizarre to cite this as the biggest success, but it was a creation of the UN, there is quite a substantial mission there and there was a relapse into violence at one point," said the German ambassador.
"It was pretty dangerous, but now that has been overcome."
Building Kosovo since the 1999 NATO air war and its 2009 split with Serbia is also held up. "When you calculate the amount of resources that went into Kosovo it would be enormous but I think at the end of the day, that is a success," said Wittig.
So how far has the campaign come?
"The trend line is good and the number of people being killed in violent conflict is going down, so we are doing something right, but we can do it better," said Eide.
Peace building, he said, "requires a long term commitment from the international community which will require a lot of money but less money than if the country relapses into conflict."