Reconciliation Must Evolve to Reflect Growing Complexity of Today’s Conflicts, Participants Stress during Day-Long Security Council Open Debate
19 NOVEMBER 2019
8668TH MEETING (AM)
Secretary-General, Civil Society Briefers, Delegates Highlight Vital Need to Build Trust, Inclusive, Locally-Owned Processes
Hailing reconciliation as a powerful means by which to help societies heal after brutal wars and mass atrocities, speakers emphasized today that the concept must also evolve to tackle increasingly complex modern‑day conflicts — often related to polarization, inequality and growing mistrust of institutions — as the Security Council held its first open debate on the matter in 15 years.
More than 60 speakers from around the globe shared their national experiences with various tribunals, truth commissions, reparations programmes and other reconciliation instruments, highlighting lessons learned. Recounting their roles as mediators, donors, peacekeepers or participants, many emphasized that reconciliation is neither swift nor simple, but remains possible and even highly effective if properly executed.
Delivering opening remarks, Secretary‑General António Guterres stressed: “Reconciliation helps to repair fractures caused by an absence of trust between State and people.” Noting that successful reconciliation requires both institutions and individuals to acknowledge their role in past crimes — and perpetrators to muster the courage to face the truth — he joined others in underscoring that the international community’s idea of reconciliation must keep pace with the changing nature of conflict. Indeed, today’s wars draw in a range of actors and are often linked to inequality or amplified by the climate crisis. Meanwhile, democratic space is shrinking, with identity‑based politics, discrimination, intolerance and hate speech on the rise.
Ilwad Elman, of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia, spotlighted the need for reconciliation processes to be inclusive, locally owned and based in social and economic reforms — or risk falling flat. Recounting repeated failed reconciliation attempts in Somalia, she said many towns — divided by factions — saw fighting resume even as leaders returned from signing peace agreements. “Reconciliation is a process, […] not a single event,” she emphasized, calling for a long‑term nationwide strategy to build trust, women’s meaningful engagement and strong financial support from the international community.
Alpaslan Özerdem, Dean of George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in the United States, said reconciliation should not be about forgiving and forgetting, but instead “learning how to remember and change”. However, while truth and reconciliation commissions are necessary, they are often insufficient, he added, noting that other elements may include fact‑finding missions, reparations, peace journalism projects and socioeconomic reforms.
South Africa’s representative was among several speakers who described the national reconciliation process, highlighting the creation of that country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the dismantling of oppressive rule by apartheid. The Commission gave victims an opportunity to relate violations suffered and to receive reparations. Many South Africans appeared before it — either as victims or perpetrators — as did State institutions, other organizations and private sector entities, which were also required to speak. The Commission played the dual role of pursuing reconciliation for the future while establishing the truth about gross abuses in the past.
Rwanda’s delegate recalled the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in his country, highlighting the importance of transitional justice and its restorative dimension. Power‑sharing, inclusiveness and a broad‑based Government have been essential to the reconciliation process, he said, adding that female leaders played a critical role in mobilizing women to live together and find common solutions.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire shared his country’s experience with its Dialogue, Peace and Reconciliation Commission, which held more than 70,000 victims’ hearings from 2011 to 2013, following the end of the country’s civil conflict. Both victims and perpetrators must be heard and encouraged to “stitch together a new social fabric,” he said, noting that the Commission tackled root issues, including land ownership and the reduction of regional disparities, while promoting national days of dialogue and forgiveness.
Canada’s delegate spotlighted his country’s reconciliation efforts, which tackled its colonial history and its painful relationship with indigenous peoples. Among other things, the Government launched the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which gave victims and survivors an opportunity to share their stories and be meaningfully listened to and heard across the country. Unjust institutions and systemic inequality are not established overnight — and cannot be dismantled in a day, he said, adding that the process must rely first and foremost on national ownership and domestic leadership.
Sierra Leone’s representative, recalling his country’s brutal civil war in the 1990s that left tens of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, said that his country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission not only expose perpetrators and identify victims, but also to serve as a mirror through which all Sierra Leoneans examined their own roles in the conflict. Yet, in the transition from civil war to peace 19 years ago, political divisions and other issues that threaten national unity and social cohesion remain. To this end, the Government has established the “Wan Fambul” (One Family) framework, which is grounded in the belief that, until development is taken to citizens’ doorsteps, the nation cannot effectively move forward together.
Ireland’s delegate also underscored that reconciliation efforts must continue long after the conflict itself has ended. “Silencing the gun is fundamental but does not of itself bring societies together,” she remarked. It is almost always followed by a long process of acknowledging past wrongs and rebuilding trust. Ireland’s peace process ended some 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland and work continues today between the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom within the framework of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Citing the work of local women’s community groups in building peace, she said that in 2018 her country’s Reconciliation Fund supported 153 non‑governmental organizations and community and volunteer groups to create better understanding between the people and traditions of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Also sharing a longer‑term perspective was Belgium’s representative, who recalled that his country engaged in a reconciliation process after the twentieth century’s two World Wars, with repercussions still being felt to this day. History shows that reconciliation is quite possible. However, each society must find its own path, he said, emphasizing that successful reconciliation processes must respond to the suffering of victims, understand the motivations of perpetrators, bring together alienated communities and re‑establish the confidence of citizens in their institutions.
Also speaking were Ministers and representatives of the United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Kuwait, China, Germany, Russian Federation, Peru, France, Indonesia, Equatorial Guinea, United States, Poland, Hungary, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Guatemala, Kenya, Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Namibia, Pakistan, Australia, Estonia, Mexico, Egypt, Liechtenstein, India, Lebanon, Morocco, Slovakia, Philippines (also on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Turkey, Qatar, Bangladesh, Romania, Georgia, Viet Nam, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Malta, Armenia and Ecuador, as well as the European Union and an observer for the Holy See.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m., suspended at 1:07 p.m., resumed at 3:03 p.m. and adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, highlighting reconciliation processes in Cambodia, Rwanda, Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to name a few, said: “Reconciliation helps to repair fractures caused by an absence of trust between State and people, when institutions and individuals acknowledge their role in past crimes and both victims and perpetrators muster the courage to face the truth.” While the international community acknowledges the vital importance of reconciliation, its idea of the concept must now evolve to keep pace with the changing nature of conflict. Such efforts can no longer be confined to those directly engaged in waging war; today’s conflicts are complex and draw in a range of countries and powers. Social, economic and political inequalities are growing, amplified by the climate crisis and new technology. Meanwhile, democratic space is shrinking, stoking identity‑based politics, discrimination, intolerance and hate speech.
“Today’s reconciliation processes must respond to these challenges by being broader, deeper and more inclusive than ever before,” he continued. Underlining the need to target the root causes of conflict, he urged Governments to respond to today’s protests by respecting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as addressing grievances through dialogue and reconciliation. These reconciliation processes must also be based in the communities and societies affected by conflict, coming from within and engaging all people. Religious leaders — who have the moral authority to mobilize local support and build trust — must be included, as should young people and marginalized groups. “Peace agreements and reconciliation processes that ignore these voices are unlikely to succeed,” he said, emphasizing that local ownership and broad participation are also critical to overcome attempts by powerful elites to avoid accountability and exclude certain groups.
Successful reconciliation restores trust in the State and its institutions, he said, adding that when people deem their institutions legitimate, they turn to them — rather than violence — to address their differences. Meanwhile, successful reconciliation processes must address the pain and suffering of victims, understand the motivation of offenders, render justice, provide remedy and ensure truth. Transitional justice mechanisms such as truth and reconciliation commissions can be an effective way to achieve those goals, as seen in Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Timor‑Leste and elsewhere. However, he warned that reconciliation can never be a substitute for accountability or pave the way for amnesty for serious crimes under international law. In addition, successful reconciliation mechanisms must advance equality and human rights, even when they did not exist prior to conflict.
The United Nations is working to integrate reconciliation frameworks into peacemaking and peacebuilding provisions around the world, with its mediators and envoys promoting practical provisions needed for dialogue, trust‑building and reconciliation in peace agreements, he reported. Against that backdrop, he hailed the African Union’s new Transitional Justice Policy, which addresses the complexities of mass violence while respecting local traditions of reconciliation and justice. He also drew attention to the United Nations transitional justice work and technical support in such countries as Colombia, Tunisia and Yemen. In the Gambia, the Organization provided critical support to the development of a comprehensive national strategy for transitional justice and the country’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. The United Nations will continue to encourage Governments to mobilize such national efforts while ensuring respect for international norms, he said, adding that reconciliation must be underpinned by changes to the very structures that first gave rise to conflict or enabled repression.
ALPASLAN ÖZERDEM, Dean, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, United States, said reconciliation should be a transformational experience — not one of learning how to forgive and forget, but one of how to remember and change. The rebuilding of Stari Most, the famous footbridge of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina, could have been a great opportunity for such a transformation experience. Instead, the international community constructed an almost identical copy of it, without giving opportunities to Serbs, Croats and Bosnians to build bridges of trust between themselves during its reconstruction. Reconciliation should always be based on local approaches, local vocabulary and most importantly local actors, whose efforts are too often dismissed by political actors.
Different dimensions of reconciliation — interpersonal, intergroup or interstate — demand different types of engagement, he said, underscoring the importance of considering different types of local actors. The city of Coventry in the United Kingdom, which was badly bombed during the Second World War, led an amazing mission of reconciliation, working with war‑torn citizens of “Iron Curtain” countries in cities such as Dresden, Belgrade and Warsaw during the cold war years. Financial support only becomes helpful when part of a larger, locally designed and locally led process. The United Nations and Member States must increase funding but also make it more flexible; effective reconciliation requires agility to react to changing situations and longevity, which project cycles rarely enable. This is particularly important in ensuring full participation of women and young people, as they tend to be excluded and marginalized in wider peacebuilding processes.
He went on to say that launching a truth and reconciliation commission, while often necessary to address past injustices and establish what happened, is insufficient. Different undertakings of reconciliation — whether truth finding, reparations, dealing with past grievances, writing a common history, education or peace journalism — should all be interlinked with each other and wider socioeconomic and political realities or post‑conflict societies. Noting that many societies in today’s world are deeply divided along religious, political, ethnic, racial or economic lines, he stressed the need to reduce prejudices, challenge stereotypes and tackle dehumanization. Reconciliation matters because residual grievances can provide the basis for self‑perpetuating cycles of violence among future generations, if individual and collective traumas are not addressed.
ILWAD ELMAN, Director of Programmes and Development, Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, Somalia, recalled the large number of failed attempts to bring about reconciliation in Somalia over the past decades, adding that new social and economic foundations for change are necessary for those efforts to succeed. In addition, peace must be sought at the grass‑roots level as well as the political level, she said, recounting instances where towns, divided by factions, saw fighting resume right after leaders came back from signing peace agreements. A long‑term nationwide strategy to build trust is needed, with the basis of building confidence in national institutions.
“Reconciliation is a process; it is not a single event,” she said. Among many other considerations, the effort must encompass security for ex‑combatants, including those who leave Al‑Shabaab. It must also address the biased treatment of women and other groups and involve as many sectors of the population as possible. Unfortunately, women’s civil society groups are systematically excluded, she pointed out, urging the Council to use the upcoming anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000) to take the necessary steps to increase women’s participation at all levels of peacebuilding and address the protection needs of women human rights defenders. As well, financial support for such peacemakers is critical, she emphasized, calling on the Council to better utilize a mechanism that already exists for that purpose — the Peacebuilding Fund.
TARIQ MAHMOOD AHMAD, Minister of State for the Commonwealth, United Nations and South Asia of the United Kingdom, and Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, noting that reconciliation has the power to resolve existing conflicts and prevent future violence. The United Kingdom will remain a steadfast champion of the Secretary‑General’s sustaining peace agenda, which puts conflict prevention and peacebuilding at the heart of the United Nations work. As well, “faith leaders have the ability to influence individuals and communities in a way that Governments cannot,” he stressed, adding that they can also amplify the voices of vulnerable communities and encourage dialogue between groups. Outlining the United Kingdom’s work to fight the persecution of Christians — as well as people of all faiths — he said it will soon seek a Council resolution on that issue. He also underlined the need to defend media freedom and protect journalists, while emphasizing the importance of ensuring that transitional justice mechanisms are inclusive of all voices. Accountability is another critical element for long‑term reconciliation. In that regard, the Council has a crucial role in monitoring peace processes, deciding when to deploy special political missions and helping countries transition from conflict.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said the international community should help countries prioritize the reconstruction of the rule of law and rebuild the confidence of those affected by conflict. He also underlined the need to end the climate of impunity, including through the prosecution of those responsible for crimes and the provision of reparations to victims. Education must also be harnessed, as schools can be centres of social cohesion, reconciliation and belonging. Calling for reconciliation efforts to be further prioritized in the work of the United Nations, he highlighted the crucial role that women have played in Guatemala, Liberia and Colombia, among other countries. In addition, young people must play a role in rebuilding relations between communities, enabling future generations to learn from past conflicts. Citing several positive examples in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, he said the social capital of young people must be seriously considered in all peace processes.
MARTHINUS VAN SHALKWYK (South Africa) recalled that his country went through its own process after dismantling the oppressive system of apartheid, establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to give victims an opportunity to relate the violations they suffered and take measures to grant them reparations. The Commission also granted amnesty from criminal and civil liability to those disclosing politically motivated actions during past conflicts, he added. Many South Africans appeared before the Commission, either as victims or perpetrators, and State institutions, organizations and the business sector were also required to speak, he noted, highlighting the Commission’s dual role of pursuing reconciliation and dealing with the future while establishing the truth about gross human rights abuses in the past. He went on to emphasize that one size does not fit all in relation to reconciliation measures, which must respond to the specific context of the country in transition. Focusing on prosecutions alone can destabilize a State’s traditions, he cautioned, stressing the importance of the whole spectrum of transitional justice, including truth commissions and reparations for victims. Noting that countries in transition usually put leaders of the old order on trial or sweep previous violations under the carpet, he recalled that South Africa followed a unique third way, offering amnesty for the disclosure of crimes and the unusual opportunity to be heard for victims. He went on to underline that the international community, and especially the United Nations, must help to create an enabling environment within which reconciliation can occur.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said that the Council must give reconciliation more attention through concrete efforts on the ground in order to forge sustainable peace. Transitional justice, international law, reintegration and support to victims are all essential elements of that effort. National ownership of a reconciliation process is also critical, with international support for confidence‑building measures needed. Pointing to support that could be provided by peacekeeping operations and the Peacebuilding Commission, he said that utilization of the Peacebuilding Fund is critical. Inclusiveness is a priority in all reconciliation strategies, he stressed, with women’s participation essential. He stressed that there is no one model for reconciliation processes. The long process needed for real reconciliation must garner long‑term support of the international community and regional organizations. He added that he looked forward to the signing of reconciliation agreements in all situations, which would welcome in a new dawn of hope and reconstruction and the building of a better future for all peoples concerned.
ZHANG JUN (China) said that reconciliation is important for making peace more sustainable and requires the common efforts of all the parties with support from the United Nations. Respect for national sovereignty and ownership is the basis for all such support, which must take into account the particular characteristics of each situation as determined by the peoples involved. “No person is entitled to be the judge or the teacher,” he emphasized. Dialogue and other peaceful means are needed to avoid the use of force in all situations and all differences must be settled through cooperation and negotiation. To support such efforts, the good offices of the United Nations is important, but the international community must remain impartial when it provides such support. In addition, sustainable and inclusive development is key to address root causes of conflict. “Advance peace through development; advance development through peace,” he stated, pledging that his country will always play a positive role in fostering reconciliation between parties and supporting development.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) stated that efforts towards reconciliation and the fight against impunity must go hand in hand, as holding those accountable for atrocities and human rights violations is a key to sustaining peace. The crimes and atrocities committed on all sides during the Syrian conflict must be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice, he said, expressing support for the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011. He welcomed the work of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD) and the extension of its mandate. A successful reconciliation process requires local solutions tailored to a specific context, with that population designing and implementing the approach, as in Germany’s engagement in Mali. He noted national ownership can only be guaranteed by the inclusion of all groups, especially the marginalized and women, reflected throughout the process. The Council should look at emerging conflicts more frequently, with reconciliation and mediation capacities included in mission mandates. He cited freedom of religion as an indicator of an open society and cornerstone for sustaining peace.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) emphasized that there is no practical road map for reconciliation and no simple solution to overcoming societal divisions after a conflict, given the difficulties of building trust and mutual respect. His country engaged in a reconciliation process after the two World Wars, with repercussions still being experienced to this day. History shows that reconciliation is quite possible. Each society, however, must find its own path, through a long and painful process that must respond to the suffering of victims, understand the motivations of those who violated the rights of others, bring together communities that have been alienated and attempt to find a way to justice and finally peace. A victim‑centred approach is a priority, as is an inclusive process that is open to the perspectives of women and vulnerable groups. It is also important to re‑establish confidence of citizens in their institutions, particularly security and judicial institutions. In that context, the Council must support the range of processes required for transitional justice.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said peace agreements and post‑conflict recovery are only achievable when peace processes are robust, comprehensive, dialogue‑based and “geared towards the long term”. Noting that States bear the main responsibility in that arena — with international partners playing a supporting role — he said the United Nations should work with official Governments, interacting with other groups only with the permission of those authorities. Warning against allowing such efforts to morph into the “imposition of generic solutions from abroad”, he underlined the importance of holding the perpetrators of serious crimes accountable. International justice mechanisms often do not accomplish that goal — and sometimes even further escalate conflicts — he said, warning against “political account settling” through the justice mechanisms of the United Nations. Regrettably, such international legal organs often push forward double standards and seek to pin blame on peoples and Governments as a whole. Recalling that such actions only fomented more mistrust and conflict in the former Yugoslavia, he said the work of the International Criminal Court in particular has worsened conflicts and run counter to reconciliation efforts. “Rwanda’s experience speaks volumes here,” he said, recalling that the country’s local justice system — carried out by the semi‑traditional “Gacaca Courts” — managed to hear more than 2 million cases in 10 years in an open and impartial manner. In the same decade, the International Criminal Court heard only 100 cases and spent more than 45 times as many resources, he said.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire), recalling that his own country was marred by many difficult events in recent decades, said reconciliation should be inclusive and serve as the backbone of all post‑conflict recovery strategies. Both victims and perpetrators should be heard and encouraged to “stitch together a new social fabric”. In that regard, he recalled that Côte d’Ivoire established a Dialogue, Peace and Reconciliation Commission following its crisis, which held more than 70,000 victims’ hearings from 2011 to 2013. The Commission tackled such root issues as land ownership and the reduction of regional disparities, while promoting national days of dialogue and forgiveness. Following the completion of the Commission’s work, it passed the baton to a newly created National Commission for Reconciliation and Compensation of Victims, which engaged women and young people both as victims and as the potential architects of future peace and stability. Against that backdrop, he underlined the importance of support from development partners and the United Nations, including the latter’s crucial Peacebuilding Fund.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) said reconciliation must be seen as a process that reveals and addresses the root causes of conflict. There is no single model for all cases, but all efforts must be voluntary and inclusive and confidence‑building must be prioritized. The participation of civil society, including women and young people, is essential. Other important elements are peace and reconciliation commissions, which can help establish the facts, along with ceremonial events and presentation of memories of survivors. In cases linked to atrocity crimes, fighting impunity and compensating victims can build credibility for peace efforts. When impunity occurs, the Council can take action. He cited the value of the international impartial mechanism in Syria and the mechanism investigating the crimes of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). For preventive diplomacy before violence breaks out, reconciliation is important to bring together parties for peaceful settlement of issues, he added.
NICOLAS DE RIVIERE (France), welcoming the strengthening of United Nations capacity in mediation, early warning and reconciliation, encouraged that work to continue in the context of the review of the architecture of peace consolidation planned for 2020. In addition, for just and lasting reconciliation, he stressed that impunity must be fought. The International Criminal Court plays an important role in that effort, as do the mechanisms investigating crimes in Syria and Iraq. To prevent new atrocities, the experiences of victims must be placed front and centre, and memories must be preserved. In that context, he expressed concern over denial of the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda and the glorification of criminals from the former Yugoslavia. It showed, he said, the importance of restorative justice during which perpetrators face their victims, as well as the need for a range of support for survivors, through such mechanisms as the international support fund for survivors of sexual violence. The participation of females in all processes at all levels is particularly important; he commended in that light the Peacebuilding Fund’s support to women’s organizations. Citing United Nations efforts to support reconciliation in the Central African Republic and other situations, he said reconciliation should be among the priority elements of the Council’s activities to maintain international peace and security.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia), aligning himself with statement to be made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled his country’s experience in promoting successful reconciliation to resolve communal conflicts in Ambon, Poso and Aceh in the early 2000s. This experience highlighted that national ownership and inclusiveness are key to achieving a lasting reconciliation and that women in particular are important actors in this process. Further, for reconciliation to take root, an enabling environment is required. The underlying causes of conflict must be addressed, immediate humanitarian needs must be met, the rule of law must be restored, democracy needs to be established and economic development must be accelerated. The international community must also provide the necessary support for reconciliation. For its part, Indonesia actively supports peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts, including capacity‑building programmes under the framework of South‑South and triangular cooperation.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) called for efforts to harness political instruments in pursuit of post‑conflict reconciliation. That could include the establishment of peace commissions and social dialogue platforms, he said, noting that Equatorial Guinea periodically holds broad and inclusive dialogues aimed at calming any tensions and maintaining the atmosphere of peace and stability that has reigned in the country for 40 years. Noting that peace commissions can serve as grass‑roots organizations that galvanize local leaders to counter rumours, mediate between groups and advocate for non‑violent solutions, he welcomed increasing attention to such bodies across international reconciliation efforts. It is crucial to include young people in all aspects of peacebuilding and reconciliation, he added, noting that they often suffer significant psychological wounds that can grow into bitterness and resentment.
CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States) added her support for efforts to seek justice for victims and accountability for criminal perpetrators, noting that the United States provides significant funding for communities battered by conflict. For example, it supports the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism; it will provide that body with an additional $2 million in 2019. Hailing the resilience of Syrian civil society leaders who continue to risk their lives — and whose work will be crucial to restoring the country to peace — she went on to outline the United States support to the Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission on Myanmar and to UNITAD. In Iraq, the international community must not waver from holding ISIL to account for its actions, which could constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. She also welcomed the United Nations support for peace talks and local reconciliation efforts in Sudan, while calling for a wider, Government‑led effort to foster reconciliation and heal that country’s war wounds.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that national reconciliation and peacebuilding cannot work if certain vulnerable groups or minorities are discriminated against and marginalized. These groups include displaced persons, persons belonging to religious minorities, women, youths and people with disabilities. “Often religions and beliefs are perceived as a factor to conflict, but we should not forget that it may be also a part of the solution,” she continued. Poland’s recent history illustrates the positive role of the church in creating conditions for social dialogue. Community and faith leaders can indeed play a critical role in reconciliation efforts. In that regard, interreligious and intercultural dialogue is vital to building a lasting peace. This must be carried out in good faith, and be based on knowledge, mutual understanding and tolerance. The International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, established by the General Assembly earlier in 2019, can help contribute to combating hate crimes and acts of violence, she added.
Mr. HEUSGEN (Germany), taking the floor a second time, responded to the representative of the Russian Federation and affirmed support for the International Criminal Court. He said that the International Court System is key to reconciliation after conflict and asked the Russian Federation’s representative if he thought the Nuremberg trials should not have happened and if prosecuting serious crimes in the former Yugoslavia and other areas is wrong.
The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to the representative of Germany, said he declined to answer the questions posed, as the Russian Federation representative who spoke first was not present and he did not want to transform the debate into a reconsideration of the past. In any event, a bilateral response would be provided, he said.
PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said that resolving the numerous conflicts around the world requires a return to honesty. There was too much political correctness, he maintained. He urged countries to stop spreading fake news and to stop stigmatizing each other. It was also counterproductive to deny the universal right of countries to maintain their national identities. Reconciliation is impossible if national interest is seen as illegitimate as a rationale for action and if violent and loud minorities are allowed to put pressure on peaceful majorities. Affirming that everyone has a right to have a secure life back in his or her home, he stressed that the focus should be on helping people safely return home. Moderate and peaceful religious leaders are critical for that purpose. Hungary will continue to support Christian communities, particularly in regard to staying in their homes. In addition, it will continue to bring students together from all over the world, including some 9,500 next semester, thus providing opportunities for people from different communities to meet each other.
MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking for Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said that victims’ rights must be at the centre of any peace process. The peace agreement in Colombia has established a new standard for dealing with victims’ rights, transitional justice and truth; including victims and women at the negotiation table was essential. In any conflict, reconciliation efforts must include, and be owned by, the affected communities and their people. The Security Council must stay engaged long enough not just to foster but to sustain peace. It must continue to develop its partnerships with regional organizations, including the African Union. The Peacebuilding Commission has an important role to play in sustaining peace and its role and resources should be better utilized. The United Nations must assist in addressing the root causes of conflict, she said, adding her support for the Secretary‑General’s call for peace diplomacy. All this is only possible if Member States ensure that the United Nations is given the resources it needs to play an effective role in peace efforts, she stressed.
JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland) stated that dealing with the past can contribute to reconciliation under the right circumstances. Efforts in this regard must be holistic and adequately sequenced, however, as scattered undertakings — at times imposed from the outside — have too often deepened societal rifts rather than reducing them. While the primary responsibility to work towards reconciliation lies with national authorities and, when appropriate, the international community, dialogue among political elites alone is not sufficient to ensure sustainable peace. Other leaders and representatives of political and social groups — including minorities — need to be a part of the conversation. Religious actors, for example, play a crucial role in societies as providers of social services and of moral guidance, and often influence the values and narratives shaping a country’s political culture. The Council must recognize the immense role civil society can play and take a clear stance on the need to protect human rights defenders in the relevant contexts on its agenda, he added.
AMEIRAH ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) said that, while the Middle East is facing many challenges, it is also working towards a new reality built on respect for State sovereignty and a strong commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism. Tolerance — the cornerstone of the United Arab Emirates’ foreign policy — is imperative for reconciliation, she said, outlining several related initiatives undertaken in conjunction with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) across the region. She also underlined the importance of strengthening the rule of law, rebuilding national institutions and ensuring that all voices — especially those of women and young people — are represented. Meanwhile, she spotlighted the extensive knowledge of regional organizations, urging the Council to enhance its cooperation with them in such areas as mediation and warning that reconciliation cannot be accomplished overnight nor with the mere signing of a peace agreement.
KIMIHIRO ISHIKANE (Japan), recalling that Japan has supported national reconciliation in several countries, highlighted three key qualities necessary for a durable process. First, reconciliation must be inclusive, drawing in women, youth, community leaders and the private sector. Second, it must offer socioeconomic development, ensuring that those affected by inequality, especially young people, are given employment opportunities. Finally, reconciliation must have sustainable frameworks allowing strong institutions with broad national ownership to be built. One of the most effective ways of promoting these three elements is to ensure that voices of people on the ground are reflected in reconciliation efforts. Adding that each reconciliation process is unique, he said all must include the personal perspectives of those living through it, ensuring a people‑centred approach.
OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES (Guatemala) recalled that his country’s domestic armed conflict ended with agreements in 1996. That experience highlights the importance of a national and historical perspective in consolidating peace, along with the importance of national ownership. Local and community leaders have significant responsibility to ensure that reconciliation takes place, as they can set the tone that allows existing differences to be overcome. The Council, in addition, has various tools to bolster national reconciliation efforts, particularly through promoting respect for human rights and assisting in confidence‑building. There is no way to impose reconciliation and no one means to accomplish it. The essential elements include providing for the basic needs of the population and the inclusion of women as agents of positive change.
SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya) said that, while conditions are different in conflict situations, best practices can be shared between different countries. In most situations, it is important to institute moments of memory and commemorations. In addition, protection and support for victims are also needed to lend credibility to the process. It is also important to draw on traditional means of reconciliation; international efforts must ensure coherence with such traditional practices. Following the 2017 elections in Kenya, the leaders of the parties decided to put together the Building Bridges Initiative through a public handshake. The “handshake” set the stage for all the reconciliation efforts that followed. It is an ongoing initiative that she hopes will result in consolidated reconciliation, she said. An important part of it was training women leaders for grass‑roots implementation of “the handshake”. Building capacity of such grass‑roots actors is critical. In that light, she commended the Peacebuilding Fund for its investments in consolidating peace.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said the importance of reconciliation to peacebuilding was cited by twin 2016 resolutions on the Review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture. Those documents underscored that sustaining peace requires more than maintaining fragile ceasefire agreements, entailing a commitment to broader stabilization and recovery with the long‑term engagement of the international community. He noted reconciliation helps mend the gravest fractures of the social fabric in conflict‑affected communities, promoting unity and inclusion. Brazil has supported post‑conflict reconciliation in States from Latin America to Asia, experiences that have made it clear there is no single template for success, with national ownership essential to the process. However, the Council still has a responsibility to support nationally led efforts. He highlighted the inextricable links between reconciliation and other peacebuilding elements including economic revitalization and reintegrating demobilized combatants and vulnerable populations.
MARIA ANGELA ZAPPIA (Italy), associating herself with the European Union, said conflicts and related violence inflict profound psychological and social damage on individuals, families and communities, while deeply undermining trust in others and the relationship between people and the State. “Wounds, grievances, mistrust and the legacy of conflict must be addressed and overcome in order to move a society from a divided past to a shared future,” she said, adding that such efforts prevent the future recurrence of conflict. Every situation is different, as is every reconciliation process. Warning that such efforts take time and cannot be rushed, she stressed that they must be inclusive and nationally owned — not imposed from the outside. Underlining the importance of women’s meaningful involvement in reconciliation, she recalled that Italy launched the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network, which is working on tracks in both Cyprus and Turkey. She also cited critical efforts to engage religious and civil society leaders as key partners, including through an Italian initiative helping to ensure accountability for crimes in the Central African Republic, and said precise deliverables should be associated with reconciliation activities in the mandates of United Nations peace operations.
NUNO VAULTIER MATHIAS (Portugal), spotlighting his country’s role in the reconciliation processes in Angola and East Timor, said reconciliation rebuilds — or creates anew — the social, economic and political activities that bind societies together. Drawing attention to the crucial role played by the Peacebuilding Commission, he said reconciliation must rely on national appropriation with the involvement of the whole of society. Transitional justice tools such as truth commissions, independent fact‑finding missions and arbitration mechanisms have proven effective, he said, adding: “We should learn from best practices to address the singularity of every post‑conflict scenario.” Echoing other speakers in underlining the importance of including women and youth as central actors in reconciliation processes, he said the latter was recognized in the outcome document of the recent World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, held in Lisbon.
NEVILLE GERTZE (Namibia) underscored the need to prevent conflicts in the first place for peace to prevail, making early warning and intelligence gathering crucial. Adding that dialogue between aggrieved parties must always be the first step, he said success is linked to the parties’ desire to resolve conflict. To guarantee conflicts do not re‑emerge or reignite, some form of reconciliation between parties must occur to address structural injustices in the political, social, judicial and economic spheres. He cautioned, however, that external parties could negatively impact reconciling parties, noting that vested interests present real dangers to reconciliation processes.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), affirming the importance of national reconciliation in post‑conflict situations, pointed out that the United Nations itself is a symbol of reconciliation, formed so that nations could rise above their differences to cooperate following devastating conflict. The Organization has indeed been effective in helping to consolidate peace in some situations, such as Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia and other areas in which Pakistani peacekeepers have contributed. A one‑size‑fits‑all approach should be avoided, however. A National and inclusive reconciliation process is needed, one that is rooted in transitional justice. Reconciliation should not replace accountability, however. In addition, development is an essential component that must be addressed along with all root causes. In Afghanistan, he stated, Pakistan has supported an Afghan‑owned and ‑led peace process. With the release of prisoners on 18 November, he hoped that more progress will now be made in that process. He hoped that the 3 million Afghan refugees now in Pakistan will soon be able to return honourably and take a part in that process. Pointing to what he called the Council’s uneven efforts to address conflicts, he expressed concern over inaction in Kashmir.
BONIFACE RUTIKANGA (Rwanda), recalling the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, observed that political will and local ownership, tailored to suit the cultural and historic context, are indispensable to reconciliation efforts. Describing key practical lessons from his own country, he highlighted the importance of transitional justice and its restorative dimension as fundamental in the process of building and rebuilding relationships. Power-sharing, inclusiveness and a broad-based Government have been essential to the reconciliation process in Rwanda, he said, adding that women in different leadership positions played a critical role in mobilizing women to live together and find common solutions. He also stressed that the return of refugees and proper reintegration to their country is an absolute right and represents a factor of peace, unity and national reconciliation. Recalling that integrating ex-combatants in Rwanda’s national army helped achieve remarkable security and stability there, he said that true reintegration of ex-combatants should be conducted in a manner that builds trust and confidence and makes them feel accepted by the community.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) said that his country is walking the path of reconciliation between non-indigenous and indigenous populations through the framework known as “Closing the Gap”, which consists of such measures as providing economic opportunities for the latter group by leveraging the Government’s annual multi-billion-dollar procurement expenditure. Reconciliation is also a key focus of his country’s international efforts. Partnering with Papua New Guinea, Australia supports peacebuilding in Bougainville, with community leaders, faith‑based organizations and women playing a key role in advancing reconciliation and building and sustaining peace. His country’s Government has been a proud long‑term supporter of the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation, which makes an important contribution to the ongoing peace and reconciliation process there.
GERT AUVÄÄRT (Estonia) said that the risk of the resurgence of conflicts is especially high in cases of large-scale human rights violations. To ensure justice, the Council has established several international courts and tribunals to try those responsible for the most serious crimes committed during conflicts. The establishment of the International Criminal Court expressed the international community’s strong conviction that justice is an intrinsic part of building peace and security. Such mechanisms have also given victims the opportunity to have their voices heard in an objective and public forum where accounts of the atrocities committed are not denied or even displayed as national victories. Ruling of an international court or tribunal expresses a strong condemnation of the international community for the crimes committed. This condemnation stops the influence and power of perpetrators, he added.
ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico) said national reconciliation is essential for sustainable peace, akin to a “complex and long-running period of mourning”, ensuring wounds can heal and development is inclusive, going forward. The process also requires historical justice, and access to truth and accountability especially in post-conflict situations. He recalled the provisions of the 2012 Declaration of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels, presenting a global holistic understanding of transitional justice. It is crucial to pursue accountability for those responsible for violations of human rights to avoid repetition of those crimes. He acknowledged the central role played by the International Criminal Court not only in fighting against impunity but also in seeking out historical truth, which is vital to cementing a true national reconciliation.
MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) said national reconciliation is among the main factors allowing for sustainable peace, an idea at the heart of two Council resolutions in 2016, highlighting the shared responsibility of Governments and pertinent actors in achieving it. He noted the importance of national dialogue and progress towards reconstruction and development, and of working towards avoiding recurrence or continuation of conflicts. States must establish an effective legal system and strengthen the accountability of institutions to end impunity, and focus on disarmament and reintegration of affected parties. He noted that past experience has given the United Nations a leading role in pursuing national reconciliation, with the Peacebuilding Commission playing a fundamental role in supporting the national priorities of post-conflict States. Post-conflict reconciliation is a long-term process requiring support from the international community, although there is no single approach that fits every context. Holding the current presidency of the African Union, he noted Egypt is establishing the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding to tackle the root causes of conflict and build a lasting peace across the continent based on “African solutions to African problems”.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that, when reconciliation includes amnesties that prevent accountability for atrocities committed by politically powerful figures, it disregards victims’ calls for justice and creates conditions for divisive politics and even a renewal of conflict. The Council’s recent meeting on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina illustrates the difficulties involved in ensuring that international criminal justice leads to long-term accountability, sustainable peace and meaningful reconciliation. “Key to this process is that each and every situation has an approach to accountability shaped by the needs of those seeking justice,” he added. Participation in processes where reconciliation is sought must be gender-sensitive and incorporate the perspectives of young people and minorities. Civil society, religious leaders, and indigenous representatives may also play significant roles. He expressed concern over the rise in intra‑State conflicts, many of which are based in claims by communities within a State to a greater measure of governance over their own affairs. Liechtenstein is currently working on a handbook for mediators, affected communities and States to bring together best practices in preventing and resolving these conflicts based on five principles: self‑governance, the protection of minority rights, inclusive reconciliation processes, the acknowledgment of historical context and awareness of the role of affected third States.
NAGARAJ NAIDU KAKANUR (India) stressed that reconciliation must be a truly home‑grown process. “Expecting domestic actors to uncritically embrace external norms and ideas as inherently superior to domestic ones is unrealistic,” he added. Conflict corrodes and destroys human, infrastructural and institutional capacities. Such capacities need to be rebuilt if national actors are to exercise a meaningful degree of ownership over events in the post-conflict period. “While it would be a mistake to overlook domestic institutions and practices as sources of peacebuilding, it would be erroneous to uncritically romanticize them,” he added. Stressing the need to support enhanced international cooperation for the development and codification of international criminal law, he said that a truly effective international justice system must avoid selectivity, partiality and double standards. For its part, the United Nations must ensure inclusiveness, ownership and participation of all stakeholders in the reconciliation process.
AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said that reconciliation is needed more than ever — among nations, within nations, between governed and the governing and between the represented and their representatives. But reconciliation cannot happen in a vacuum and cannot be an end in itself. No two disputes are alike, and no people fit the same mould when it comes to resolving disputes. There are several truth commissions that offer an example of the power of the truth, but nowhere did these commissions succeed without people getting their rights and justice being served. The Security Council needs to tackle the reasons people fight and not focus only on how to stop the fighting.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), stressing that reconciliation is crucial for building and sustaining peace, said the risk of returning to conflict increases significantly without it. He highlighted the key role played during reconciliation processes by community or religious leaders, who use their respected positions to draw communities together. Seeing representatives of different religions speaking together in dialogue during reconciliation can have a decisive impact on uniting a country. Adding that reconciliation must have national ownership to be successful, he said women’s participation is also vital in maintaining the peace.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said that reconciliation represents an important process aimed at rebuilding trust and strengthening resilience. Slovakia is a long-term proponent of security-sector reform as an increasingly important instrument to help maintain peace and security, particularly in countries recovering from conflicts and undergoing the processes of post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. His country currently holds the Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and prioritizes preventing, mediating and resolving conflicts; building a safer future; and effective multilateralism. Slovakia has presented its candidature to the Peacebuilding Commission and believes that the advisory role of the Commission to the Security Council could be further drawn upon to ensure that appropriate attention is paid to reconciliation at all stages of the conflict cycle.
SILVIO GONZATO, European Union delegation, noted the bloc was founded to avoid the repetition of war. Citing the urgent need to advance knowledge on reconciliation on a global scale, he observed that today’s conflicts repeat in cycles, with peace agreements failing more often than they succeed. The reconciliation process helps restore social relations based on fundamental values, including human rights, dignity and respect, as well as the right to life, physical and psychological integrity. It is a complex and sometimes unruly process requiring a truly integrated approach. Policies and practices must be continuously upgraded, he said, as 75 per cent of the Council’s mandated missions aim for reconciliation, with no commonly accepted definitions or guidelines on what that means or how to achieve it. Reconciliation happens at the individual, societal and institutional levels, with the United Nations, European Union and other multilateral organizations as enablers, and communities as its agents. In that respect, he pointed out that women reconcilers often take the first steps towards mobilizing their communities and engaging with their enemies. Their efforts need support, as do the efforts of youth movements, which are rapidly growing through social media.
KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said that the group has shown the importance of regional support for reconciliation through its 2011 establishment of an Institute for Peace and Reconciliation to build capacity and share best practices. Describing conferences, workshops and other activities of the Institute, she stated that the first research project distilled lessons learned from conflict resolution between the Philippines Government and the Moro National Liberation Front. A registry of women experts in peace and reconciliation has been established, among other initiatives aimed at increasing women’s participation. ASEAN stands ready to work with other partners to identify innovative and inclusive approaches to promote the United Nations peacebuilding agenda, including reconciliation processes, in the region.
Speaking in her national capacity, she said that, for the Philippines, reconciliation is a long‑term process seeking innovative ways “to address, integrate and embrace the painful past and the shared future as a means of dealing with the present”. It incorporates catch‑up development and reconstruction programmes in conflict‑affected areas, and nurturing of a peace constituency in those areas. An integral component is the People’s Peace Table initiatives for youth, indigenous peoples, women, residents of sultanates and other stakeholders. The signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law for the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao in July 2018 showed that an agreement is just the beginning of the peace process, which will be completed “when every Filipino enjoys peace and its dividends of progress, security and a comfortable life”.
FREDRIK HANSEN, observer for the Holy See, recalled Pope Francis’ visit to the Central African Republic in 2015. There, at his invitation, the Imam of the central Mosque in Bangui’s third arrondissement rode with him in the “popemobile”. They greeted the people together as a powerful sign that challenged people on both sides of the conflict to think, to put aside prejudice and instead reach out and go towards the other with renewed confidence. Genuine reconciliation does not minimize suffering; rather, it examines that which first led to dispute and conflict and then uses appropriate means to find a way to lasting peace. Promoting reconciliation is not simply wiping the slate clean; it can never be seen as an excuse for impunity. The guilty must be held accountable, and those whose lives have been affected should receive some form of reparation. The signing in Abu Dhabi of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al‑Azhar is an example of the important role religious leaders can play in bringing people together, he added.
RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada) said that his country’s national reconciliation efforts had to include addressing its colonial history, its relationship with indigenous peoples and its own painful and ongoing process. That path has been a series of continuing actions, one of which was endorsing the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People. The key component of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well as its National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, was the opportunity for victims and survivors to share their stories and be meaningfully listened to and heard across the country. From this experience, he said, the Canadian Government knows first‑hand that unjust institutions and systemic inequality are not established overnight and are not dismantled in a day. Reconciliation is not an event or even a single process. Successful reconciliation processes rely first and foremost on national ownership and domestic leadership. They are survivor- and victim‑centric. South Africa showed the world that reckoning with the past can help build an inclusive future. The willingness to listen, to learn and to adapt to meeting new challenges has prepared Canada for a future role on the Security Council, he said.
RAZIYE BILGE KOÇYIĞIT GRBA (Turkey) called for a more informed discussion on the role the United Nations can play in reconciliation processes, and the need to incorporate reconciliation into exit strategies for post‑conflict situations. National and regional ownership is essential to settle disputes, therefore reconciliation processes must come from within the interested parties. Post‑conflict reconciliation is a long-term process that addresses root causes, she said, which requires understanding the grievances that lead to conflict and considering the voices of women, young people and marginalized groups. There cannot be a “one size fits all” solution to promoting post-conflict reconciliation. Wider and more-effective use of mediation and dialogue facilitation is also needed, as timely intervention to reconcile parties of nascent hostilities before divisions entrench is crucial to prevention. She also stressed that it is time to put an end to the conflict in Syria, which “continues to hurt the collective conscience of humanity” and called on the international community to support the peace corridor that would enable the voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Syrian people to their homelands.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland) said: “Silencing the gun is fundamental but does not of itself bring societies together.” It is almost always followed by a long process of acknowledging past wrongs and rebuilding trust. Ireland’s understanding of reconciliation is shaped profoundly by its peace process ending some 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland, where that work continues today. She noted that the Governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom work in partnership for reconciliation within the framework of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Citing the importance of inclusion and the work of local women’s community groups in building peace, she noted that in 2018 her country’s Reconciliation Fund supported 153 non‑governmental organizations and community and volunteer groups to create better understanding between the people and traditions of Ireland and the United Kingdom, although challenges and obstacles in that peace process remain. While no two conflict situations are the same, the United Nations should capture varied experiences of reconciliation — from local processes and dialogues to national truth commissions — and share them across contexts. In particular, transition from United Nations peacekeeping operations requires focus on supporting continued reconciliation efforts at all levels.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said reconciliation processes must be real, credible and inclusive to be successful, aiming to strengthen peace and address the root causes of conflicts. They must involve women as well as youth in all stages of mediation. Young people play an especially important role, she said, as a country cannot talk about future peace and reconciliation without the participation of the younger generation. Key factors contributing to the success of reconciliation include justice and accountability, as well as the fight against impunity and gross violations of international human rights laws.
MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said reconciliation could be a critical enabler in resolving the Rohingya humanitarian crisis. The Security Council could play an important role in promoting sustainable peace in Myanmar’s Rakhine State by ensuring reconciliation and reintegration of the Rohingya community with Myanmar society. The process would require a robust enabling environment underpinned by dialogue between the Rohingyas, other ethnic minorities, Myanmar society and authorities as well as a sustainable political process. Myanmar must adopt clearly defined strategies for reconciliation so that returning Rohingyas can have a harmonious co‑existence in Rakhine state, he added, emphasizing the importance of appropriate confidence‑building measures among concerned parties. Also noting that any reconciliation process in Rakhine state must pass the rigors of transparency, objectivity trust and confidence, he said it is important that regional or international actors be involved in the process.
ION JINGA (Romania) said that while reconciliation processes are highly context‑sensitive, with no “one size fits all” solutions for post-conflict situations, some recommendations are universally valid. First, reconciliation processes must be nationally owned, with conflicting communities playing the primary role in assessing ways to conduct such processes. Second, inclusivity is essential, and women and youth should be placed at the heart of conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts. Third, partnerships are also crucial as regional and subregional organizations, such as the African Union, the European Union or Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), can offer their knowledge and expertise. Strengthening partnerships within the United Nations system is also important, he added.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia) said that his country’s Government spares no effort to build trust and confidence between the artificially divided communities of its occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. Recalling a recently adopted package of peace initiatives called “A Step to a Better Future”, he reported that it provides possibilities for economic activity and trade across the dividing lines for the first time. The initiative covers three dimensions, including facilitating trade to encourage joint business initiatives and simplify trade, enabling products produced in occupied regions to have access to the internal Georgian and foreign markets. It also enhances educational opportunities for the people there, and eases access to State services by simplifying technical procedures for obtaining Georgia passports and life‑cycle documents, he said. Free health care is also a key element of Georgia’s peace and engagement policy, he noted, adding that the programme is currently under threat in the Tskhinvali region as a result of “borderization” and closure of the so-called crossing points in the region.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam), aligning himself with ASEAN, said lack of awareness of the importance of reconciliation, and lack of investment in it, contribute to the persistence of conflict worldwide. Reconciliation processes should be conducted with a great sense of tolerance, in a comprehensive manner at all levels, and must be nationally driven and owned. The parties concerned best know the root causes of the conflict, he said, and should be the main initiators and actors in the process. The success of the process hinges on trust and long‑term goals, which can only be achieved through a comprehensive approach to political, social, economic and justice issues. He added that regional organizations are well placed to reinforce strategic trust and mutual confidence of countries in a given area. The United Nations should play a supporting role in reconciliation, advocating normative change, and enhancing synergies and partnerships between the organizations and other players, with all due attention to encouraging the participation of all stakeholders.
POLLY IOANNOU (Cyprus) said several elements are key for reconciliation to credibly create a peaceful future through an organic process that rejects a violent past. She said reconciliation should serve as a complementary accountability mechanism that compels perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions. No amnesties granted by peace agreements, or as part of a reconciliation process, can extend to international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity. The United Nations has a moral and material responsibility to ensure this happens, particularly regarding peace agreements under its watch. For a reconciliation process to be credible, it “must never be a vehicle for sanitizing or revising history under its watch,” she said. It is difficult to imagine such a process beginning before a political settlement, given the difficulty of the desired outcome, a social transformation that enables rivals to peacefully coexist, “leaving no room for different historical narratives or for questioning the truth, and creating unified social and political structures”.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention, reconciliation and confidence‑building are at the core of its foreign policy. This is exemplified through the creation, at the initiative of Kazakhstan, of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia and other initiatives for confidence‑building and interreligious dialogue. His country has also worked towards a viable, inclusive and Syrian‑led political process through providing the platform for the Astana process. From all such activities, his country had learned the importance of confidence‑building measures as part of a broad reconciliation strategy that includes interventions at all levels, taking into consideration a country’s unique history and cultural context. Injustices that lead to conflicts must be rectified through diplomacy, development and good governance. Reconciliation, finally, cannot be imposed from the outside and must be worked out painstakingly by all stakeholders, including women and youth. He pledged his country’s continued dedication to reconciliation, diplomacy and mediation as the United Nations family marks its seventy‑fifth anniversary.
SONALI SAMARASINGHE (Sri Lanka) said that peace processes and reconciliation have become even more complicated in view of the spread of violent extremism. Her country, with its multi‑ethnic and multi‑religious composition, was forging ahead on reconciliation, transitional justice and economic development when the Easter Sunday attacks occurred with devastating effect. It demonstrated how effectively the global can be localized and the local globalized, given how the ISIL/Da’esh‑inspired domestic terrorists were radicalized abroad and through social media. In that context, Sri Lanka’s reconciliation programme aims to build community resilience against violent extremism and is cooperating with the Alliance of Civilizations and United Nations efforts to fight hate. To facilitate such efforts, the United Nations can play an important role in helping to build capacity for grass-roots efforts to disseminate values that foster a culture of peace, with non-conditional funding through its peacebuilding architecture. Her country, having experienced a brutal onslaught of terrorism for nearly 30 years, is taking steps to solidify democratic institutions and create a reconciliation framework. Elements include initiatives in progress on missing persons, reparations, a truth and reconciliation commission and right to information. Education to foster integration and understanding and interfaith dialogue, as well as to boost socioeconomic development, are also important components. National ownership is the basis of all such activity, with responsibility shared by the Government and all national stakeholders, she emphasized.
RODRIGO A. CARAZO (Costa Rica) said that, given war begins in the mind of man, that’s where peace must be established. Reconciliation is not just a shift from conflict, but must be tended constantly unstintingly as a process. “There is no magic wand we can wave” to create peace, he said, given it is a people who build their story. He noted that 70 years ago, a conflict tore apart the social fabric of his country, leading on 1 December 1948 to the abolition of its standing army. Ensuing initiatives have illustrated that the State places its people at the heart of all institutions, with sustained and progressive investment in universal health care, education and the environment. He noted peace is not sustained simply in prevention of conflict, but in ensuring the human rights of every single citizen with no exceptions. Reconciliation must find a root point in those peoples torn apart by conflict, with the State becoming a source of dignity and inclusion for them.
YASHAR T. ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said it is critical to ensure that peace efforts, including reconciliation processes, and conflict settlement frameworks are not used as a tool to consolidate situations achieved by the unlawful use of force and other egregious violations of general international law. It is essential to address conflict‑related violations by all available means that are free of politically motivated objectives. In some armed conflict situations, including those of a protracted nature, accountability has not received the proper attention and perpetrators enjoy impunity for the most serious crimes. Accountability for such crimes is essential, not only to bring those responsible to justice, but to ensure the sustainability of conflict resolution, truth, reconciliation, the rights and interests of victims, and the overall well‑being of society, he said. Azerbaijan is eager to continue efforts to promote mutual understanding and respect for diversity, including through the Baku Process and the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said that, in a volatile international security environment, national reconciliation efforts must be strengthened. In that context, tolerance is particularly important and must be facilitated by the national legal system. In addition, any efforts to achieve peace will only be successful if the sovereignty of the State is respected, terrorism is curbed and assistance is provided for those in need or threatened by violent extremism. Women and youth must be enabled to participate in all efforts to avert violent conflict. He added that Sustainable Development Goal 16, which he called an international commitment to ensure human rights are respected, is critical for reconciliation. Rule of law must also be bolstered. His country will work tirelessly with international partners to achieve these goals, he pledged.
DARREN CAMILLERI (Malta), aligning himself with the European Union, said that peace processes must, as a priority, unite all sides to a conflict and instil the willingness to invest in a common future. Understanding and addressing the grievances of all sectors is integral, making reconciliation processes crucial. While there is no magic formula, some elements apply in all cases, for example giving women and youth central roles. Accountability is another important element, he noted, explaining that while it does not erase the scars of atrocities, it can strengthen and legitimize institutions, serve as a reminder that justice will ultimately prevail and give communities solace. The role that the international community can play in helping parties find common ground is fundamental, but by no means easy, he added.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) stated that reconciliation is a process that must occur at the individual, societal and State levels. He stressed the indispensable role of women and youth in promoting reconciliation and said that meaningful participation by women affected by conflict in peace processes is instrumental. Religious leaders and communities play an important role in promoting tolerance, dialogue and peaceful coexistence and standing against attempts to abuse religion to commit violence. He condemned the recent terrorist killing of two priests of the Armenian Catholic community in the north‑east Syrian city of Qamishli and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. Controversial statements, he continued, aimed at justifying genocide by denigrating and insulting the dignity of victims or by qualifying it as “the most reasonable act” deepen misunderstanding and distrust, and make genuine reconciliation and dialogue more difficult. On this point, he stressed that recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide is essential for truth, historical justice and reconciliation.
ALIE KABBA (Sierra Leone), recalling his country’s brutal civil war in the 1990s that left tens of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, said that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in Sierra Leone to not only expose perpetrators and identify victims, but also to serve as a mirror through which all Sierra Leoneans examined their own roles in the conflict. This dialogue helped victims to face their perpetrators, to reconcile and to move on with their lives. Alongside the Commission, a Special Court for Sierra Leone was established to bring to justice those who bore the greatest responsibility for grave crimes committed during the war. Despite the country’s transition from civil war to peace 19 years ago, Sierra Leone continues to experience political divisions and other issues that threaten national unity and social cohesion, predicated on the potential relapse into violence should such divisions not be addressed. In building peace and national reconciliation and avoiding polarization, it is critical that Governments, politicians, civil society, the private sector, women and youths are all engaged in the national development process. To this end, the Government has established the “Wan Fambul” (One Family) framework, which is grounded in the belief that, until development is taken to citizens’ doorsteps, the nation cannot effectively move forward together.
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said reconciliation is the only way to guarantee lasting and sustained peace in post‑conflict societies and therefore around the world. Although each case is specific and individual, he noted reconciliation is universally a broad process that must be honest, inclusive and holistic to succeed. To that end, all States must guarantee the full participation of women, young people and those with disabilities in any such process. He cited the role of special political missions, which are often useful in delivering transitional justice. Adding that preventive diplomacy remains the best tool for sustaining peace, he called for stronger early warning systems of all forms of human rights violations including sexual violence and the use of child soldiers. “Ecuador is a country of peace,” he said, recalling that during violent protests in his country earlier in 2019, the Government upheld the principles of dialogue, development and peace.
Mr. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), replying to the questions asked by the representative of Germany, said that the Nuremberg trials were indeed just, because of the manner in which they were carried out and the crimes that were committed, many of them on its territory. Some of the international tribunals that have followed, however, are merely retributive in nature. It could be said that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia often undid what had been accomplished before. On the International Criminal Court, he said that an examination of any one of its activities is sufficient to show that that body does not deserve its reputation, and that the Council’s approach to peace and security are not strengthened by its operation.
For information media. Not an official record.