IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT, SECURITY COUNCIL REAFFIRMS ‘VITAL IMPORTANCE’ OF UNITED NATIONS’ ROLE IN POST-CONFLICT RECONCILIATION

26 January 2004
SC/7990

IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT, SECURITY COUNCIL REAFFIRMS ‘VITAL IMPORTANCE’ OF UNITED NATIONS’ ROLE IN POST-CONFLICT RECONCILIATION

26/01/2004
Press ReleaseSC/7990

Security Council

4903rd Meeting* (AM & PM)

IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT, SECURITY COUNCIL REAFFIRMS ‘VITAL IMPORTANCE’

OF UNITED NATIONS’ ROLE IN POST-CONFLICT RECONCILIATION

Over 40 Speakers Share Views during Day-Long Debate

Security Council members reaffirmed today the vital importance of the United Nations’ role in post-conflict reconciliation, stressing the necessary close cooperation needed within the United Nations system and within the Council on that issue.

According to a statement read out by Council President Soledad Alvear, Foreign Minister of Chile, following a day-long open debate, the statements made today underscored the important tasks that must be addressed in post-conflict situations in order to reach the goal of national reconciliation, as well as the relevant experience and expertise existing within the United Nations system and Member States.

Adopting presidential statement S/PRST/2004/2, members considered that it would be appropriate to examine further how to harness and direct that expertise so that it would be more readily accessible to the Council, to the wider United Nations system and membership, and to the international community as a whole.

At the outset of the meeting, the Council President read out a message from Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, who chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission following that country’s transition from apartheid to constitutional democracy.

Today’s meeting also heard briefings by Tuliameni Kalomoh, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs; Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and Carolyn McAskie, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

During the ensuing open debate, Council members heard delegates describe their own national experiences with national reconciliation.

Among the speakers were the representatives of Council members Germany, Algeria, Spain, France, Brazil, Pakistan, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Philippines, Angola, United States, China, Benin, Romania and Chile.

The Council also heard from the representatives of Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Croatia, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina, South Africa, Guatemala, Peru, India, Costa Rica, Morocco, Japan, Argentina, Burundi, Republic of Korea, Serbia and Montenegro, Rwanda, Mexico, Liechtenstein, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Afghanistan and Cameroon.

Beginning at 10:24 a.m., the meeting was suspended at 1:30 p.m.  It resumed at 3:10 p.m. and adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

Presidential Statement

Following is the full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2004/2:

“The Security Council met on 26 January 2004 to examine ‘Post-Conflict National Reconciliation:  The Role of the United Nations’.  Members expressed their respective views and understandings on, and reaffirmed the vital importance of this matter, stressing the necessary close cooperation needed in the UN system, including the Council, on this issue.

“The statements underscored the important tasks that must be addressed in post-conflict situations in order to reach the goal of national reconciliation, as well as the relevant experience and expertise that exist within the United Nations system and in the Member States.

“Members considered that it would be appropriate to examine further how to harness and direct this expertise and experience drawn up from several key areas, so that it would be more readily accessible to the Council, to the wider United Nations system and membership, and to the international community as a whole, so that the lessons and experience of the past, could be, as appropriate, learned and built on.

“The Council invites the Secretary-General to give consideration to the relevant views expressed in this debate in preparation of his report on ‘Justice and the Rule of Law:  United Nations Role’.

“The Council invites all Members of the United Nations, and other parts of the United Nations system with relevant experience and expertise to contribute to this process.”

Background

The Security Council met this morning to consider the role of the United Nations in post-conflict national reconciliation and to hear briefings by the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Introductory Remarks by Council President

Council President MARIA SOLEDAD ALVEAR VALENZUELA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, said in her introductory remarks that the topic of post-conflict reconciliation lay at the intersection between ethical responsibility and political responsibility for creating international peace.  What role should the United Nations play?  Should the need for reconciliation be incorporated into exit strategies?  Was there a role for the Organization’s other principal organs?  Those and other questions were present in a topic where civil society was calling for coherent answers.

She read a message to the Council from Desmond Tutu, Archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, which noted that when human beings had been humiliated, oppressed, slighted or imagined themselves to have suffered those things, they almost always wanted to get their own back, to even scores, to give as good as they had got.  Those things were etched in the tribal memory and so strife, which may have been provoked by something fairly insignificant, continued because resentment and rancour did not disappear.

Virtually everyone had predicted that South Africa would be overwhelmed by a racial conflagration, she recalled.  It had not happened.  The courageous leadership of F.W. de Klerk, and especially Nelson Mandela, had helped that land to walk the path to forgiveness and reconciliation and to become so improbably a beacon of hope for lands hag-ridden with conflict and strife.  Timor-Leste was an example where the United Nations had played a pivotal role in its birth.  Its leaders had also chosen not to engage in retribution and revenge, but to concentrate on building up a nation on the foundations of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Briefing by Assistant Secretary-General

TULIAMENI KALOMOH, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that every armed conflict was a human disaster whose real ending required genuine reconciliation and solutions addressing its root causes.  Reconciliation was about allowing people who shared a painful and divided past to resume harmonious relations and to live together once more.  How it was achieved varied according to specific national circumstances.  The pursuit of justice and accounting for past injustice were daunting tasks in shattered societies, but must not be overlooked in the quest to end violence.

He said that tensions between peace and justice were common in post-conflict situations, and the international community had employed a number of instruments in addressing them, he said.  Some, like tribunals, sought to punish perpetrators, while truth and reconciliation commissions sought to establish an official accounting for violations.  It was difficult to cast in stone prescriptions that would apply to every situation.

The process of catharsis was assisted by different means in different places, he said.  Nonetheless, irrespective of national specificities, peace without reconciliation was never lasting; it was impossible to achieve without some measure of justice.  Some crimes were so heinous that justice must be done, and ending impunity in the conflict and post-conflict periods was vital for restoring normalcy.  It was for every society itself to address past crimes, and the international community could offer guidance about what had been done in other similar situations.  However, the United Nations could not condone situations in which there had been violations of its Charter.

Briefing by UNDP Administrator

MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said his comments would focus on the political economy of reconciliation, as well as the economics of the process and what the United Nations could do in such cases.  There was a real need to be cautious about introducing reconciliation processes too quickly and in too imperfect a way.  There was a need to ensure a steady but stable and safe move from armed conflict to peaceful debate at the ballot box.  This was not possible without addressing the underlying causes of conflict.  Without that, deeper divisions could be driven between the conflict parties, he added.  The UNDP had recognized the real value of taking time and “getting it right”, as in cases such as Afghanistan, where the democratic process had cautiously moved forward in a series of steps -- from the Loya Jirga to the establishment of a constitution leading to eventual elections.

He said that such a cautious approach was on everyone’s mind as the international community struggled with the situation in Iraq, hoping to bring all the parties there together and not drive them further apart during the reconciliation process.  He went on to say that too often, in quick, early elections, a “winner takes all mentality” occurred, where those that had lost the war or prior elections were further ostracized.  It was necessary, therefore, to allow the competition of ideas to take place in a society of free political exchange, particularly on minority rights issues.

He said that, like democracy, truth and reconciliation could not be rushed either.  Still, the process of justice and accountability was critical to the overall reconciliation process, and there was a clear role to be played by international institutions.  He noted that the vital task of landmine collection, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was key to reconciliation.

On the economic concerns, he said it was easier to ensure national reconciliation in a climate of economic prosperity than in one of austerity and budget reduction -- usually the status of post-conflict societies.  But, at the same time, unless there was an economic strategy based on job creation and efforts to manage health services and provide education, financial stability would fall victim to real stability and might also spark renewed conflict.  On UNDP’s role in post-conflict reconstruction, he said that as processes moved from relief to reconciliation, the agency faced terrible funding gaps –- from Liberia to almost every other post-conflict situation.

The UNDP had far fewer resources than the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other agencies in areas such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and early support of electoral systems.  He said that his agency had huge difficulties in providing support to half-a-dozen or so such operations at the same time.  Likening conflict situations to heart attack patients, he said that it was important for the international community to come up with ways to address such situations in the early stages since the greatest propensity to revert to conflict was in the early months following fighting -- precisely the time when international agencies were least prepared to act.

Briefing by Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator

CAROLYN MCASKIE, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that post-conflict reconciliation could begin, and should be nurtured, in the humanitarian assistance phase of a conflict, and it could be informed by the neutrality and impartiality that humanitarians brought with them.  While formal reconciliation processes, such as truth and reconciliation commissions, were critical to national reconciliation and sustainable peace, some of the most powerful forms of reconciliation in terms of restoring the social fabric and regaining national unity would be found in every day life.

Turning to key issues of concern to humanitarians, she said that foremost among them were those surrounding the return and reintegration of refugees and displaced persons into their communities.  When members of ethnic minorities chose to return to still-fragile communities as they emerged from conflict, there was no more important role for the humanitarian community than ensuring that they were safe, protected and assisted to remain in their homes.

Effective disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation could provide vital support to national reconciliation efforts, she said.  The culture of youth violence witnessed in the Mano River Basin and in Côte d’Ivoire would continue to impede reconciliation efforts unless well designed and resourced regional programmes were introduced to address the particular needs of young people brutalized by war and with no means of survival but the gun.

She said that the recognition of rape and other forms of sexual violence as weapons of war raised particularly difficult issues of reconciliation that had only recently begun to be acknowledged.  Beyond the devastating physical, psychological, emotional and social trauma suffered by women and children who were brutally attacked, those egregious crimes undermined cultural values and community relationships and could destroy the very ties that bound society together.  A particularly horrifying consequence with which many were faced was the spectre of HIV/AIDS.

Helping the survivors of sexual violence to heal required a concerted international response, she emphasized.  Humanitarian programmes that provided health, medical, nutritional and psychosocial support, trauma counselling, education and advocacy, therefore, became vital to reconciliation efforts.  Given cultural and social sensitivities, it was especially important that the work be carried out through local non-governmental organizations and women’s initiatives.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the widespread sexual and other violence perpetrated against innocent civilians was the fact that those crimes were committed in a climate of impunity, she said.  In post-conflict situations, reconciliation must be tempered with a clear commitment to ending impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.  While a focus on punishment for past atrocities could destabilize post-conflict situations and undermine national reconciliation, impunity could be an even more dangerous recipe for sliding back into conflict.

Statements

GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany), endorsing the European Union position, said that a starting point in addressing post-conflict reconciliation issues must be that no post-conflict situation was equal to another and that there was no one-size-fits-all solution.  But the opposite was also true:  it was not necessary to reinvent the wheel at every occasion, but there were a few standard parameters and model procedures that could usefully be defined and applied.

First, he said, experiences in Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste had demonstrated the need to define clearly the way in which courts and other mechanisms interacted and complemented each other.  It was important to ensure that, taken together, they covered the whole spectrum of injustice committed during a conflict without leaving an “impunity gap”.  A second parameter must be that those bearing greatest responsibility for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law must not escape punishment.  Thirdly, judicial and non-judicial mechanisms needed local acceptance and legitimacy.  Before they were established, interested segments of a victimized society should be consulted.  Once the mechanisms were operational, they should engage in ongoing outreach efforts.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the spirit and letter of the United Nations Charter made reconciliation, and the maintenance of civil concord among societies, primary to building a world of peace.  With that in mind, it was important for all national reconciliation efforts to diagnose the root causes of conflict.  Here, it was clear that the recurrent presence of certain symptoms, such as seizure of national resources, domination, and the absence of the rule of law, produced violent conflicts of interests, which could be avoided in democratic and fair societies.  National reconciliation could not be dissociated from the need to strengthen the rule of law and justice.  It was necessary to “set the record straight” on inequalities and denials of rights that had led to conflict, and it was equally important to tell the truth about violations of human rights during period of hostilities.

He said that truth and reconciliation commissions established in some countries had tried to address the issue of healing by attempting to dig up the truth and allow populations to face the past.  On the role of the United Nations on issues of impunity of amnesty, he said that in order for the world body to remain an “honest broker”, it must first, as far as possible, avoid placing itself in the position of accuser.  It must also establish conditions where it could credibly threaten the use of force against recalcitrant parties.  By decisively getting involved in mobilizing more resources and generating the requisite political will, many conflicts could be avoided before they began, and, in turn, the international community might not have to finance burdensome peacekeeping operations.  It was better to prevent than to cure.

INOCENCIO ARIAS (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said that despite half a century’s experience in preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping, the United Nations and the international community were only very recently beginning to understand the role they should play in post-conflict situations.  The strengthening and broadening of mandates for peacekeeping operations was no doubt a part of that trend, and they must continue to include components relating to human rights, the rule of law and national reconciliation.  The role of the United Nations in post-conflict situations could take different forms according to each case, from rebuilding justice systems and restoring the rule of law to consolidating national institutions.  However, it must guide and not direct the process, in which the local actors must always have a central role.

Clarifying the truth was essential in post-conflict situations, as was closing the door on impunity for those who had committed acts that were extremely offensive to humankind, he said.  Whatever system was used, the task of establishing the fine balance between seeking justice and national reconciliation was enormously difficult.  The international community now had an independent and impartial forum to render justice in cases of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law where national judicial systems could not do so.  The International Criminal Court could contribute not only to ensuring the effectiveness of human rights standards, but also to the maintenance of international peace.

MICHEL DUCLOS(France) said that, at the heart of the process of national reconciliation were serious political and moral dilemmas.  France believed that, in all cases, the solution to such dilemmas was the establishment of the rule of law.  It was also necessary to ensure a balance of justice, values and cultural concerns.  Wise time management was also necessary, and truth and justice commissions might make a valuable contribution, he added.

But in all cases, there must be no impunity for the commission of crimes during times of war.  Societies emerging from conflict must be allowed to witness and participate in a transparent national reconciliation process.  The International Criminal Court might now provide a contribution in that regard.  He went on to say that the reconciliation process did not depend on justice alone.  It must be inclusive and be spread to all segments of the population.  Special emphasis in that regard should be given to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, and war-affected children.  He added that fair distribution of financial resources, power-sharing and, the provision of health care and educational opportunities were all necessary for restoring trust and creating conditions for long-standing peace and stability.

RONALDO MOTA SARDENBURG (Brazil) said it was widely known that the United Nations had a major role to play, not only in conflict resolution and in the immediate aftermath of fighting, but also in conceiving and conducting long-term post-conflict initiatives such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and restructuring of police, armed forces and judicial systems.  Beyond those issues lay the road to development, democratization and strengthening the rule of law.  Here, there was much the Council could do, particularly if that body sought further collaboration with the Economic and Social Council, as it had done in the cases of Burundi and Guinea-Bissau.

Overall, an emphasis on building trust was indispensable for reconciliation in ravaged societies, he said.  While the United Nations could not impose a durable peace –- actually only victims and perpetrators could strive to reconcile themselves with one another -– it could, by positioning itself as a neutral facilitator, establish favourable conditions, as well as offer political advice and valuable technical assistance in the domains of justice and truth seeking.

Brazil believed that reconciliation efforts were compromised when the legacy of past violence was not properly addressed.  In order to build a long-standing peace, he said, national reconciliation was the most effective way for divided countries to confront threats to stability, promote durable peace and maintain viable democratic institutions and practices.  The complex reconciliation process was “riddled with challenges”, he said, stressing that what worked in one instance was not necessarily a prescription for success in another.  Still, experience had shown that successfully reconciled societies usually underwent an extensive process of truth, justice, reparations and re-establishment of national identities.  He added that closely related to the matter of justice, the search for truth was central to the process, and, in that regard, truth commissions –- as catalysts for public debate -– provided a platform for victims and created common understanding.

He went on to say that in situation of post-conflict reconstruction, the legacy of past violence and human rights abuses must be addressed, and a victim-centred approach was required.  But, at the same time, efforts to ensure and promote justice and the rule of law must be balanced with overall peace-building efforts.  The challenge was to enable the re-integration of offenders while, at the same time, bringing a sense of justice to the victims -- breaking the cycle of impunity and defending the rule of law without provoking a destabilizing backlash, where political stability remained precarious.  Given that context, the concept of restorative justice had been gaining legitimacy as a middle ground between retributive justice and blanket pardon.  Restorative justice addressed the need to preserve public order and to maintain a just peace.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that, while there was no one-size-fits-all formula for post-conflict reconciliation, some general guidelines could be identified.  The first step must be to end the conflict, as well as the accompanying violence and violations of humanitarian law and human rights.  Otherwise, all other measures would ring hollow.  The onus must weigh equitably on all parties concerned.  The second step, which could be taken in parallel with the first, was to address the root causes of conflict.  They could be internal -- including religious or political differences and struggles among political leaders -- or external -- including foreign occupation and the illegal exploitation of natural resources.

In the process of national reconciliation, transparency and openness could be helpful in arresting ongoing violence and violations, he said.  The focus on transitional redress was an important element and could happen only once violence and violations were halted.  However, its pursuit could not be allowed to become an obstacle to peace.  On the other hand, there could be no impunity for the most serious violations, such as genocide and crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention.  The refusal by any party or State to allow the United Nations a role in post-conflict reconciliation could not be a useful sign of its good intentions.  Even where parties were already engaged in peace-building, the Organization could play a useful encouraging or monitoring role.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said the Council had always attached great importance to issues of national reconciliation; most recently it had taken up issues related to Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  While the Council’s efforts were vital, communities and societies within specific countries also had a responsibility to work together towards reconciliation.  The range of activities in that area could be wide, and included the establishment of transitional governments, the creation of truth and reconciliation commissions, and the holding of broad national dialogues.

He went on to stress that the quest for justice should not be an impediment to the quest for peace.  Navigating the challenges of balancing the two required creating the conditions under which national reconciliation could be achieved, particularly, ensuring that conflicting parties did not resort to the use of arms.  United Nations experience had shown that a comprehensive settlement approach was absolutely necessary, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, building a civil society, holding elections, promoting security, judicial and law enforcement reforms, as well as addressing specific concerns such as war-affected women and children.

He noted that the crucial importance of the special responsibilities of conflicting parties had been highlighted by Kosovo and Serbia and Montenegro.  There, interim organs of self-government complicated the political reform process and had even undermined efforts of the Council.  It was clear that a holistic approach, drawing on a division of labour between the United Nations and regional organizations, was vital.

United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa clearly demonstrated the Council’s efforts to ensure national reconciliation, he said.  Further, it was important to note that in Afghanistan, in a relatively short period of time, some fairly significant results had been achieved.  Certainly, much remained to be done, and the Council must maintain its focus in that regard.  The international community, particularly neighbouring countries, must also maintain its focus on the country.  He added that it would be important to convene an international conference devoted to addressing the situation in Afghanistan and the country’s ongoing recovery.  All those lessons must be taken into account as the Council turned to address post-war rehabilitation in Iraq and Liberia, among others.

EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, said the rule of law was essential, but not enough in itself to establish democracy in countries emerging from conflict.  The minimum requirement for democracy was coexistence and harmonious peaceful living among citizens.  In many ways, reconciliation was about promoting trust where it had never existed and re-establishing it where it had been lost.  There was no one blueprint for justice and reconciliation that fit all countries.  Each must be built from the ground up, and local ownership was the best guarantee for success.  Three key steps to re-establishing justice and the rule of law were the ending of injustice, restoring the rule of law, and addressing past crimes after the first two steps had been taken.

Few would argue with the moral authority of the United Nations, an impartial actor with the authority of the international community behind it, he said.  It could bring together different stakeholders to start a dialogue and facilitate security to allow citizens to have some normalcy in their lives and to establish the basis for resumed economic activity.  United Nations agencies must be encouraged to continue and enhance their good work.  With the integration of the different parts of the United Nations system, the Organization would have the right tools to play an important role in post-conflict reconciliation, and it had the breadth of experience to make a difference where other entities could not.

LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines) said that when conflicts and violent confrontations arose and political processes broke down, it was easy to stop violence, the challenge was to begin the process of reconciliation and reverse the dynamics of the discord, in other words:  “Winning the war is easier than winning the peace.”  There were no quick fixes to achieving reconciliation in post-conflict societies, he said, stressing the need for serious efforts in such cases to take stock and make assessments of the conditions under which lasting settlements could be achieved.  National reconciliation was essentially an internal process, which could not be imposed extraneously.

He went on to say that each conflict situation was unique and that the parameters of any reconciliation process must grow out of the specific experiences of the societies concerned.  No external body or organ could impose reconciliation from the outside -– that would be a recipe for disaster.  The stakeholders in post-conflict societies must have a sense of ownership in the process if they were to bring about the mergence of institutions and practices which could capably and creatively resolve the kinds of social and political tensions that had led to conflict.  All this was not to say that outside expertise and guidance that could be provided by organizations such as the United Nations had no place in the reconciliation process.  Indeed, in some cases, the trauma of violent conflict was so deep that conflict parties needed the even-handedness of such organizations.

He said that another important issue that weighed heavily on transitioning societies was how to balance the legitimate demands for justice against the perpetrators of heinous crimes with the vital need for peace and stability.  Should post-conflict societies pursue truth and justice above all else, he asked, or should they focus on attaining political stability?  The correct approach would lie somewhere between those two positions.  While justice was important to the process, it was also necessary for all to understand that retribution might not be feasible in the early stages of post-conflict reconciliation.  That was why one of the most urgent needs at such times was the strengthening of the rule of law and judicial institutions.

Finally he urged the Council not to lose sight of one of the most important goals of reconciliation -- to prevent future conflicts and atrocities.  The United Nations, indeed, had a role in achieving national reconciliation.  Security and development offices within the Organizations’ system -– with the Council in the lead role in generating political will among the parties in conflict areas -- should maintain their core roles as they worked for greater synergy, which would integrate political strategies with development policies.

ISMAEL ABRAAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that stemming from national specificities, lessons could be drawn from national reconciliation processes.  Each method could be effectively applied under the appropriate political conditions if members of the society were ready, and if the forces of division were effectively isolated.

Noting that Angola was marking the second year since the signing of the memorandum of understanding that ended its long civil war, he said that besides signalling the end of that conflict, it marked the beginning of a process and a period of rebirth for a reconciled nation where people, irrespective of their past, could rebuild together free from war, face the challenges of reconstruction and prevent a return to the past.  Social welfare programmes were being implemented throughout the national territory, and members of various political parties had been invited to join the Government of National Reconciliation and the State administration.  Post-conflict reconciliation was being pursued as a process in which people were invited to forgive but not forget, and in which they were being made aware of the dangers that lay ahead in the event of the failure of that process.

JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that like others, Americans had also lived in a post-conflict society.  And although the country’s wrenching national tragedy had ended a century and a half ago, the aftermath still afflicted its society to this day.  Although America’s reconstruction had obviously been achieved without the assistance of the United Nations, its experience could serve as an example for other countries today.  Indeed, justice, reconciliation, reinvigoration of democratic institutions and reintegration into the community of nations were goals as critical today as they had been when America had struggled with them all those years ago.

He said that today advances in communications and increasing interdependence meant that national tragedies were now played out on the world stage.  But along with increased visibility came increased opportunities to make remedies available as countries struggled back towards normalcy.  Deadly conflicts were increasingly occurring within rather than between States.  Following conflict, former belligerents must now resume their roles as neighbours and fellow citizens.  Indeed, finding a home to come home to was the great task of any post-conflict society, he said.  Helping those searching to find that home was the United Nations and its family of agencies.  The Organization continued to assist with various challenges, including war-affected children and other areas.  It had demonstrated expertise in many areas.

In some cases, the United Nations might go as far as to establish an interim administration which would create a post-conflict governing authority until governing parties could be democratically elected.  In other cases, the United Nations might take a narrower role.  Overall, the world body’s job was to help bridge the gap between the end of conflict, reconstruction and lasting peace.  Lessons learned from the past might address those situations that would unfortunately arise in the future. The cost of failure would be high, he added, stressing that the establishment or restoration of democratic governance should be the most important goal.  That would generate the requisite political will, which would ensure that recovery could be maintained.

CHENG JINGYE (China) noted that over the years the United Nations had played a useful role in post-conflict reconciliation and had accumulated a great deal of experience.  In order to be of greater help in such situations, the Organization should examine how to handle the relationship between immediate needs and long-term goals.  The task could hardly be completed at the first attempt, and each phase must have its own focus.

Stressing the need to take account of the relationship between international support and local ownership of the reconciliation process, he said reconciliation was not possible without the support of the international community and the United Nations.  However, it was essential to understand the local conditions, and to avoid imposing solutions on the local actors.  It was hoped that the United Nations would take advantage of the internal synergies available in its agencies in order to be even more effective.

JOEL W. ADECHI (Benin) said that peace agreements and ceasefires were just the initial phases of what should be a long process of national reconciliation.  Indeed, a well thought-out, comprehensive process was the best defence against parties renewing conflict.  Examples of successful national reconciliation had all tackled the issue with an integrated approach.  Short-term solutions would not be successful, and the specific nature of each situation must be borne in mind.  The process must be as inclusive as possible, and the United Nations and regional organizations must play a facilitating role.  He went on to highlight the national reconciliation process that was taking hold in his country.

He also noted that, in some cases, hasty elections could destabilize delicate balances that had been achieved, stressing that it was better to take the time to build consensus before taking action.  Often, it was a good idea to establish an advisory body -- in which all of the parties participated -- to address political, social and economic issues.   In all this, the United Nations had an important role to play through strengthening the fragile environment in which reconciliation took place.  The Organization was often the only link through which combatants communicated.  It could also address humanitarian issues, and promote real prospects for social justice by restructuring the social fabric of war-torn societies.  He added that the United Nations must also never lose sight of the effects of poverty on post-conflict situations.

MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania), associating himself with the European Union, said that United Nations peacekeeping forces were doing excellent work in interposing themselves between hostile parties, sometimes at risk to their own lives.  It was necessary to put together and equip them in such a way that they could not only prevent hostilities, but also bring parties together.

Emphasizing the importance of political reform and the rule of law, he said that a sound economic and political reform programme, as well as the elimination of corruption, could lead to a peaceful reconciliation process in Georgia.  On the other hand, reform that was too rapid or inadequate could be counterproductive.  Romania appealed to the people and leaders of Kosovo to commit to a true resolution of their conflict.

Noting that reconciliation could not be achieved overnight, he said it required several generations.  A sound initial framework was needed, as was constant encouragement.  Also, the Security Council needed a sound understanding of the political dynamics on the ground.  Peacekeeping missions and United Nations representatives must also have a clear mandate and authority with the full support of the Council in order to achieve progress in difficult political conditions.

As the Council resumed its deliberations in the afternoon, Council President SOLEDAD ALVEAR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, whose delegation had proposed today’s debate, said post-conflict societies faced many challenges, including demands for justice and accountability, the search for truth, compensation for victims, strengthening the rule of law, ensuring stability, and building the future without losing sight of the past.  Speaking in her national capacity, she said the traumatic consequences of crisis required a process of moral, institutional and socio-economic reconstruction to fashion a new order with a sense of belonging so that a resumption of conflict could be avoided.  Reconciliation was not a utopian objective, he said, stressing that the process was a collective response of a society emerging from crisis.  Reconciliation put an end to the cycle of violence and laid the foundation for a new coexistence.

With all that in mind, she said that efforts must be focused on creating conditions that promoted reconciliation, which could in no way be imposed.  It was a complex task in which it was necessary to consider the diversity of experiences, namely, the political, social and cultural realities of affected countries.  During post-conflict periods, the United Nations had an opportunity to contribute to the moral and material rebuilding of institutions.  The Organization’s responsibility went beyond the restoration of peace and minimum security conditions, she added; it must cooperate in restoring the capacity for dialogue between the various social actors, respect for diversity and the will to work towards a common goal.

She said the United Nations had been able to and must continue to maintain its status as an independent and legitimizing body whose aim was to guarantee the conditions for stable peace.  A strategy for reconciliation must have as its underlying principles truth, justice and compensation, accompanied by assertive economic and social policies.  Respect for human rights norms and instruments made it possible to develop effective policies to prevent the commission of human rights atrocities, she added.  In addition to the action of the justice system, the path to reconciliation required clear policies of moral and material compensation for victims and their families.  She went on to say that effective reconciliation strategies must take into account the special situation of war-affected children, as well as the role played by women in the peace-building process and the contributions they could make the design and implementation of appropriate strategies.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that national reconciliation was both “a process and a goal”.  Post-conflict situations posed numerous and formidable challenges, and the European Union believed that only by adopting a comprehensive and concerted approach to all peace-building challenges could the process towards longer-term political stability and societal well-being confidently begin.  The United Nations was in a unique position to deliver an integrated approach, which bridged political, peacekeeping, humanitarian, human rights, judicial and development processes and actors.

Lasting national reconciliation would always prove elusive without sustained national commitment at governmental and institutional levels, he said. Experiences suggested that some broad principles that underpinned national reconciliation could be developed, even though application would have to be tailored to specific situations.  By example, he cited inclusiveness -– without which no reconciliation could take root -– transparency, institutional and constitutional reform and social and economic integration, among others.  He also stressed that for peace to be sustainable, warring parties must be brought together, clear understandings must be reached, and integration or reintegration must take place.  In that regard, the painstaking but vitally important efforts to reintegrate former combatants should be a focus.

But, at the same time, attention should be paid to the legitimate economic and social needs of civil populations, whose lives and livelihoods had often been destroyed as a result of conflict.  Equitable sharing of resources between communities might also be mentioned in that context, he added.  He went on to stress the importance of healing processes, promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation which acknowledged and addressed the suffering of victims, and post-conflict environmental assessments, without which overall reconstruction initiatives could be delayed.  National reconciliation was a primary objective of United Nations peacekeeping and peace-building operation in post-conflict States.  By example, he cited operations in Angola, Afghanistan, Kosovo, East Timor and Burundi.  But, at the same time, he noted that challenges still remained in the areas of enhanced cooperation and coordination among relevant United Nations actors at the field level, particularly between political and development entities.

The European Union would, therefore, urge the Organization’s various entities to continue efforts to enhance cooperation, particularly with the Bretton Woods institutions.  He said that genuine reconciliation was often out of reach unless those responsible for egregious crimes were held to account.  And while a balance must be struck between the goals of penal justice and reconciliation, the European Union agreed with the Secretary-General’s view that there should be no granting of amnesties for war crimes, genocide crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.  But while noting that the primary responsibility for prosecuting those responsible for such crimes fell to domestic legal systems, he stressed that the Union also believed the International Criminal Court provided a powerful, permanent instrument of deterrence to crimes against humanity, and it remained committed to promoting the Court’s effective functioning.

VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia), aligning himself with the European Union, compared post-conflict reconciliation to the growth of a tree.  To grow strong and lasting, with deep roots and wide branches many components were required:  soil, water, sunshine and nutrition.  But above all, time and patience were of the essence.  Unfortunately, in many post-conflict areas, the international community’s approach sometimes lacked both, trying to achieve too many things in too little time.  Post-conflict reconciliation could be assisted through political, financial, technical and other means, but it could not be imposed from the outside.

While there was an important distinction between confidence-building and reconciliation, the former was a crucial prerequisite for the latter, he noted.  To ignore the difference would slow down the reconciliation process.  The respective populations at the grass-roots level were fully aware of the difference, a fact that no international mediation should overlook.  One must listen carefully to and respect the voices of the region, of the nations and the individuals concerned.

He said that providing the populations of war-torn areas with the prospect of a better life was the best possible investment in national and regional stability.  That perspective went beyond basic economic categories, although providing steady jobs, especially for former combatants, remained a priority.  Moreover, commonly shared goals and interests were at the core of the confidence-building process.  The prospect of joining the European Union, for examples, was a strong incentive for all the countries of the former Yugoslavia to initiate far-reaching reforms in the fields of the economy, justice and internal affairs.

JOE ROBERT PEMAGBI (Sierra Leone) said the guns might have been silent for two years in his country, but the divisions remained and could only disappear if the wounds of war were healed and the scars were seen only as reminders of conflict-relapse prevention.  Sierra Leoneans were also aware that genuine national reconciliation was a process driven by the courage to forgive, the common sense of peaceful coexistence, and a deep sense of belonging that compelled parties to the conflict to compromise in the interest of their country and the desire to participate in the effort to address the issues that had engendered discord.

In Sierra Leone’s quest to promote national reconciliation as a pivot of durable peace, he said, the country had instituted two accountability mechanisms that were running concurrently -- the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.  The Special Court, with no punitive power, had the responsibility to create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law related to the armed conflict in Sierra Leone; to address impunity and respond to the needs of victims; to promote healing and reconciliation; and to prevent a repetition of the violations and abuses suffered.

Pointing out that United Nations agencies, notably the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), were engaged in activities that were fundamental to national reconciliation in Sierra Leone, he said the Organization should expand those activities.  Since the post-conflict phase was absolutely critical in the transition from conflict to durable peace, it should be made an integral part of all United Nations peacekeeping operations.

There was hardly any conflict in Africa that did not have a regional or international dimension, he said.  Therefore, measures to address post-conflict national reconciliation should go beyond national boundaries and actively engage the external layers.  The fate of some countries in conflict was inextricably bound to that of some of their neighbours.  It was also important to consider that suggestion in the light of borders that divided ethnic groups, making some conflicts rather fluid and prone to spill across borders.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said none could overestimate the importance of national reconciliation for societies that had suffered from bitter conflict.  Such processes could help communities that had been thus torn to achieve peace, stability and long-term development.  With that in mind, it was essential to examine the unique complexities of every conflict situation. No universal strategy could be applied.  It was important to ensure ownership of the reconciliation process by the parties to a conflict.  Such ownership would encompass efforts to ensure national healing and justice, as well as economic and social development.

He added that the United Nations and the international community should also highlight the economic benefits of peace and reconciliation.  That would generate a feeling of hope, which would, in turn, help alleviate the feelings of distrust that had perhaps generated the conflict in the first place.  It would also help with efforts to address issues like employment and education, as well as refugees and IDPs.

With that in mind, the United Nations was equipped to coordinate all reconciliation efforts with a clear strategy -- agreed among the Member States -- which would govern the role of the Organization in peace-building, he said.  That would require systemwide cooperation between the Security Council and the Organization’s various other bodies, agencies and funds.

MIRZA KUSLJUGIC (Bosnia and Herzegovina), aligning himself with the European Union, said his country was still going through the process of post-conflict national reconciliation in which the United Nations, alongside the Peace Implementation Council and the Office of the High Representative, had played key roles.  The Dayton Peace Accord had brought peace, but failed to distinguish the aggressor from the victim.  All Bosnians could agree that there had been no winner in the conflict.  All parties would also agree that the war had been imported as part of a wider conflict in the region.

Noting that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia epitomized the role of the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s post-conflict reconciliation, he said its main task was to prosecute the individuals responsible for war crimes, thus, absolving the nations concerned of possible collective guilt.  Its second main task was to establish the facts and set the record straight, bequeathing the truth to history.

One of the most tragic consequences of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as of other conflicts around the world, was the huge number of missing persons, mostly civilians, he said.  Resolving the issue was not only a humanitarian matter, but also a very important political issue and one of the basic preconditions for establishing durable peace and stability.  Primary responsibility for carrying out those tasks remained with the authorities under whose jurisdiction suspected crimes had been committed, but if they were not willing to carry out the excavation of suspected mass graves and other investigative activities, the task would be passed to international organizations and mechanisms.

Noting that such undertakings were expensive, he said they depended on full international political and financial support, as well as on the military and logistical support of peacekeeping forces in the field.  The process should be properly coordinated, avoiding overlapping mandates and providing adequate use of financial resources.

Stressing that reconciliation was a fragile, long-lasting and cumbersome process, he noted that the mandate of the first High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina had been one year.  Eight years later, the fourth High Representative had as much work to do as the first one.  National reconciliation was not possible without national catharsis, which could only be reached by self-examination through the stethoscope of objective and unquestionable facts, provided that there was an environment without fear, xenophobia or collective guilt -- an atmosphere of dialogue, understanding and forgiveness.

HENRI RAUBENHEIMER (South Africa) said that questions of reconciliation and the future, on the one hand, and the necessity to establish the truth in relation to past events and ensure reparations to the victims of gross human rights abuses, on the other hand, had to be carefully considered both during and after the historic transition from apartheid to a constitutional democracy.

He said that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission had been established with the aim of granting amnesty from criminal and civil liability to people who made full disclosures of acts committed with a political objective during the course of conflicts of the past; affording victims an opportunity to relate the violations they had suffered; taking measures aimed at the granting of reparations to victims; restoring the human and civil dignity of victims of human rights violations; and making recommendations aimed at the prevention of the commission of human rights violations.

National reconciliation, however, had not automatically emerged at the closing of the Commission’s work, but was continuing to develop with the building of a nation based on shared values and a common destiny, he said.  The disparities existing between South Africans as a result of apartheid required immediate redress and continued to place a strain on the national capacity to cope with the demands of ordinary citizens to experience the fruits of liberation.  In order to avoid the risk that people’s expectations might lead to instability, the Government had embarked on large-scale social and economic and empowerment projects addressing such basic needs as water, sanitation, housing, education and health services.

The engagement of the United Nations brought legitimacy and moral authority to conflict resolution based on its Charter, he said.  Durable peace was not achieved simply through the signing of peace agreements.  It also required a comprehensive approach involving the active participation of the entire United Nations system.  The Organization’s role would be to create the enabling environment in which that process could occur and the United Nations should assist in creating the mechanisms to bring about reconciliation.  The Security Council should work closely with other United Nations organs, such as the Economic and Social Council, to ensure that international peace and security was, indeed, maintained.

GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said his country had gained first-hand experience in the area of national reconciliation through the implementation of various peace agreements.  Guatemala had recognized that reconciliation must arise from within, since any attempt to impose it from outside was doomed to failure.  He noted that agreements had been concluded by the Arzu Administration in 1966, assimilated by the Portillo Administration in 2000 as State commitments, and barely a week ago, assimilated again by the current administration of President Berger.  That said, the international cooperation that had accompanied those developments had been indispensable, and the presence of the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) and the backing of the UNDP and other United Nations agencies had proved irreplaceable.

He also stressed that, as in other countries, Guatemala had established a truth commission and that body’s report, “Guatemala:  Memory of Silence”, had no doubt contributed to reconciliation by bringing light to facts that had been heretofore concealed.  It had also given rise to a programme aimed at awarding compensation for victims.  Even with all this, he said it was important to recognize the frustration felt by some citizens that the compensation programme had been too modest and that those found responsible for the actions detailed in the Commission’s report had not always been brought to justice.

He went on to say that the importance of strengthening the rule of law and administration of justice during national reconciliation process could not be underestimated.  Guatemala had been plagued by a legacy of armed conflict and clandestine bodies that had violated human rights, and, in a new unprecedented effort to address such concerns, had just this month signed a relevant agreement with the United Nations.  That agreement established a new type of international mission, which, while acting within the framework of Guatemalan law, was empowered to investigate the clandestine apparatuses and sought to dismantle them, identify their members, and ensure they were prosecuted before criminal courts.  Finally, he stressed that peace in his country was irreversible, and the United Nations could be proud of its presence and participation in the fulfilments of peace agreements in Guatemala.

OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru) said that national reconciliation was a complex process that depended on the existing socio-political conditions of a country, as well as the nature and severity of the civil conflict suffered.  Nevertheless, three fundamental preconditions for national reconciliation could be identified.

The first element was the truth, he said.  As the truth was a fundamental element, truth commissions had been established whose merit did not consist in a detailed recounting of all the violent events of a civil conflict, because it was difficult to rebuild a fact in detail after some time.  On the contrary, the merit of the truth commissions was to bring into the open what had been hidden and had not been perceived in a nation’s daily political behaviour.

He said that the truth was so important for reconciliation that the commissions, established when Latin America had been traumatized by the many human rights violations of the 1970s and 1980s, had spread to other parts of the world.  In Peru, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had been created by supreme decree in June 2001 to clarify the process, facts and responsibilities of terrorism, violence and human rights violations that occurred between May 1980 and November 2000.  The Commission, considered by experts as a valuable model for Latin America, had delivered its report in August 2003.

The second precondition for reconciliation was compensation for innocent victims and the rehabilitation of zones affected by conflicts, he said.  The third element of reconciliation was justice.  If truth was a precondition for reconciliation, then justice was its condition and result.  Reconciliation did not mean forgetting or impunity, but implied the value of justice, which required the judging of human rights violators.  For that reason, in many cases, justice required profound judicial reforms and the spread of a culture of human rights so that crimes against humanity could not be repeated.

V.K. NAMBIAR (India) said the nub of the present debate seemed to concentrate on the effects of the intra-State conflicts that had bedeviled the international scene during the post-cold war period.  With that in mind, it was axiomatic that reconciliation within any nation must be not only home-grown, but home-nurtured.  Indeed, there were any number of examples where solutions had been imposed from the outside had collapsed when those external influences had disappeared.

Similarly, any process that did not fully involve the participation of all segments of local populations was also unlikely to yield lasting peace.  He added that it had been said that “peace looks to the future and justice to the past”, and it was clear that if true reconciliation was to be achieved, there must be a blend of both values.  However wrenching the process might be, the various contending parties must deal with each other in order to arrive at mutual accommodation and deal with issues relating to the past, including those relating to peace, justice, reparations and amnesty.

He went on to say that the judicial systems of post-conflict societies also needed to be injected with new vigour.  The establishment of criminal courts, truth commissions and some system of reparations for victims might be necessary in certain circumstances.  It was India’s view that the United Nations should play a supportive and facilitating role, without seeking to impose the views or values of a particular country or group of countries on the delicate process of reconciliation under way in war-torn societies.  That was not to belittle or underplay the Organization’s role, or its considerable expertise in dealing with complex crisis situations, he added.  Nor was it an argument against basic benchmarks of human rights values which needed to be adhered to by all societies.  What was of paramount importance was to recognize the complexity of any national reconciliation exercise and deal with it from a perspective informed by sympathy and understanding rather than prescription.

Before the United Nations became involved in a particular post-conflict situation, the world body must recognize that there were no uniform approaches it could be called upon to apply.  Indeed, every post-conflict situation had its distinctive characteristics, which should be given full weight when initiatives and strategies were devised.  India believed that the United Nations could also help ensure the centrality of local actors in reconciliation processes.  India also believed that the national reconciliation must be a “soft” process of cooperation.  It could not be thrust on an unwilling or unprepared society.  The role of the United Nations in supporting such process should be focused on a needs-based approach, including democracy, security and peace, economic freedom, social order and justice.

BRUNO STAGNO UGARTE (Costa Rica) said that the building of peace at the end of armed conflict meant ending pernicious cycles of hatred and destruction and constructing an atmosphere of mutual trust.  Any programme of reconciliation must re-examine the past, as well as the underlying causes of conflict.  It was indispensable to create an atmosphere that promoted thinking.  Reconciliation could not be confined to going over past grievances and punishing the guilty, but must also be future-oriented and have as its final product a culture of forgiveness and peace.

He said that prosecution and punishing the leaders and those guilty of atrocities had been useful in some cases, while in others amnesties had been helpful.  In order for justice to be served, there must be recognition of the victims’ sufferings and of how amends could be made.  It was essential for all parties to recognize that working together was indispensable for building the peace.

The international community must assist local efforts, and the United Nations could facilitate reconciliation in that context, he said.  When the parties agreed to use truth commissions, the international community must provide support and ensure that the local population saw them as impartial.  Recourse to local tribunals could present difficulties if they were not seen to be impartial or when due process was seen to be lacking for one party or the other.  In addition, amnesties must never be seen as mechanisms for concealing the truth or protecting those responsible for human rights violations.

MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said that, in the context of post-conflict situations, the United Nations had invaluable experience in reconstruction and peace-building.  That experience highlighted that each situation had its own unique qualities that could not be addressed with a uniform policy.  Recent cases of Kosovo, Sierra Leone and others had been very different from each other. Morocco agreed with the Secretary-General that the Council should, therefore, strive for creativity when it approached post- conflict situations, while closely adhering to realities on the ground.

He cited the cases of including women in the rehabilitation of Afghanistan, the inclusion of all ethnic groups in the political processes of Kosovo, and efforts to ensure broad reintegration of child combatants in Sierra Leone and other African countries as examples of situation-specific concerns.  The role of the Council should be to provide adequate responses and to provide mandates equal to field-level realities.  In post-conflict reconciliation situations, the Council and the wider United Nations should also strive to maintain neutrality.  He also highlighted the need for justice and healing in reconciliation processes.

At the heart of current conflict, the international community must foster dialogue and seek lasting solutions, which might preserve peace and stability.  All possibilities to achieve peace must be explored while respecting the sovereign integrity of States.  He said national reconciliation efforts also required greater cooperation among international agencies and the various bodies of the United Nations.  More cooperation was particularly needed between the Council and the Economic and Social Council.  The discussions currently under way on United Nations reform would also provide an opportunity to consider creative ways to address and overcome the Organization’s shortcomings in this area.

KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said there were several things that the international community and the United Nations must do to promote reconciliation in precarious post-conflict societies.  The first task was the restoration of justice.  Punishing under the law those who had perpetrated serious crimes against humanity would certainly contribute to national reconciliation and deter others from committing similar crimes.  At the same time, however, reconciliation did not progress significantly while a trial was under way, particularly when the trial took a long time to complete.

Stressing the importance of ending discrimination and social injustice, he said that if a segment of the population felt subjected to social inequity, that situation had the potential to develop into a conflict.  As long as such conditions continued, it would be difficult to achieve and consolidate reconciliation.  It was, therefore, critically important to eliminate unfair discriminatory systems among people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds so as to establish a society where they could live together in peace.

While the international community could contribute in that regard, he said, it was not easy to define what two parties that had been involved in a conflict would accept as equitable.  It was essential that the parties themselves talk to each other calmly and patiently and apply themselves to accumulating successful outcomes one at a time.  The international community should support the creation of frameworks to facilitate such discussions.

Underscoring the importance of economic and social development, he said that areas in which conflict arose were often plagued by poverty.  The economic and social difficulties that people continued o experience in their daily lives made it more likely that they would be conscious of social injustice or feel rancour towards those they perceived to be the source of social injustice.  A most effective means of achieving reconciliation was to create conditions in which people were able to hope that their lives would be better in the future.

CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said his country had regained its democracy in 1983 after a bloody authoritarian conflict that had been characterized by gross violations of human rights, including kidnappings and extrajudicial killings.  At the end of the conflict, the citizens had felt that only on the basis of truth and justice would it be possible to create a future where peace and stability could reign.  When programmes got under way to try those responsible for war crimes, there were some who had decried the national reconciliation process, but Argentina had, nevertheless, moved forward with its efforts to seek the truth.  Further efforts had set out a strategy to compensate the victims of the conflicts.  Still, legal measures had been taken to exempt many of those that had been identified as perpetrators of the most heinous acts.  The country’s current Government had subsequently moved to rescind the laws that had shielded those persons.

Argentina believed that the identification of those responsible for human rights atrocities and compensations programmes for those that had suffered at the hands of criminal actors had proved invaluable for the country.  He added that the establishment of truth and reconciliation commissions had also been helpful.  Argentina supported the establishment of the International Criminal Court and other special courts with both national and international components.  What was most important was that the selected truth and reconciliation method should enjoy broad consensus.  Another lesson Argentina had learned was that reconciliation could not be imposed from abroad –- the efforts must be home-grown.  At the same time, however, international assistance and cooperation was often necessary.

MARC NTETURUYE (Burundi) said that a number of African conflicts were civil wars pitting sons and daughters of the same nation against one another.  During an open Security Council debate in September 2003, the Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations had reminded the Council that the objectives of justice and those of reconciliation sometimes seemed to contradict each other.  The proper balance was difficult to strike, but not impossible.

Burundi had committed itself to a peace settlement for six years now, but Burundians were still decrying a situation of impunity, he said.  Many criminals were still in circulation in the country, demonized by some and idolized by others.  Today, the peace agreements that had been signed granted provisional amnesty to political leaders who had returned from exile, but civilian victims of the conflict wondered if the provisional amnesty would not become permanent since some of the beneficiaries had made no secret of their political ambitions.

Noting that reconciliation was not incompatible with justice, he said Burundi needed impartial and conciliatory justice alongside an elimination of the idea of killing.  The United Nations could help achieve peace and reconciliation in Burundi by mobilizing the international community.  The repatriated displaced persons, returning exiles, child soldiers and poor people all needed rehabilitation, without which peace and reconciliation would remain simply a pious wish.

KIM SAM-HOON (Republic of Korea) said that in post-conflict situations, only when peace agreements were underpinned by a spirit of reconciliation shared by all segments of the society -- not just an elite group of leaders or negotiators -- could a genuine and lasting peace be secured.  The creation of reconciliation through the promotion of trust and mutual understanding in the aftermath of prolonged conflict was, therefore, the most essential –- albeit daunting –- task in the process of post-conflict nation building.  For reconciliation to take place, all conflicting parties must recognize its vital necessity.  An atmosphere of compromise and tolerance must dictate a new set of self-sustaining relationships, he added.

While bearing in mind that reconciliation could not be imposed from the outside, the United Nations had, nevertheless, been able to help the victims of conflict to address their plight, bring estranged communities together, and find ways for various parties to establish common ground.  He cited United Nations efforts in Afghanistan, Angola and Guinea-Bissau as examples of positive efforts in that regard.  At the same time, while lauding the world body’s work in those and other post-conflict situations, he stressed the need for the Council to consider exit strategies during the early stages of mission development, so that peacekeeping resources could be deployed to areas of greatest need.

From the outset, the goal of peacekeeping missions should be to coordinate the various efforts of United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, local governments and civil society actors to lead the affected country towards self-sufficiency.  He also stressed that it was important to strike the right balance between leaving the past behind through amnesty and revisiting injustices through prosecution, so that post-conflict societies could build a shared future from the ashes of their divided past.

DEJAN SAHOVIC (Serbia and Montenegro), aligning himself with the European Union, said, regarding the former Yugoslavia, that peoples who once lived in a multinational society now needed to achieve reconciliation in an inter-State context.  Following the end of hostilities in 1995, inter-State relations had improved, and all the countries involved, including Serbia and Montenegro, shared an aspiration to join mainstream European and Euro-Atlantic organizations.  There was a realization of the need to develop good-neighbourly relations, and the improvement of relations was a top priority of the Government of Serbia and Montenegro.

However, mistrust still prevailed at the grass-roots level, he said.  There were different opinions on crucial questions of responsibility for what had happened.  Perceptions differed as to who were the victims and who the executors.  Basically, there was a need, within and among the societies in question, for an understanding of the causes and consequences of the conflicts and wars before substantial reconciliation could be sought.

The role of justice was central in that regard, he said.  The aim of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the former Yugoslavia since 1991.  However, its work and practices had not contributed to the promotion of reconciliation, and some aspects of its activities had gone beyond the aims stated in Security Council resolution 827 (1993), actually entering the sphere of domestic politics.  Hence, the Tribunal was perceived by the public as a political tool rather than an instrument of justice, and its work had become a high-priority issue on the domestic political agenda.

He said that in his country’s province of Kosovo, now in the fifth year under United Nations administration, ethnic communities remained as far apart as ever, and the Serbian community was struggling to survive.  Only symbolic numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons had returned, and no perpetrators of crimes against non-Albanians had been brought to justice.  The underlying problem was that the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) had not yet succeeded in creating even elementary conditions conducive to the opening of a political debate among the communities regarding the modalities for their coexistence in Kosovo.  Much more resolve and consistency were necessary on the part of UNMIK in order first to begin to create a safe environment for non-Albanians and fully ensure their human rights, and then to include them meaningfully in political life.

STANISLAS KAMANZI (Rwanda) said the challenges his country faced in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide had been particularly grave.  The myriad challenges involved not only national reconciliation and confidence-building measures between communities, but also establishing a climate of peace and security, promoting economic renewal, and reviving governing institutions.  Post-conflict situations varied, as did reconciliation strategies.  Therefore, United Nations strategies should be tailored to specific circumstances.

By July 1994, out of Rwanda’s 8 million people, 1 million had been killed,  2 million had fled to other countries, and almost all the rest had been internally displaced, he said.  All economic activities had grounded to a halt and the security situation in the country at the time could be described as fragile at best.  Food production, as well as other humanitarian services, had been severely disrupted.

Among the many lessons that had come out of the tragedy, Rwanda had learned that a national reconciliation process could last for many years or even generations, he said.  The first step had been the creation of an enabling environment for such reconciliation to take place.  That had involved such things as the return of refugees and IDPs, restarting economic activities and providing medical and other social services.  The United Nations, he added, had a wealth of expertise in those areas and could and should play a key role.

He went on to say that the Government had also established a truth and reconciliation commission and had charged it with facilitating nationwide discussion of what had gone so wrong with politics and governance in the country in order to ensure that the tragedies of 1994 would never occur again.  Rwanda had also faced the challenge of promoting unity and reconciliation while ensuring that those who committed the crimes were brought to justice.  He said that justice was aimed at eradicating impunity that had for so long been a part of Rwandan life.  Justice had also been aimed at the rehabilitation of the offenders.  The United Nations should provide assistance and expertise in that area.

The United Nations also had a self-evident role to play in ensuring that other agencies aimed at promoting national reconciliation were more ethics-driven and cost-effective.  Government reform had also become a large part of Rwanda’s reconciliation efforts.  On economic and social recovery, he said that the United Nations could play a leading role in generating financial resources.  Ownership by local actors was crucial to the overall success of the reconciliation process.

CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) said that mechanisms of transitional regimes were gaining ground as necessary tools for obtaining justice and truly promoting prevention, as well as appropriate compensation for victims.  National reconciliation could be seen as necessarily linked to the meting out of communal justice to avoid impunity.

There was no single panacea for achieving national reconciliation, and each society must test whatever remedies were closest to its own traditions, he said.  There was still a great deal to be done in perfecting all the different systems.  With truth commissions, it was felt that publishing the facts gave satisfaction to victims, while the path of criminal justice involved prosecuting and punishing those accused of grave crimes.

Sierra Leone had been able to combine a tribunal and a truth commission, he said.  The necessity was to establish a delicate balance.  If a country opted for a truth commissions, it must create a faithful account fuelled by the accounts of the victims.  It was also possible to try different configurations in an attempt to achieve the best combination.

The International Criminal Court was also likely to make a significant contribution, he said.  However, whatever path was taken must be in keeping with the reality of each situation and accord with the rules of justice.  There must be democratic consensus, as well as the possibility of alternative systems, to establish guilt in order to build an environment of security and assurance.

CHRISTIAN WENAWASER (Liechtenstein) said that while in recent years, the United Nations had contributed to the transition from armed conflict to post-conflict situations, the focus had been on the first stages of the process –- peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building, and increasingly, on aspects of individual transitional justice.  The subject of today’s debate, on the other hand, was a long-term process that required sustained commitment beyond such initial stages.  It was a process not necessarily directed at individual responsibility, but rather at overcoming root causes of a conflict in order to avoid its recurrence.  Reconciliation was a far more complex undertaking than the delivery of individual justice and was much more deeply linked to the very specific circumstances of conflict situations, as well as the political, cultural, social and ethnic structure of the communities and societies involved.

That had led to a rather ambiguous conclusion about the role of the United Nations in such instances, he continued.  While the reconciliation process promoted the world body’s main purpose -– the maintenance of international peace and security –- it did not automatically follow that the United Nations should play a significant role in such processes, he said.  Each and every situation must be examined individually so that the need for United Nations involvement could be assessed in light of all prevailing circumstances.  Reconciliation must not be imposed; rather, it must stem from within the societies involved.  Indeed, each post-conflict society must find its own avenue of reconciliation in order to feel ownership in the process, if it was to be lasting.  In most cases, the United Nations would, therefore, play a role in assisting such processes.

He went on to say that ownership was also vital in order to strike a balance between the ideals of justice and reconciliation.  There were cases where he two were complementary -– and Liechtenstein believed that justice must always be rendered in order to address serious international crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity.  But often the two ideals could be competing, and the society concerned must make the decision, invariably a painful and difficult one, on how the balance between the two could be struck.  Again, the United Nations and other organizations could provide useful assistance.  He said the United Nations could also assist post-conflict societies by providing analysis of best practices from other countries and concrete technical assistance.  It could further assist in helping set up specific mechanisms and institutions such as truth and reconciliation commissions.

N.E. NDEKHEDEHE (Nigeria), noting that the Secretary-General’s appointment of a Special Representative and the International Contact Group on Liberia had facilitated post-conflict reconciliation in that country, urged the United Nations to continue with that strategy.  The Organization should also assist in the deployment of United Nations troops and in providing humanitarian assistance.  Regarding the vital area of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), particularly the reintegration aspect, he said faulty DDR had led to the collapse of the first United Nations peace Mission in Liberia.

Pervasive poverty and the general weak economic situations in most developing countries were often responsible for the exacerbation of conflicts, he said.  Most countries emerging from conflict were still characterized by massive unemployment, high mortality rates and low levels of infrastructural development.  Thus, for any meaningful reconciliation to endure, particular efforts were needed to address not only political problems, but also economic and social ones.

The proliferation of small arms and light weapons was a major impediment to the peace, stability, security and economic development of many developing countries, especially in Africa, he said.  Those arms continued to have devastating consequences on the African continent considering their capacity to fuel, intensify and prolong conflicts.  Nigeria, therefore, welcomed the establishment of an open-ended working group to develop an international instrument that would enable States to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons and ensure that unauthorized persons no longer had easy access to them.

PHILIPPE DJANGONE-BI(Côte d’Ivoire) said the role of the United Nations in post-conflict situations was critical, and the world body must ensure that parties to peace negotiations fairly and equitably abided by peace agreements.  Noting that the idea of national reconciliation and what it entailed often changed during the long process of post-war consolidation, he highlighted the transformation his country had undergone following the signing last January of a French-brokered accord, which called upon the Government, rebels and political opposition to share power in a transitional government until elections in 2005.

He said that in the wake of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement, his country had become a “shining example” of the work being done by France, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations and the wider international community; Côte d’Ivoire was emerging from one of the most dire upheavals in its history.

RAVAN A.G. FARHADI (Afghanistan) said today marked a historical day in his country’s history, as President Karzai had earlier signed the new Afghan Constitution, which had been adopted by the Loya Jirga on 5 January.  The Constitution, which had been drafted with input from all ethnic groups and segments of Afghan society, provided for the establishment of democratic structures based on democratic principles and values.  Furthermore, it assured equal rights for men and women, freedom of expression, political pluralism, free and fair elections, and the full participation of women in the country’s political, economic and social activities.  That major event marked another step in the implementation of the Agreement brokered by the United Nations and signed by Afghanistan in 2001.

The adoption of the new Constitution also proved the capacity of Afghans to agree on major issues related to national reconciliation.  He stressed that the situation in the country had changed greatly since the signing of the Bonn Agreement in 2001 and that issues of reconstruction, DDR and rehabilitation should be addressed at an international conference where donors would decide on enhancing international assistance.

Despite much progress since 2001, many challenges remained, however, among them, the slow pace of reconstruction and lingering poverty, which had pushed thousands of farmers to cultivate lucrative poppy crops, he said.  The remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda also continued their attempts to destabilize the Transitional Authority.  Strong international commitment to address those serious issues would have a positive effect on stability and security and also contribute to the successful holding of presidential and parliamentary elections set for this coming June.

IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said most conflicts and crises in Africa pitted various ethnic groups or rival armed factions against each other.  It was vital, therefore, to identify the root causes of conflict when efforts began to start national reconciliation processes.  Without such reconciliation, it was impossible to establish modern, democratic States with respect for rights and freedoms.  The United Nations had been making praiseworthy efforts on the continent and had been successful in facilitating ceasefire agreements between former combatants or warring parties.  The world body had also made strides in mine action, DDR and the efforts of various countries to jump start economic and political processes.

He said it was important to ensure that the United Nations and its agencies were provided with the requisite resources to ensure wider reconciliation efforts on the continent.  At the same time, local governments must make efforts to ensure the involvement of women and youth in national reconciliation efforts.  Post-conflict societies must also deal with the need to find a balance between the desire for peace and the absolutely vital need for justice.

But whatever its importance, he said the efforts of the United Nations and other international agencies would not be enough to ensure long-term reconciliation.  Real reconciliation, justice and forgiveness could never hold unless the parties to conflict made the necessary efforts to ensure tolerance and to promote dialogue.  Only if conflict parties worked towards that goal could the communities and societies of affected countries achieve peace and long-term development.

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*     The 4900th, 4901st and 4902nd Meetings were closed.

For information media. Not an official record.