Speaking in Davos at the start of the year, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres laid out a vision of the interconnected nature of today’s conflicts, calling for a “comprehensive approach” by the UN that will bring together all of the organization’s pillars. This is a good move for a deeply fractured organization. But in aiming big, and in focusing on bringing the major pieces of the UN architecture together, there is a risk that the crucial local dynamics of conflict will continue to be overlooked. Each of the key UN institutions – peace and security, human rights, and development – have a strong tendency to work at the national and state-institutional level. None has adequate mechanisms to link the national with the local. And while recent policy reviews and Guterres himself have called for a people-centred approach, it is less clear how that will be achieved. Here are three direct ways to combat the tendency to focus on the national level and to firmly root the UN’s conflict-management in local soil.
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