Role of the United Nations in Post-Conflict Situations
by H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan
President of the 57th session of the UN General Assembly
at the Security Council's wrap-up session
me at the outset express my great appreciation for your initiative
and for giving me the opportunity to speak on this very important
never quite fulfilling the mandate of the international trusteeship
as described in the United Nations Charter, the United Nations
has engaged in governance of post-conflict societies, particularly
in the post-Cold War era. The Organization has an extensive experience
in governance through setting up the UN administrations in Bosnia
and Herzegovina, Kosovo and East Timor, or in post-conflict peacebuilding
efforts in Sierra Leone and most recently in Afghanistan. Currently,
the most outstanding challenge with respect to the post-conflict
reconstruction before the Security Council is the situation in
the end of the Cold War, the traditional UN involvement in post-conflict
situations, focusing on the political dimensions, has evolved
into a more comprehensive operation undertaking a variety of roles.
The four basic pillars of post-conflict reconstruction - security;
social and economic well-being; justice and reconciliation; and
governance and particitation - are all closely linked, and a positive
outcome in each field depends on successful implementation of
international community possesses major capabilities to influence
the security situation in the post-conflict states and regions.
It is the military authorities in charge of a territory that is
responsible for building on and sustaining the security situation.
However, returning the maintenance of security tasks to the host
country should regarded be a priority. Forming multiethnic police
force in Bosnia and Kosovo, or the training of the Afghani army
has been a step in this direction.
considering the socio-economic aspects of post-conflict initiatives,
the main emphasis has typically been on economic rebuilding and
development. But war affects society in a very profound way, and
tends to disrupt social relations - from national political to
very basic human interactions. Only healthy society where social
relations are restored, life in dignity, i.e. free of oppression
or hunger, is fully respected, and gender perspective is taken
into account, can promote and sustain durable peace and development.
establishing a process of addressing past and present grievances,
the objective to create a fair, transparent and effective judicial
system is closely linked to the issues of reconciliation. Prosecution
of crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights
is often hindered by the existence of political and legal obstacles.
The UN war crime tribunals prosecuting these crimes commited in
former Yugoslavia, Rwanda or Sierra Leone, and efforts to establish
extraordinary chambers within the existing court structure of
Cambodia for prosecution of crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge,
play a crucial role in reconciliation efforts of post-conflict
inherent tensions between democracy promotion and previous power
structures exist, strengthening of good governance and promoting
democracy is crucial for preventing the recurrence of conflicts
in crisis-ridden countries. The collapse of civil administrations,
for example in Kosovo or East Timor, required the UN to assume
large-scale government functions. However, a long-term process
of good governance and democratization must be driven by citizens
of the given country, and must reflect the specific historical,
cultural, political and religious conditions of that country.
post-conflict situations, more is needed than efforts by states
to restore law and order. Taking historical background into account
- whether it is represented by ethnic relations in the Balkans
or tribal ones in Afghanistan - is crucial to any successful peace-building
efforts. It is not only about bringing peace or humanitarian aid
into a society emerging from conflict - any external involvement
in the society's affairs must be conducted in most respectful
manner to the various specific features of that society of that
society, and towards its rich diversity.
latest conflict in Iraq is an example of the complex and unique
challenges facing the UN in a post-conflict situation. I have
no doubt, that this crisis will become a new important source
of knowledge and experience for the United Nations. The UN should
use this knowledge to refine its methods and improve ways of addressing
future conflict situations better and more effectively than before
- to be an organization which can select the appropriate strategies
and tools for preventing or de-escalating conflict, and facilitating
post-conflict society is confronted with various problems of instability.
These include unresolved issues relating to years of political
and religious oppression, violence amongst different clans, dangers
stemming from the past totalitarian structures, looting, or abundance
of arms in the absence of an effective new local police or security
forces. Recent UN experiences elsewhere, for example in Kosovo
and East Timor, have clearly demonstrated that a comprehensive
strategy to tackle these issues in the immediate post-conflict
phase is critical. Furthermore, it has become evident that a strategy
for political and economic reforms should be crafted in conjunction
with an overall vision for democratisation of the Iraqi society.
role of the UN in Iraq should not be confined only to an advisory
role or reduced to the provision of humanitarian or economic aid,
but broader responsibilities aimed at promoting democracy in Iraq
should be part of any planning process. For all its shortcomings,
real or perceived, the United Nations is still the only forum
which has the grass roots experience and personnel to deal with
a wide range of crises, whether in the field of humanitarian relief
or helping people to rebuild their lives and countries, promoting
human rights and the rule of law, in conflict management and post-conflict
peace-building. I am confident that the UN needs to play a decisive
role in both the economic reconstruction and political transformation
of the post-conflict Iraq.
I do believe that it is in clear interest of both the United Nations
and the US authorities to reach soon an agreement on the exact
nature of this mutually complimentary cooperation in that country.
Such cooperation will undoubtedly help to bring about the common
aim - a democratic, free and independent Iraq.