UN SC, in presidential statement, expresses willingness to explore ways to further promote use of mediation in peaceful settlement of disputes

Report
from UN Security Council
Published on 21 Apr 2009 View Original
SC/9640

Security Council
6108th Meeting (AM & PM)

Hears from More than 40 Speakers in Day-Long Debate; Political Affairs Head Presents Report on Enhancing Effectiveness of UN Mediation

The Security Council, the principle United Nations body charged with the maintenance of international peace and security, cited today the importance of mediation and expressed its readiness to explore further ways and means to reinforce the promotion of mediation as an important tool for the peaceful settlement of disputes "wherever possible before they evolve into violence".

"The Security Council [...] underscores its intention to remain engaged in all stages of the conflict cycle, including in support of mediation," said Claude Heller of Mexico, President of the 15-nation body, reading out a statement that capped a day-long open debate on mediation and dispute settlement.

Recognizing the importance of mediation, to be launched at the earliest possible phases of conflicts, as well as in the implementation phases of signed peace agreements, the Council underlined the need to design mediation processes that addressed the root causes of conflicts and contributed to peacebuilding, to ensure sustainable peace.

While stressing that the principal responsibility for the peaceful settlement of disputes rested with parties to a conflict, the Council emphasized the importance of the actions undertaken by the Secretary-General, in promoting mediation. It also welcomed continued efforts by the Department of Political Affairs, in particular through the Mediation Support Unit, to respond to emerging and existing crises. It further underscored that mediation support efforts should be responsive to the demands of fast-moving peace processes.

Noting with concern the very low numbers of women in formal roles in mediation processes, the Council stressed the need to ensure that women were appropriately appointed at decision-making levels, as high-level mediators, and within the composition of the mediators' teams in line with resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008).

Council Members also took note of United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon's first report on enhancing mediation and its support activities, which emphasized the need for early United Nations engagement to strengthen conflict prevention and resolution; increasing support for mediators; developing the next generation of the world body's mediators; and integrating mediation support into United Nations field missions.

Ahead of the debate, the Council was briefed by B. Lynne Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who stressed that bolstering the Organization's ability to defuse tensions and prevent conflict required flexible funding, regional partnerships and accessible information for mediation.

"A United Nations more effective in the practice of mediation will be more adept both at heading off conflicts before they become full blown crises and at bringing such crises to a peaceful and lasting end before it is necessary to resort to peacekeeping," he said. Indeed, effective mediation could help the world body arrive at sound agreements that could be successfully implemented, and then assist in the facilitation and dialogue needed throughout the later phases of the effort.

Mediation must continue as a central part of the process of peacekeeping and peacebuilding, Mr. Pascoe said, noting, for example, that the head of the United Nations peacebuilding mission in Sierra Leone had been busy in recent weeks encouraging dialogue to defuse the most recent tensions there. He also noted the "promising" efforts of the head of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to bring peace to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mr. Pascoe said the Department of Political Affairs was aware that many areas required improvement and he highlighted recent efforts to put in place the expertise, financial resources, partnerships and knowledge-base needed to address that issue. He also underlined the strengthening of regional divisions and the creation of a Mediation Support Unit, which had been complemented by a standby team of mediation experts, ready to deploy to negotiations around the world.

"These are part of a conscious effort to reshape the [Department] into a more action- and field-oriented operation that can move more quickly and at an earlier stage to help prevent conflicts from spreading and to deliver faster and more reliable support to peace processes," he said.

During a discussion that featured more than 40 speakers, most delegations cited the relatively more cost-effective nature of mediation, as opposed to peacekeeping, and the likely dividends as a tool of peacemaking and peacebuilding. Many cited the important contributions being made by regional organizations like the African Union to that end, including in Somalia, the Sudan and elsewhere on the African continent.

While some speakers noted that the Council's expressed political support for mediation processes had led to greater support for that approach within the wider international community, others cautioned that the Council itself should become more engaged in mediation and negotiation efforts to settle disputes and end what they saw as a dependency on the threat or actual use of force under Chapter VII of the Charter.

Algeria's representative said that, faced with an unprecedented increase in the number and scale of peacekeeping operations, the United Nations needed to transform its culture of response into a culture of prevention. It should aim to support and strengthen the African Union's work, in that regard. In light of Algeria's own mediation experience in conflicts as disparate as territorial disagreements between Iran and Iraq, and the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, it had concluded that the unequivocal political will by parties to a dispute was needed.

For his part, Japan's representative said that, in its pursuit of successful mediation, the United Nations should also ask three questions: how can social and economic stability and peacebuilding be incorporated in mediation and conflict resolution efforts from the outset? how can mediation activity continue throughout the implementation of a peace agreement and peace consolidation process? and what is an effective and realistic role for the United Nations in supporting mediation efforts involving non-State actors?

Highlighting factors he believed were crucial for successful mediation, the representative of South Africa said ownership of the mediation process by the conflict's various parties and the role of support mechanisms were critical. Mediation should not be considered as a "quick fix", nor as a one-size-fits-all endeavour. It should seek to gain trust and keep the parties focused on resolving the dispute by addressing root causes. Mediation should also be seen as strategic intervention; as such, it should not be an ad hoc effort, but should be properly planned.

Also speaking were representatives of the Russian Federation, Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Libya, Austria, China, United Kingdom, United States, Uganda, Croatia, Burkina Faso, France, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morocco, Finland, Uruguay, Republic of Korea, Czech Republic (on behalf of the European Union), Liechtenstein, Nigeria, Cuba (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Norway, Qatar, Senegal, Kenya, Pakistan, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, United Republic of Tanzania, Benin and the Sudan.

The meeting began at 10:12 a.m. and suspended at 1:05 p.m. It resumed at 3:11 p.m. and adjourned at 5:40 p.m.

The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2009/8 reads as follows:

"The Security Council recalls the statement of its President (S/PRST/2008/36) of 23 September 2008 and takes note of the report of the Secretary-General on Enhancing Mediation and Its Support Activities (S/2009/189), as well as the recommendations contained therein.

"The Security Council, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and as the organ with the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, underscores its intention to remain engaged in all stages of the conflict cycle, including in support of mediation, and expresses its readiness to explore further ways and means to reinforce the promotion of mediation as an important means for the pacific settlement of disputes, wherever possible before they evolve into violence.

"The Security Council recognizes the importance of mediation, to be launched at the earliest possible phases of conflicts, as well as in the implementation phases of signed peace agreements and underlines the need to design mediation processes that address the root causes of conflicts and contribute to peacebuilding, in order to ensure sustainable peace.

"The Security Council stresses that the principal responsibility for the peaceful settlement of disputes rests with the parties to the conflict and that it is only through their full participation and genuine commitment to resolve the conflict including its underlying causes, that peace can be achieved and sustained. In this regard, the Council underlines the importance of building national and local capacity for mediation.

"The Security Council emphasizes the importance of the actions undertaken by the United Nations Secretary-General, in promoting mediation and in the pacific settlement of disputes, and welcomes the continued efforts by the Department of Political Affairs, in particular through the Mediation Support Unit to respond to emerging and existing crises. It underscores that mediation support efforts should be responsive to the demands of fast-moving peace processes.

"The Security Council recalls the important contribution of Member States, regional and subregional organizations, civil society and other stakeholders to the pacific settlement of disputes. The Council welcomes the efforts made by regional and subregional organizations to enhance their mediation role, and appreciates the efforts of the Secretary-General to continue to assist them in this regard.

"The Security Council urges the Secretariat to work with all partners to ensure the availability of well-trained, experienced and geographically diverse mediation experts at all levels to ensure the timely and the highest quality support to mediation efforts and it urges those possessing cadres of mediation experts to cooperate with the Secretariat in this endeavour.

"The Security Council further requests the Secretary-General to work in partnership with Member States, regional and subregional organizations and other relevant partners in a coordinated and mutually complementary manner when cooperating in a mediation process.

"The Security Council notes with concern the very low numbers of women in formal roles in mediation processes, and stresses the need to ensure that women are appropriately appointed at decision-making levels, as high-level mediators, and within the composition of the mediators' teams in line with resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008). It reiterates its call to the Secretary-General and the heads of regional and subregional organizations to take the appropriate measures to that end.

"The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to keep it informed of the action undertaken by him in promoting and supporting mediation and pacific settlement of disputes, ensuring coherence with the ongoing efforts to strengthen peacebuilding and peacekeeping."

Background

The Security Council met this morning to hold an open debate on mediation and the settlement of disputes. Members had before them the Secretary-General's recent report on enhancing mediation and its support activities (document S/2009/189), which examines challenges faced by the United Nations and its partners in providing professional mediation assistance to parties in conflict.

The report describes the need for experienced and knowledgeable mediators and support teams, with women adequately represented, and sufficient resources to provide assistance at an early stage to help parties design and pursue processes that will address the root causes of their conflicts, overcome obstacles that block progress, and achieve agreements that lead to sustainable peace.

With the peaceful settlement of disputes a key element of the Organization's mission, its mediation capacity ?? which is thwarted by the limited number of experienced mediators and the lack of sufficient financial resources ?? must be bolstered, the report says. It adds: too often in the past, mediators have been dispatched without the full benefit of specialized training and background information, giving United Nations efforts an ad hoc quality too dependent on trial and error.

Many in the already small group of experienced mediators have retired or left the world body, and the few training schemes aimed at enhancing the skills of United Nations staff are dependent on voluntary funding, while there are no such programmes for senior mediators, the report continues, noting that in its recent decisions, the General Assembly has called for the creation of a Mediation Support Unit.

Among the Secretary-General's conclusions and recommendations, the report emphasizes the need for early United Nations engagement to strengthen conflict prevention and resolution; increasing support for mediators; developing the next generation of the world body's mediators; and integrating mediation support into United Nations field operations. The report also notes the importance of building local, national and regional capacity for mediation and the need for coherent partnership between the United Nations, regional and subregional organizations, States and non-governmental organizations.

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General

B. LYNN PASCOE, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that when the Council had met on dispute settlement and mediation last September, its members had identified many of the key issues and challenges facing the international community in that area. In its subsequent presidential statement (document S/PRST/2008/36), the Council had invited the Secretary-General to provide a report on "mediation and its support activities, which takes into account experiences of the United Nations and other key actors, and makes recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of United Nations mediation".

The resultant report, before the Council this morning, had benefited from a broad consultation process, he continued, adding that, in addition to internal consultations, it drew on the experiences and views of Security Council members, individual Member States acting as mediators, regional and subregional organizations, and non-governmental organizations. The report also provided an opportunity to take stock of efforts under way in the Secretariat, led by the Department of Political Affairs, to bolster and professionalize the United Nations mediation capabilities. He added that the release of the report coincided with critically important efforts by Member States and the Secretariat to examine the present and future of United Nations peacekeeping.

"These efforts, of course, are closely related," he said. "A United Nations more effective in the practice of mediation will be more adept both at heading off conflicts before they become full blown crises and at bringing such crises to a peaceful and lasting end before it is necessary to resort to peacekeeping." Indeed, effective mediation could help the world body arrive at sound agreements that could be successfully implemented, and then assist in the facilitation and dialogue needed throughout the later phases of the effort.

Mediation must continue as a central part of the process of peacekeeping and peacebuilding, he said, noting, for example, that the head of the United Nations peacebuilding mission in Sierra Leone had been busy in recent weeks encouraging dialogue to defuse the most recent tensions there. He also noted the "promising" efforts of the head of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and former Nigerian President Obasanjo to bring peace to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Turning to some of the key initiatives and recent efforts in the mediation field, he said such initiatives had been a part of a conscious effort to reshape the Department of Political Affairs into a more action- and field-oriented operation that could move more quickly, and at an earlier stage, to help conflicts from spreading and deliver faster and more reliable support to peace processes. As directed by the Secretary-General, the Department was working to put in place the expertise, financial resources, partnerships and knowledge base to achieve those objectives, he said, expressing deep appreciation to the support received from the Council and other Member States for those efforts.

He said political support and financial resources provided by Member States through both regular budgetary and voluntary contributions had enabled the Department of Political Affairs to strengthen its regional divisions and to establish a Mediation Support Unit. That Unit had been further complemented with a Standby Team of Mediation Experts able to deploy to negotiations around the world on short notice, and to provide advice and assistance to mediators on themes such as peace process design, security arrangements, power-sharing, wealth-sharing, natural resource management and constitution-making. In the past year, the Department had provided mediation support to over 20 peace processes, with the Mediation Support Unit exerting a "multiplier effect" on those efforts.

"We have striven to take a flexible and innovative approach to peacemaking," he continued, adding that his Department had also made its technical advisory services available to United Nations envoys, Member States, regional actors and many others who might lead a specific mediation effort. Providing some examples, he noted that, in Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General had spearheaded a mediation effort, which many observers saw as the most promising effort in years to bring about political reconciliation in that country. Here, he reminded the Council of the upcoming donors' conference to be held in Brussels on resolution 1863 (2009), to raise funds for Somali security forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). He called on the Members to urge their Governments to attend that meeting "at a high level".

Continuing, he said the political mission on the ground in the Central African Republic had played a key role in carrying out an all-inclusive national political dialogue. The Department of Political Affairs' training to the preparatory committee had contributed to the success of that dialogue. In Cyprus, the Department had deployed facilitators to the technical working groups during the preparatory phase of the talks, and continued to work closely with Alexander Downer, including technical support in power-sharing and property issues. He went on to say that the Department had also supported Department of Peacekeeping Operations-led missions in Darfur, Kosovo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the heads of those operations worked either to reach peace agreements, or to implement peace accords. Those services had also been at the disposal of regional organizations leading political processes in places such as Kenya and the Comoros.

He said it was important to note that the Organization's ability to move quickly to mediate disputes had improved thanks to the establishment of a small mediation start-up budget funded by donors. At the same time, the Department of Political Affairs' modest travel budget could not sustain the emergency dispatch of crisis prevention teams. It had, however, been able to deploy and sustain a small team in Madagascar to mediate the current crisis there, and send envoys such as Assistant Secretary-General Haile Menkerios to support regional efforts in Zimbabwe. Advance planning and ready resources were key to effective early mediation when trouble developed, he said, adding that the kinds of activities he had described were now routinely expected by the Organization's envoys and special representatives.

"Our challenges in the mediation of conflicts are shared by the entire international community and it is the responsibility of all of us to act in concert to solve them," he continued, emphasizing the essential nature of broad partnerships ?? with Member States, regional organizations and non-governmental organizations. He said that regional organizations were often best placed to take the lead in mediation efforts, and some even had a wealth of mediation experience in their own right. Where requested, the United Nations had assisted regional mediation efforts and had helped strengthen the relevant capacity of regional actors.

At the same time, in Africa, for instance, the United Nations had benefited from cooperation with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), among many examples. In Europe, the United Nations had made significant strides in enhancing its mediation partnership with the European Union and European Commission. He welcomed recent discussions in the European Union regarding developing its own mediation capacity. More broadly, he said the United Nations looked forward to sharing expertise and lessons learned, developing joint training opportunities and working together on establishing a geographically diverse roster of mediation experts.

Continuing, he said that the Department of Political Affairs was aware that many areas required improvement; for envoys to succeed at such a complex task, they needed more than just their individual talents and experience. The Department was making a systematic effort to support them in the planning and management of peace processes. Working with partners inside and outside the United Nations system, it was putting a system in place that would include five levels of support for envoys: mediation planning; development of a small pool of operational level on-call mediators to manage day-to-day functions; standby mediation experts; development of a small, reliable roster of internal and external experts; and establishing a small, geographically diverse team of senior envoys to provide mediation advice.

He said that that specialized response capacity would be combined with a rigorous curriculum for regional specialists and that all political affairs officers would have basic training on aspects of mediation. He also stressed that the Department would share the Organization's experience in this field with all who needed it, and would also promote an understanding among Member States that mediation "is a service offered by the Secretary-General in all stages of a conflict". Turning to knowledge management, he said the Department had led the development of "UN Peacemaker", a web-based repository of information on mediation.

That online tool contained over 800 documents, including more than 300 peace agreements and 15 operational guidance notes. He added that it had been developed on a limited budget and would now need to be more properly maintained and upgraded. He said the Organization needed to be constantly learning new lessons and applying them. For that reason it had put in place a debriefing programme for senior envoys, and was also working on a Peace Agreement project, which looked at all factors that contributed to the sustainability of peace.

Concluding, he said the Political Affairs Department had "heard the Council's call" and the Secretary-General's instructions to develop a more rigorous and effective approach to mediation, which was one of the Organization's Charter-mandated activities. Mediation must be carried out with the highest degree of professionalism, transparency and preparation to promote peace and security.

Statements

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said mediation was a political and cost-effective tool for responding to conflicts. The recommendations included in the Secretary-General's report on enhancing mediation raised a number of questions, among them the recommendation for a standing mediation team. Specifically, the possible sources of financing from the regular budget needed further study. The report legitimately noted that the United Nations did not possess a monopoly on mediation. Indeed, the use of regional organizations was authorized under the United Nations Charter before those conflicts were referred to the Security Council, and the Organization should use the deep expertise garnered by such regional groups. While cooperation with such groups as the African Union and Economic Community of West African States was well established, further cooperation with other groups, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), was also needed.

He said mediation should be approached in a balanced way, without any tilt towards one party or another. Unilateral decisions should not be imposed. Nor should mediators present any grounds for suspicion of bias. In that regard, it was enough to recall the settlement of the conflict around Kosovo. Only mediation that was based on aligning the parties' position, rather than on using force stood any chance of success. It was on the basis of those principles that the Russian Federation was actively backing United Nations mediation efforts.

LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) said the importance the United Nations attached to the peaceful settlement of disputes and conflicts was enshrined in the Charter. The increase in the number of conflicts and their negative impact on international peace, security and development made conflict prevention and resolution through mediation more urgent than ever. By late 2008, the Organization's Mediation Support Unit had supported 18 peace processes and had become a very important tool in supporting the good offices by the United Nations, as well as by regional organizations.

He said that, for mediation efforts to be effective, there must be in-depth knowledge of the parties concerned and their demands ?? be they legitimate or controversial. Coordination between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations should be ensured. Mediation efforts should focus on addressing the root causes of the conflicts, with due attention to the need to help countries overcome conditions of absolute poverty and the lack of socio-economic development. That would help avoid escalation, which might lead to unnecessary application of measures of last resort, such as those invoked under Chapter VII.

Mediation must be in conformity with the fundamental principles of objectivity, fairness, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and equality in international relations, he said. The Council had a vital role to play in promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes and conflicts, in particular by means of mediation. While strongly supporting consolidation of coordination between the Council and the Secretary-General and between the Secretariat and United Nations missions, he said the Council should avoid unjustified and counter-productive involvement in the work that fell under the purview of other United Nations organs, as defined in the Charter.

CHRISTIAN GUILLERMET ( Costa Rica) said the open discussion on mediation would bear fruit and bolster the work of the United Nations in that area. His country had always supported peaceful dispute settlement and had defended and supported mediation and a preventive way of diffusing tension and avoiding conflict. Costa Rica supported the recommendations in the Secretary-General's report and considered them "the path to follow" as the Organization sought to bolster its mediation efforts. At the same time, Costa Rica would stress that such mediation efforts must not provide amnesty for serious crimes, such as genocide or other war crimes. Mediation must not be seen as an obstacle to justice; it must complement efforts to ensure sustainable peace, promote post-conflict democracy and adherence to the rule of law.

Strengthening mediation efforts was a solid investment in the future of the Organization and, to that end, the Department of Political Affairs had made significant strides, including with the creation of the Mediation Support Unit. At the same time, the Organization must move away from the notion that mediation was import