Mediation plays vital role in preventing conflicts, settling disputes – UN

General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser (right), with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, opens high-level meeting on mediation. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

23 May 2012 – Mediation is a valuable and effective tool for conflict prevention and the peaceful settlement of disputes, top United Nations officials stressed today, while also highlighting the need to strengthen the world body, which plays a central role in such efforts.

“We live in uncertain times. Unprecedented shifts are taking place across the world. As nations are transforming into new democracies, the moment is now for mediation,” the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said at the opening of a high-level meeting on the role of Member States in mediation.

“Mediation can prevent conflict and stave off bloodshed. Mediation can support peaceful transitions and nurture reconciliation,” he added. “Mediation is inclusive and can help build representative, democratic societies that realise the legitimate aspirations of their peoples.”

The day-long meeting in the General Assembly brings together ministers, eminent mediators and experts to discuss their experiences and how mediation processes can be more effectively conducted and managed.

Mr. Al-Nasser noted that in recent years, more and more Member States have become actively engaged in mediation efforts and are using mediation as a tool to build bridges, settle disputes and resolve conflicts.

Outlining what he believed are essential elements for successful mediation endeavours, the President stressed the need for strong leadership and coordinated action. In particular, he said that for the sake of coordination and efficiency, there should be one lead mediator or one lead mediation team for each specific case. This lead should be supported by others, where necessary.

The second essential element for a successful mediation process is a fine balance between principles and vision.

“Among other key elements, a mediator should, of course, be impartial and neutral,” he stated. “This does not mean, however, that he or she should not have a vision for a possible compromise or resolution of the dispute, based on consultations with, and the expectations of, the parties involved.”

The Assembly President also highlighted the need for a mediator to have “deep knowledge and a sound understanding” of the parties, the situation, the history of the conflict, as well as the relevant cultural and other values. Also vital is sustainability and inclusiveness, he said, adding that the sustainability of a peace agreement depends largely on whether or not it is inclusive.

In this respect, female leaders and women’s organizations play a vital role in garnering the support of their communities for peace processes, said Mr. Al-Nasser. To ensure greater inclusiveness, traditional or indigenous mediation mechanisms should be incorporated and combined with official mediation efforts, he added.

The United Nations, he noted, has a central role to play in mediation.

“The UN provides legitimacy and expertise to mediation processes. Given the recent, increasing demand for UN participation in mediation efforts, the UN’s capability should be further strengthened,” Mr. Al-Nasser said.

In his remarks to the meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlined what he believed are the “key fundamentals” for every mediation effort, including consent, impartiality, preparedness and inclusivity, adding that all mediation efforts must respect international laws and norms.

“We have come a long way in recognizing the value of mediation,” stated the Secretary-General. “The UN’s mediation capacity is stronger than ever. We are boosting our partnerships with other major actors and strengthening our ability to respond to emerging needs. I encourage Member States to make greater use of these newly enhanced services.”

Mediators must help ensure that perpetrators of serious international crimes are not granted amnesties in peace agreements, and should forge peace agreements that lay the foundation for reconciliation, he said. It is also important to include more women in peace processes.

The UN chief told the meeting that progress has been made in the development of Guidance for Effective Mediation, as called for by a General Assembly resolution from 2010.

“We are preparing this guidance in consultation with all partners, drawing o the experience of regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and civil society, including women’s groups.” Mr. Ban said. “In addition, we have consulted the Peacebuilding Commission, the World Bank and other UN entities at Headquarters and in the field.”

Noting that the UN’s mediation efforts cannot rely solely on voluntary contributions, he also stressed the need for predictable funding.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of remedy,” he stated. “Mediation saves lives and resources. It is a wise investment that deserves secure funding.”


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