Evidence session 1: Establishing security and reducing conflict

The Commission’s first evidence session, which took place at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government on 19 April 2017, focused on the topic of establishing security and reducing conflict.

Some countries facing fragility and conflict have ongoing internal violent conflicts, others have recently emerged from them, and many are perceived as being at risk of falling into conflict. Conflict can push countries into other aspects of fragility, while at the same time the other aspects of fragility can lead to conflict. Fragility is seen as a key threat to regional and global security and stability as it generates negative spillovers that affect other countries.

Not only does conflict easily cross borders to neighbouring states, but migration driven by conflict and fragility has become a threat to security and political and social stability in a large part of the world. Better understanding of the various pathways through which conflict interacts with economic development is needed in order to more effectively drive strategies and resource allocations toward conflict prevention and reconstruction.


Zambian peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) patrol streets lined with looted items awaiting collection in Abyei, the main town of the disputed Abyei area on the border of Sudan and newly independent South Sudan.

Zambian peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) patrol streets lined with looted items awaiting collection in Abyei, the main town of the disputed Abyei area on the border of Sudan and newly independent South Sudan.

Evidence session witnesses

Under Secretary-General Jamal Benomar is Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General, and the lead senior UN official dealing with the crisis in Burundi. Previously, he served for four years as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Yemen, was the Director of rule of law in the Office of the Secretary General, and led the establishment of the Peace Building Commission and the Peace Building Support Office which he directed. He has advised on peacebuilding and conflict resolution issues in over 30 countries, including many in Africa, and has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and other countries. In mid-2004, he was the Secretary-General’s envoy to facilitate the National Dialogue Conference in Iraq. In November 2011, he was the UN mediator in the negotiations that led to the signing in Riyadh of the agreement on the Yemeni transition, and played the lead role in facilitating the successful conclusion of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference in 2014.  

Betty Oyella Bigombe was the Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank from 2014-2016. From May 2011-June 2014, she was the State Minister for Water Resources in the Uganda Cabinet. From 1986- 1996, she served in the Ugandan Parliament as an MP and in 1988, was appointed Minister of State for Pacification for Northern Uganda. She was tasked with convincing the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to lay down their arms, following the failure of military efforts to defeat the rebels. She initiated contact with Joseph Kony in June 1993, when she travelled with a small team into the bush to urge him to stop the violence and participate in talks with the government. In 1999 and 2000, she also provided technical support to the Carter Center in a successful mediation effort between the governments of Uganda and Sudan.

Major General J M Cowan CBE DSO is Chief Executive of The HALO Trust. After the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he was commissioned into The Black Watch and served as junior officer in Germany, UK, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, and Africa.  He led the strategic planning within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) for the Kosovo conflict in 1999.  He was Military Assistant to the Chief of the General Staff from before 9/11 until after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.  He commanded The Black Watch during the battle for Fallujah in 2004, and served again in Iraq in Basrah in 2006 and 2007. He commanded Task Force Helmand in 2009 and 2010.  He was Head of Counter Terrorism in the MOD from 2010-2012, leading the military planning for the Olympics, and was General Officer Commanding the 3rd (UK) Division from 2013-2015.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno is the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. He served as the UN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations between 2000-2008. He is the author of The Fog of Peace: A Memoir of Peacekeeping in the 21st Century. A former French diplomat, he served as Director of Policy Planning at France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Chairman of the Institute of Advanced Studies in National Defence. In 2012, he chaired President François Hollande’s review of France’s defense and national security posture. In 2012, he was appointed deputy joint special envoy for Syria by the UN and the Arab League. Prior to joining Crisis Group, he was director of Columbia University’s Center for International Conflict Resolution.  

Major General (retd) Andrew Mackay CBE is co-founder of Complexas, a specialist advisory firm focused on Africa, and APPLIform, a technology company that has developed a digital platform for large-scale infrastructure projects in the developing world. He has been involved in the stabilisation of fragile and conflict-afflicted states throughout his career. He joined the British Army in 1981 having previously been an Inspector in the Royal Hong Kong Police, and served on operations in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In Bosnia, he worked within the OSCE as the Deputy Director of the Joint Elections Operation Centre. In Kosovo, he served in the UN Mission Team as Head of the Advisory Unit on Security. In Baghdad, he set up and commanded the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, creating a budget of $1.5 billion to organise, train, equip, and mentor the nascent Ministry of Interior and over 150,000 Iraqi police. He commanded British Forces in Afghanistan in 2007-8 during which he planned and led the successful liberation of Musa Qala in the north of Helmand and its return to Afghan State control.