BRDO, 11 March 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
➢ It gives me great honor to address this distinguished gathering in the City of Brdo here in Slovenia. My thanks go to the Government for the excellent organization and generous hosting.
➢ We live in a unique era in our history when it comes to the global will to transform and resolve human conflicts.
➢ What was previously sacred and inviolable in the sovereignty of nations is now mitigated by our responsibility to protect one another.
➢ Not only this, but the Cold War and its multiple battlegrounds are increasingly a curiosity of the past.
➢ The United Nations was built to play a greater role in resolving global conflicts, including as stipulated in the Chapter 6 of the Charter on Mediation. Why is it that since 1989, there has been a 10-fold increase in the size of the UN’s peacekeeping force: from 10,300 in ‘89 to 98,000 military and 24,000 civilians in 2011? Is there good reason for this change? Could it be because of the unprecedented challenges that global stability is facing?
➢ As I ask these questions, it is also important to note the good news. There is a growing sense of global citizenship. A civic sense that is more global in its outlook than it is national is emergent. This is a wonderful thing. We can ascribe this change to many things, whether the Internet and global media or the increasing size of a global middle class, but that is not what I wish to talk about today.
➢ What I would like to focus my remarks on is the thriving ecology of citizen-led groups around the world that are working to resolve and prevent deadly violence. For many of these, they are working on the ground and interacting directly with armed groups that are in conflict.
➢ You see, for diplomats like me, by virtue of the nature of our work and communication, we have few conversations with actual combatants. Our governmental positions can restrict us to talking mostly to those who are in power or are incumbents.
➢ This is why I believe that the question of citizen-led initiatives, such as civil society groups or religious leaders, in mediation or other processes that present alternatives to violence is one of the fundamental questions of our time.
➢ This is also why the organization I lead, the UN Alliance of Civilization, actively supports initiatives that bring in the voices of civil society, religious leaders, and vitally, young people into mediation processes and broader reconciliation efforts to lessen identity-based divisions.
➢ Mediation, as you know, is a preventive dispute resolution method. Since it is preventive, it is cost effective as an early intervention before violence erupts.
➢ Now of course I should emphasize here that just because civil society groups lack direct decision-making power in conflicts does not mean that they are not stakeholders. Quite the opposite. Society at large is affected by armed conflict, and so citizens are huge stakeholders in any conflict, including women and children.
➢ What is remarkable about the entry of third party civil society mediators is that they come with flexibility that the parties to the conflict may lack. The understanding that using purely official remedies to conflicts sometimes overlooks the emotional and financial costs informs their approach. Civil society organizations are closer to the people directly affected by conflicts and can serve to construct bridges between groups in conflict, especially at local levels.
➢ In any such case, of course the parties to the conflict need to provide their consent to having any third party enter as a mediator.
➢ Whether government or IGO-led, it is a widely accepted fact that mediation comes with many broad benefits. My main point here is that the benefits that come with mediation are somehow magnified in the case of civil society-led processes.
➢ Now, there is more than one kind of mediation. There is facilitative mediation, where a mediator structures a mediation process for the parties in conflict without providing opinions on any of the substance. There is also evaluative mediation where the mediator may provide an opinion on weaknesses or legal ramifications of the decisions being made by the parties in conflict.
➢ However, what interests me most and where I see the Alliance of Civilizations playing a possible role is in supporting civil society-led transformative mediation, especially when cultural differences come into play. In transformative mediation, while it is the parties in conflict that structure the mediation process, the mediator approaches things with a view to transforming the views of the parties involved. This is made possible by empowering the conflicting parties to recognize each other’s views and empathize with one another. Transformation occurs by virtue of using mediation as a tool.
➢ There are important examples of mediation that is transformational in contexts where cultural differences prolonged conflict and placed certain countries and regions on the UN agenda for many years. Without going into the detail of each, what I would like to note here is that these examples have helped build support for mediation as an approach to resolving conflicts, and moreover, mediation in which citizen-led groups play a critical role.
➢ In terms of the future, there are three points I’d like to end my remarks with:
1. While there is a wonderful flourishing of mediation initiatives, there is little coordination between them. This is why we need a more systematic approach to peacebuilding broadly. Policymakers need to understand the complex environments that conflicts are taking place in. They need to be able to find links between different initiatives, both official and unofficial, and leverage those links. This will also help them set compelling priorities for future action.
To further this issue, during my leadership of the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly, I chose mediation as the theme of the year. Not only this, but the same session of the GA passed resolution 66/291 on strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution.
2. Secondly, Security Council Resolution 1325 brings much needed attention to a crucial issue: Women have a huge role to play in mediation. Africa is a very good example, where women played a decisive role in mitigating the conflict in that Region. Similarly, the role of young people should be explored further. They represent the future of their societies and see things through different eyes. For this reason, education processes that promote peace and reconciliation are critical.
3. Last, in order to improve our government and citizen-led mediation efforts, we need to take in the ecological dimension of conflict. Climate change, desertification and the unavailability of arable soil has already played a major role in conflicts we have seen in certain regions of the world. This is why we need to put further fuel behind efforts to draw global attention to the need to act on climate change.
I thank you and welcome your interactions.