H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at the Mediation in the Mediterranean Seminar
Casa Arabe, Madrid, March 17, 2015
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Spain Mr. Margallo,
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Morocco Mr. Mezouar,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is an honor to participate in this distinguished gathering at this very special site, Casa Arabe, a cross-cultural meeting point where individuals from the worlds of business, education, academia, politics and culture dialogue with one another and cooperate on shared interests. My special thanks go to the Governments of Spain and Morocco for the excellent organization and generous hosting of this event.
The framers of the Charter of the United Nations showed great vision in foreseeing a global, collective security architecture with a clear role for regional arrangements. As many of you know, Chapter VIII of the UN Charter lays out the critical role of regional organizations in maintaining international peace and security.
Whereas Article 33 of the Charter, under Chapter VI, states that any dispute that is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security should first be addressed through negotiation, mediation or other peaceful means, and states that the Council can call on the parties to use such means to settle their dispute.
Mediation, as you know, is a preventive dispute resolution method. Since it is preventive, it is extremely cost effective as an early intervention before violence erupts.
In fact, the World Bank has calculated that the average cost of civil war is equivalent to more than 30 years of gross domestic product (GDP) for a medium-size developing country. Most severe civil wars, which have a tendency to relapse into violence in the first ten years after an agreement has been signed, impose cumulative costs of tens of billions of dollars, and recovery to original growth paths takes the society concerned an average of 14 years.
Because I am mindful of the critical role mediation plays in the international community, in my previous tenure as President of the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly, I chose mediation as the theme of the year. Not only had 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.
Today, when it comes to mediating and resolving conflicts, we know more than ever before that the ability of the United Nations to be effective rests in large measure on our cooperation with regional bodies.
The challenges we face are too complex for any one organization or nation to address alone – hence the need for partnership and innovation.
Around the world, we are seeing complex patterns of state breakdown and civil war (witness Syria). In addition, non-constitutional changes to authority, terrorism and the role of non-state actors (many of whom do not respect borders), networks of organized crime, food prices increasing social tensions, social media helping various actors organize, and climate change are all factors that contribute to this growing complexity.
This is especially why active partnerships with regional and sub-regional organizations who often have a far deeper understanding of both local dynamics and local actors—when it comes to mediation processes and mitigating escalating tensions that could lead to violent conflict—are critical. There are many examples of such partnerships.
In Asia, UN cooperation with ASEAN has grown significantly since we signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2007, as evidenced through the recently launched Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.
The partnership with the League of Arab States has been essential for UN efforts to support inclusive political processes in the Middle East and North Africa.
And, of course our cooperation with the European Union stretches across the UN’s agenda and around the world.
In the case of the organization where I serve as High Representative, the UN Alliance of Civilizations, we actively support 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.
As I have said before, 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 the role of citizen-led initiatives, such as civil society groups, religious leaders and even youth leaders, in mediation and other processes that present alternatives to violence is key.
In fact, so strong is this conviction that under my under my leadership, the Alliance is establishing an Advisory Council comprised of religious, civil society, and political leaders to provide guidance on how to most effectively fulfill the mission of the UNAOC.
It is important to add here that the Alliance also has a strong partnership with the UN’s Department of Political Affairs and the Mediation Support Unit that it houses.
In fact, as many of you know, the Mediation Support Unit has a standby team of mediators who are able to deploy into negotiation settings around the world without requiring much lead time. This standby team can provide assistance on a range of matters from constitution-making, power sharing agreements, peace process design, to natural resources management. There is also the Mediation Roster which is a database of over 240 mediation experts from 70 countries. 38% of these experts are women.
This is not a small point. As Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) reminds us: Women have a huge role to play in mediation. There are multiple examples of mediation processes in Africa where women played a decisive role in mitigating the conflict in that region.
Finally, I want to say that when it comes to the region we are in today, the Euro Mediterranean, an area that contains many of the world’s most complex conflicts and tensions—from civil wars and disputes over natural resources and land to increasingly complex migration patterns—the ability of regional organizations to be effective in mediating the challenges we face rests largely on one thing. Trust.
Mutual trust does not just happen. It requires responsible leadership. It requires that all parties be willing to compromise on the basis of a deep respect and understanding of the cultural, religious, and societal positions we each are coming from. This is my main message to you today.
If we can build an environment that is conducive to developing trust, as both policymakers and representatives of international organizations, we will be able to deliver good results. At the end of the day, it is the individuals within our constituencies that will benefit from our wise decisions and actions.
For my part I and the organization I serve, the UN Alliance of Civilizations, stand ready to work with you hand in hand each step of the way as we walk toward this vision.
I thank you for your time.