On Friday 15th of March 2019, upon request of Madame Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-Habitat, the Secretary-General António Guterres endorsed the Guidance Note of the Secretary General on “The United Nations and Land and Conflict”. This is a milestone in the journey towards a sustained and coherent engagement of the UN System on land and conflict to prevent conflict and sustain peace.

Developed under the leadership of the Global Land Tool Network and UN-Habitat in collaboration with a Core Group of other UN agencies including DESA, DPPA, DPO, FAO, OHCHR, PBSO, UNDP, UNEP, UNHCR and UN-Women, the Guidance Note is significant. For the first time, the UN system has developed a coherent review of its engagement  and an approach to address land issues to prevent, mitigate and resolve conflicts.

Ample evidence  shows that land is one of the key root causes of conflict and underlying factors hindering recovery and sustainable peace. In many countries, conflict management and resolution are often at the heart of UN and partners’ operations and land is one of the underlying factors that, so far, has not been tackled adequately. The criticality of the land and conflict nexus is only likely to increase in the coming years with the growing pressures of climate change, population growth, food insecurity, migration and urbanization.

“This Guidance Note is a break through as it positions land at the centre of the UN peacebuilding and peacekeeping reform and at the heart of the peace continuum, from conflict prevention and resolution to peacekeeping, peacebuilding and long-term development”, says Oumar Sylla, the Leader of the Land and Global Land Tool Network Unit of UN-Habitat.

[caption id="attachment_129910" align="aligncenter" width="620"] 1 July 2014. Karbab: A farmer in Karbab, South Darfur, rides his cart while UNAMID troops from Tanzania arrive at the village as part of a routine patrol. The local community reported recent threats by other tribes in the area. The Mission reinforced the number of patrols in all villages around Khor Abeche, where on March 22 over 300 heavily armed men set fire to dozens of shelters in a camp for displaced people and stole livestock belonging to the residents.
Photo by Albert González Farran, UNAMID[/caption]

The UN system will continue to gradually map and develop the capacities of the United Nations system to address land and conflict issues and to include land as part of joint conflict analyses  that guide strategy development and programming at country level. There is a commitment also to further engage and support Member States on land and conflict, bilaterally and through their work in the Peacebuilding Commission and the Global Donor Working Group on Land. In addition, with the review of SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) on the agenda of the High-Level Political Forum in July 2019, the Guidance Note will help making explicit the link between conflicts, climate risks, natural resources’ management, displacement and land.

The Guidance Note also provides a solid base for the implementation of the new UN-Habitat Strategic Plan, particularly with regard to Domain of Change 4 on Effective urban crises prevention and response. Not only the Note gives important entry points for programme development at global, regional and country level, but it also paves the way to the establishment of collaboration and partnerships with other UN agencies.   

UN-Habitat celebrates the UN for embracing this Note and look forward to working closely with UN agencies, strategic and GLTN partners, and Member States to mobilise resources and increase our joint action on land and conflict at the country, regional and global level. This will benefit millions of people directly affected by conflict every day.