UN - United Nations

11/19/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/19/2019 10:46

Security Council: Role of Reconciliation in Maintaining International Peace and Security

Note: Following is a partial summary of statements made to today's meeting of the Security Council. A complete summary will be available later today as Press Release SC/14024.


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 exit 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 for 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.