The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, declares its ultimate goal as transforming the world. The declaration states rightly that "There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development." The fact that this goal was placed only 16th out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should not underestimate the importance of transforming conflict-prone countries into peaceful nations engaged in the pursuit of sustainable development.
Today, the United Nations supports over 16 peacekeeping and 11 special political and peacebuilding missions. (1) Many of the countries that receive support from the United Nations are members of the g7+ group of 20 fragile States that are trying to overcome instability and move out of the conflict trap and poverty. (2) Yet, many of these countries have leaders who hold on to power and wealth at the expense of national unity and welfare. My own engagement with leaders of conflict-prone countries revealed that post-conflict recovery and development depend on national leaders more than institutions with which the people may not be familiar.
To realize sustainable peace and stability in post-conflict countries, the United Nations has basically accepted and followed the political and moral philosophy developed by John Rawls in 1971. (2) Liberal democracy and the rule of law, along with the protection of human rights, became pillars for governance. Constitutions have been written and state institutions of governance established to achieve fairness in society. There is no doubt that institutional capacity-building for democratic governance is desirable for sustaining peace and stability in the long run, but in the immediate aftermath of conflict there is a more urgent need to influence and transform national leaders so that they become committed to national unity and interest.
In this article, I identify specific leadership attributes that contribute to building peace in the aftermath of conflict and during the period of transition from post-conflict peace-building to sustainable development.
In the immediate aftermath of conflict, the critical task for national leaders is to balance the need for securing political stability, if necessary with force, with governing their countries by influencing the thought and behaviour of opponents, as well as their followers. It requires both resolute leadership and the willingness to share and accommodate divergent interests and aspirations. The surest way to establish a society based on the rule of law is for leaders to act virtuously, exercising discipline in their personal conduct and behaviour, rather than using power and force to strengthen their position.
During my United Nations assignments to several countries...