"Peacebuilding and sustaining peace: Diversity, statebuilding and the search for peace" - Security Council, 8877th meeting
Warning that the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed peacebuilding gains and enabled intolerance and extremism to take hold, speakers told the Security Council in an open debate today that sustainable peace can only be ensured when the root causes of conflict, such as divides fuelled by inequity and difference, are addressed.
“Long-standing grievances, inequalities, mistrust and social divisions do not simply vanish when the fighting stops,” António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, said as he opened the meeting, which also featured briefings by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa; and Fawzia Koofi, the first woman Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Afghanistan.
The meeting was presided over by Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, which holds October’s presidency and proposed the topic, which it presented to Council members in a concept note (document S/2021/854).
Mr. Guterres said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequality where social inequities already exist, adding that the escalating phenomena of rebels, militias and extremist groups coalescing around shared beliefs or opportunism vividly illustrates how such divisions can stoke conflict, or worsen it where it persists. Stressing the importance of inclusiveness to peacebuilding and resilience, he noted that such ideas are the driving force behind resolutions taken in 2015 and 2020 as part of the Review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture, as well as in the most recent Our Common Agenda.
He went on to highlight the value of the full and active participation of women and young people, noting that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) had stressed the need to achieve a 30 per cent quota for women in the country’s elections. “For countries emerging from the horrors of conflict and looking to a better future, diversity must not be seen as a threat,” he said, adding: “It is a source of strength. An anchor of peace and stability in parts of the world that have seen too little of either, and the rallying point of a better future.”
Echoing the need for diversity, Ms. Koofi painted a worrying picture of the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan, where there are concerning reports about their fundamental freedoms being undermined. Noting that the situation demonstrates how many conflicts spring from power imbalances, she observed that “the playbook for running today’s world was written primarily with men’s interests in mind”.
In Afghanistan, women want direct and face-to-face talk with the Taliban, she said, asking Council members to include women in mediation teams and facilitate a meeting of a delegation of women with the Taliban. “Please remember that there are some 16‑17 million women and girls in Afghanistan who don’t know what tomorrow holds for them,” she stressed. Given the ideology of those holding power in Kabul, which discriminates against women and treats them as second-class citizens, she emphasized that the United Nations must demand the protection and inclusion of Afghan female aid workers and peacebuilders and other civic professionals and community organizations, who play a critical role in ensuring aid reaches those most in need.
In his presentation, Mr. Kagame drew on Rwanda’s recent experiences to reflect on the nature of peace, which he said is much more than the mere absence of violence. It is an ongoing process; “a constant search for solutions through dialogue and consensus”, he said. While pointing out that it may not be possible to prevent all conflict altogether, he said it is possible to minimize their intensity and impact by remaining attentive to local needs and expectations and investing in the capacity of institutions and individuals so they can deliver the results that citizens expect and deserve.
He emphasized the crucial role that multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union could play in many situations, as well as the role of civil society groups and business leaders. The international community must improve its toolbox in a manner that reflects lessons learned from recent experiences in conflict-resolution, he stressed. However, he assured the Council that “Rwanda’s experience is that, no matter how bad the situation appears, success is always an option.”
For his part, Mr. Mbeki emphasized the need to bring about lasting peace by going beyond the “standard procedure” of addressing conflicts, which followed a predictable sequence of actions, going from a ceasefire agreement to the involvement of peacekeepers, to the negotiation of a new constitution, the formation of a new elected Government, and the subsequent withdrawal of peacekeepers. Questions could be raised as to whether this procedure truly led to sustainable peace. “The resolution of conflicts should not be driven simply by security considerations,” he said, adding that conflict resolution “must address the vital matter of the root causes of the conflict and thus aim not merely to silence the guns, important as this is, but to ensure sustainable peace.”
He shared that his own personal experience from working to resolve conflict in the African continent, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire and Sudan, illustrating how the failure to properly manage the issue of diversity is one of the root causes of civil war and violent conflict. This issue is the thread binding many conflicts, going from the 11-year-war in Sierra Leone to the ongoing violent conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, he said, adding: “And the incontestable truth is that the successful management of this diversity cannot and will not be achieved through weapons of war.”
Following those briefings, Security Council members took the floor, affirming the importance of building lasting peace through sustained dialogue and the need for more attention to preventing conflict. Most speakers underlined the importance of tackling the root causes of conflict and insecurity, including socio-economic marginalization, poverty, unemployment, climate change and environmental degradation, calling for a more nimble approach that takes all these challenges as well as lessons learned from past experiences into account. Many also pointed out the need to go beyond prefabricated or externally imposed solutions and to tailor strategies to local contexts and circumstances.
The United States’ delegate noted the ubiquity of racism and division around the world and encouraged every country to “look internally” at its differences and inequities and to work tirelessly to end racism, sexism, ableism and xenophobia. “The United States does not claim to be perfect,” she said, pointing out that after a United Nations report highlighted systemic racism and the use of force against people of African descent in the United States last July, the country responded by acknowledging the report and issuing a standing invitation to the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia and related intolerance to visit the United States.
The representative of Norway drew on her country’s many decades of engagement in peace efforts worldwide to underscore the importance of inclusivity in peace and reconciliation efforts. She highlighted the importance of engaging all relevant actors to resolve conflict, recalling successful experience with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the Middle East, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia, and the Maoists in Nepal, and underlined the need for continued engagement even after peace agreements are signed. Further, she called for strength to be lent to the voices of Afghan women fighting to influence their future, warning: ““Without this, there will be no stability or prosperity in Afghanistan — and no sustainable peace.”
In a similar vein, Ireland’s delegate also highlighted the need for continuing engagement to ensure lasting peace in post-conflict situations. The Council should view peace as a process rather than an event, she added, recalling that peace in Northern Ireland took decades to achieve. In the aftermath of conflict, building good governance must have its roots in local communities, not conference rooms in New York. Stressing the importance of inclusive peacekeeping transitions, she said that a reconfigured United Nations presence, in cooperation with other actors, must be ready to “step up and step in” to support the peace.
The representative of Niger pointed out that in Africa, where borders were set by colonial Powers, the viability of States hinges on Governments’ ability to take into account ethnic, racial and tribal sensitivities. When a political system failed to provide citizens with a sense of belonging to and participating in the community, he said, it gave rise to troubles such as civil wars, coup d’états and genocides. Highlighting the positive role played by regional organizations such as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), he said the involvement of the international community and the United Nations in internal conflicts should only come as a last resort.
Meanwhile, the representative of Mexico pointed out that preventive diplomacy needs better instruments. Early warning mechanisms could play a key role in identifying risks and triggers, he said, adding that such mechanisms must be sensitive in identifying the causes of grievances of marginalized groups. Further, the full and effective participation of women, youth and civil society is crucial for prevention work. He called on the Security Council to strengthen its dialogue with other bodies, including the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council, and noted that Council resolution 2475 (2019) provides the basis for meeting the needs of people with disabilities in situations of armed conflict.
Also speaking were the representatives of India, United Kingdom, France, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Viet Nam, Tunisia, Estonia, Russian Federation, and China.
The meeting began at 10:04 a.m. and ended at 12:28 p.m.