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UN Adopts Preventive Diplomacy

Organization formalizes efforts to intervene before violence breaks out in world hot spots

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CONSIDER them efforts to prevent another Bosnia. Since March, United Nations diplomats and staff members have made 30 mostly unpublicized trips to try to cool down tensions between countries.

All these trips fall under a new formal category of activity at the UN: preventive diplomacy.

The concept was publicly embraced by UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in his June report, "Agenda for Peace."

One of the UN's aims, said Mr. Boutros-Ghali, is "To seek to identify at the earliest possible stage situations that could produce conflict, and to try through diplomacy to remove the sources of danger before violence results...." He calls preventive diplomacy "most desirable and efficient." Vladimir Petrovsky, the UN's undersecretary general for political affairs, predicts that preventive diplomacy will become "one of the major activities" at the UN.

In March, the UN started to develop a capacity for monitoring potential conflicts by setting up a new department of political affairs in the Secretariat, the UN's administrative arm. The department, divided into geographic divisions, watches for emerging disputes, collects and analyzes information regarding the disputes, and develops possible alternatives for peaceful dispute resolution.

UN officials say the missions have already scored some successes. In July, the UN sent a fact-finding mission to Moldova, which was just beginning an armed conflict with Russia. After the UN team arrived, the two sides began negotiating. Mr. Petrovsky says the mission prevented the dispute from becoming a full-scale war. "I am sure of it," states Petrovsky, who was a high official in the former Soviet Union.

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