SPEAKERS STRESS CIVIL SOCIETY’S IMPORTANT, EXPANSIVE ROLE IN BUILDING PEACE IN COUNTRIES FOLLOWING CONFLICT, DURING SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE
SPEAKERS STRESS CIVIL SOCIETY’S IMPORTANT, EXPANSIVE ROLE IN BUILDING PEACE IN COUNTRIES FOLLOWING CONFLICT, DURING SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE
4993rd Meeting (AM & PM)
SPEAKERS STRESS CIVIL SOCIETY’S IMPORTANT, EXPANSIVE ROLE IN BUILDING PEACE
IN COUNTRIES FOLLOWING CONFLICT, DURING SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATE
Secretary-General Says Two-Way Dialogue between UN, Civil Society
Needed, Not So One Directs the Other, But to Ensure Complementary Efforts
Calling for a two-way dialogue between the United Nations and civil society, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council today that the purpose was not so that one could direct the other, but to ensure that their respective efforts complemented each other.
As the Council held a daylong open debate on the role of civil society in post-conflict peace-building, the Secretary-General emphasized, however, that civil society organizations should not be seen as peace-building partners only after the United Nations had arrived in a country with a mandate in its pocket. On the contrary, both local and international civil society groups had a role to play in the deliberative processes of the United Nations, including the Security Council, where civil conflict and complex emergencies had taken centre stage in recent years.
While the Council was a body of sovereign governments dealing with the most sensitive matters of war and peace, he said, it should view inputs by civil society not as attempts to usurp its role, but as a way to add quality and value to its decisions and ensure their effective implementation. In addition, civil society groups should seek to reduce the influence of forces promoting exclusionary policies or violence. They could help reduce the appeal of those trying to reignite conflict, assist in building national consensus on the design of post-conflict structures and programmes, and prepare local communities to receive demobilized soldiers, refugees and internally displaced persons. In short, they could give a voice to the concerns of the marginalized.
Welcoming the Council’s efforts to strengthen its informal relationship with civil society groups, he said the time had nonetheless come for it to deepen its dialogue with them and to place its relations with them on a firmer footing. He asked Council members to pay serious attention to the report released yesterday by his high-level panel on United Nations relations with civil society. Its recommendations were practical and forward-looking and the Secretariat was studying them carefully.
Citing the unique position of the Economic and Social Council to interact and consult with civil society organizations, that organ’s President, Marjatta Rasi (Finland), said it was paying more attention to transition and development and regularly discussed recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction with the humanitarian and operative agencies. However, adequate assistance was required for post-conflict needs, including fostering civil society. Effective local capacity-building should be supported across the sectors and communities and with a wide range of civil society organizations, as well.
She said that, earlier this year, the Commission on the Status of Women had adopted conclusions on women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution, and in post-conflict peace-building. Also, the Economic and Social Council’s ad hoc advisory groups on Guinea-Bissau and Burundi had engaged civil society organizations in their own efforts to consolidate peace-building with international support in those societies. A dialogue with civil society had been introduced to United Nations development activities as a basic principle.
Also participating in the debate was Ian Martin, Vice-President of the InternationalCenter for Transitional Justice, who said that one of the most fundamental challenges of post-conflict peace-building was to confront the past, while building a just foundation for the future. Strategies to address past abuses generally included criminal prosecutions of perpetrators of serious crimes; truth commissions; reparations packages, including, but not limited to, financial compensation; and efforts to honour the memory of the victims.
In East Timor, he said, the establishment of the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation had been preceded by intense civil society debate. As a result, the Commission not only reflected best practices from around the world, but incorporated a particularly successful innovation, drawing on local tradition: community reconciliation processes involving the most local civil society, including traditional leaders. He cited similar examples in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Liberia.
Another participant, Denis Caillaux, Secretary-General of CARE International, pointed out that, with the rise of internal armed conflicts and complex emergencies, there was an increasing need to work with societies buffeted between armed conflict and natural calamities, which ended up in geographical patchworks of technical peace, but actual insecurity.
Council President Delia Domingo Albert, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, speaking in her national capacity, emphasized that the United Nations must have a clearer view of its relations with a civil society that had grown in size and numbers.
She also read out a statement on behalf of the Council, which condemned in the strongest terms the beheading of a citizen of the Republic of Korea, who had been held hostage in Iraq. On behalf of the Council, she expressed deep condolences to the victim’s family and to the Government of the Republic of Korea, adding that the world must stand united against the scourge of international terrorism that continued to plague the global community.
Other speakers today were representatives of Council members Angola, France, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Algeria, United States, Chile, Spain, Pakistan, China, Brazil, Romania, Germany and Benin.
The Council also heard from representatives of Ireland (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Egypt, Sierra Leone, Peru, Republic of Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Australia, Uganda, Canada, Senegal and Nepal.
Today’s meeting began at 1:20 a.m. and was suspended at 1:27 p.m. Resuming at 3:27 p.m., it adjourned at 5:20 p.m.
The Security Council convened an open debate this morning on the role of civil society in post-conflict peace-building, for which it had before it a non-paper of the Council presidency for the month, the Philippines, to help guide the discussion. The paper says that conflict prevention and post-conflict peace-building require a comprehensive and multidimensional approach. Any successful action on the matter depends largely on the active cooperation and broadest participation of the international community. The United Nations, governments and international and regional organizations have always been at the forefront of these efforts. Civil society also plays a crucial role in this endeavour.
In the Council, interaction with civil society increased in the 1990s as a result of changes brought about by the end of the cold war and the influence of increasing globalization, the paper says. The Gulf War in 1991, the Somalia crisis in 1993, the Rwandan genocide in 1994, as well as the Bosnia and Herzegovina situation, the Palestinian crisis and the conflicts in Central and Western Africa, were salient international crises that galvanized Security Council-civil society interaction.
Civil society organizations also monitored the Council’s work in the areas of sanctions, peacekeeping, election monitoring, policing and post-conflict peace-building, the paper also finds. They were also present in feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, sheltering the homeless and protecting the vulnerable in many crisis areas, including civil wars. In many of these instances, civil society has played important roles in the mobilization and utilization of resources, as well as the delivery of assistance in post-conflict reconstruction.
The paper states further that, aside from their contributions to peacekeeping, relief and humanitarian efforts, civil society organizations are also a source of information on the ground. By their sheer number, dedicated membership and unique advocacy roles, civil society organizations have become a “force to reckon with” in post-conflict areas. Their public advocacy role and media campaigns often help to shape public understanding of the crises and bring pressure to bear on governments to act. Thus, civil society has become an actor in the policy process that cannot be ignored and whose goodwill and support have proved useful and, at times, even essential.
But, the paper asserts, much more needs to be done to harness civil society in both the structural (strategies to address the root causes) and the operational (strategies in the face of crisis) dimensions of post-conflict peace-building.
The presidency poses the following questions, among others: How can the Council maximize the contribution of civil society in post-conflict peace-building efforts, and what essential elements will be needed to ensure smooth governmental/intergovernmental and civil society interaction in post conflict areas? How can civil society organizations assist the Council in assessing country needs? How can the Council tap civil society groups to provide early warning signals for lapses in post-conflict peace-building efforts, including relief and humanitarian assistance? How can those groups serve as an effective and efficient bridge between local government/people and the international community? How can the Council and civil society organizations enhance their respective roles in post-conflict peace-building activities? How can the Council harness the participation of other civil society members, such as the religious sector?
Opening the meeting, DELIA DOMINGO ALBERT, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said that the topic focused on an important segment of global society whose impact was felt most in post-conflict situations. She deemed it appropriate to focus the debate on how the Council could harness participation of civil society organizations in post-conflict peace-building, for which a concept paper had been distributed (document S/2004/442).
KOFI ANNAN, United Nations Secretary-General, said that the partnership between the United Nations and civil society had grown in recent years. That reflected the increasing role of civil society in helping to shape government policies and in holding governments accountable. That also reflected a need in the era of globalization and State fragmentation and error for civil society to contribute to post-conflict decision-making. Those groups came in all shapes and sizes, and many had made outstanding contributions to peace. Others were drivers of conflict. If peace-building missions were to be effective, civil society groups should be part of a clear political strategy, which helped ordinary people to voice their concerns and to act on them in peaceful ways.
He said that civil society organizations should also seek to reduce the influence of forces promoting exclusionary policies or violence. The aim must be to create a synergy with those civil society groups that were bridge-builders, watchdogs and agents of social protection and economic revitalization. That could build reconciliation and lessen the appeal of those who might try to reignite conflict. That could also help to ensure that national and international actors were held accountable. And, civil society groups could assist in building national consensus on the design of post-conflict structures and programmes, as well as prepare local communities to receive demobilized soldiers, refugees and internally displaced persons. In short, they could give a voice to the concerns of the marginalized.
That was why there should be a two-way dialogue between the United Nations and civil society, not so that one could direct the other, but to ensure that efforts complemented one another. However, civil society groups should not be seen as peace-building partners only after the United Nations had arrived in a country with a mandate in its pocket. On the contrary, those groups, both local and international, had a role to play in the deliberation processes of the Organization, including the Security Council. In recent years, civil conflict and complex emergencies had taken centre stage in the Council’s work. That had deepened the need for the Council to have a real understanding of the places and situations in which it was engaged. Council members could benefit from the expertise, focus and initiative that civil society groups brought to the table.
The Secretary-General said that he, therefore, welcomed efforts by the Council to strengthen its informal relationship with those groups, but the time might have come for the Council to deepen its dialogue with them and to place its relations with them on a firmer footing. He had asked the Council to pay serious attention to the report released yesterday by the high-level panel on United Nations relations with civil society. He was extremely grateful to panel members for their contribution. Their recommendations were practical and forward-looking and the Secretariat was studying them carefully. He trusted that Council members and all Member States would do the same.
Continuing, he said that the panel had proposed several concrete measures to increase civil society’s participation from developing countries, and it had submitted many innovative ideas to strengthen the partnership in United Nations humanitarian work. It had also made a number of practical suggestions about how the Council might engage more effectively with civil society, from making better use of the Aria formula to convening independent commissions of inquiry after Council-mandated operations.
The Council was a body of sovereign governments dealing with the most sensitive matters of war and peace, he said. It should view inputs of civil society not as attempts to usurp the role of governments, but as a way to add quality and value to its decisions and ensure their effective implementation.
He said that engaging civil society was not an end in itself, nor was it a panacea. But, it was vital to the effort to turn peace agreements into peaceful societies and viable States. Partnership between the United Nations and civil society, therefore, was not an option, it was a necessity. He hoped that, through today’s debate, the Council would be able to develop more comprehensive and concrete strategies for developing that partnership, he concluded.
MARJATTA RASI (Finland), President of the Economic and Social Council, stressed the need for a space for civil society actors to participate and play a peace-building role. The media could serve as a social educator to defuse conflict potential. Protection of human rights was vital in vulnerable post-conflict societies. A diversified civil society meant reducing destabilization and bolstering support for State institutions in order to facilitate progress in peace-building efforts, as well as economic and social development.
Noting that a lack of resources and capacity hindered reconstruction, she said adequate assistance was required for post-conflict needs, including fostering civil society. Effective local capacity-building should be supported across the sectors and communities and with a wide range of civil society organizations, as well. The Economic and Social Council was paying more attention to transition and development. It regularly discussed recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction with the humanitarian and operative agencies. The Council was uniquely placed to interact with civil society and to consult with them.
She said that, earlier this year, the Commission on the Status of Women had adopted conclusions on women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution, and in post-conflict peace-building. The Council’s ad hoc advisory groups on Guinea-Bissau and Burundi had engaged civil society organizations in their own efforts to consolidate peace-building with international support in those societies. A dialogue with civil society had been introduced to United Nations development activities as a basic principle.
DENIS CAILLAUX, Secretary-General of CARE International, said he had just returned from the Sudan, where he had visited villages exhausted by decades of war, but newly invigorated by the peace talks resuming today in Kenya. One striking truth was that, for successful peace-building, all must pause and imagine the daily struggles and aspirations of ordinary citizens seeking a life free from conflict and violence.
He described civil society as all civilian groups not affiliated with any armed faction, including councils of elders, women’s groups, farmers’ associations and religious communities. Even amid the ruins of failed States, those organizations had a profound stake in achieving the secure and rights-based society necessary to rebuild and govern their country. With the rise of internal armed conflicts and complex emergencies, there was an increasing need to work with societies buffeted between armed conflict and natural calamities, which ended up in geographical patchworks of technical peace, but actual insecurity.
The Security Council and MemberStates faced a new call to action based on a central lesson of the last decade’s peacekeeping and conflict-resolution efforts -- tragically, half of all peace efforts faltered from the outbreak of local conflicts. To prevent that from undermining national peace agreements, peacekeeping mandates must reach beyond their traditional focus, which was at the national level, to the heart of the local communities.
IAN MARTIN, Vice-President, InternationalCenter for Transitional Justice, said that the Center, which had offices in New York and Cape Town, South Africa, assisted countries confronting legacies of mass atrocity or human rights abuse. It was currently engaged with more than 20 countries, and it worked closely with United Nations departments and agencies, especially in countries where the Organization was engaged in post-conflict peace-building. Above all, it worked closely with local civil society partners. Notwithstanding the significant efforts of civil society organizations working internationally, the more important sector of civil society comprised the myriad national and local organizations, which must often confront acute challenges. International non-governmental organizations should create more opportunities for local voices to be heard.
He said that one of the most fundamental challenges of post-conflict peace-building was to confront the past, while building a just foundation for the future. There was no one-size-fits-all approach, and in its work, the organization had learned a crucial lesson: whatever the answers, they must emerge from –- or resonate within –- civil society. Strategies to address past abuses generally included criminal prosecutions of perpetrators of serious crimes, truth commissions, reparations packages, including, but not limited to, financial compensation, and efforts to honour the memory of the victims. They also included rigorous analysis of institutional culpability and efforts of reform, including by vetting personnel, as well as reintegration and reconciliation initiatives.
Those measures should be seen as complementary, and not as alternatives, and a strategy should be debated and developed in a comprehensive manner. Alongside that strategy must be a parallel and related one for building the rule of law for the future, which the Council had recognized as crucial to peace-building. Ideally, a democratic government would set those strategies after a national debate and the fullest consultation with civil society. In post-conflict reality, however, political leadership might be fragile and untested, thereby making it difficult, but also more vital, to engage civil society.
He noted that, during the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, establishment of the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation had been preceded by intense civil society debate. As a result, the Commission not only reflected best practices from around the world, but incorporated a particularly successful innovation, drawing on East Timorese tradition: community reconciliation processes involving the most local civil society, including traditional leaders. He cited similar examples in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Liberia.
Civil society engagement was equally essential for the success of other transitional justice measures, he said. The ability of reparations to afford some satisfaction to victims was facilitated by victim and civil society participation in the design and implementation of programmes, while the mobilization of significant resources was likely to require the support of a broad coalition. Prosecution of major perpetrators was, of course, a State responsibility, but it was sometimes only through the efforts of civil society and victim groups that the State was persuaded to act against impunity. In that regard, the Council should listen to civil society voices in Timor-Leste and Indonesia concerning the ongoing impunity of the major perpetrators of crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999 and earlier.
He said that the direct access of civil society organizations to the Council could be valuable to both. He welcomed the recommendations of the panel for enhancing such access, and he strongly supported the panel’s insistence that that should occur not only in New York, but wherever the Council went on mission to post-conflict countries, where its members could be more accessible to local civil society organizations, as well as to the local representatives of international non-governmental organizations.
The voices of civil society must be heard when peace settlements were being negotiated and when missions to implement them were being planned and post-conflict needs were being assessed, he said. But, the regular openness to civil society would depend on the peace-building missions and agencies in the field. There was a clear need to ensure that best practices were spread to missions, which local civil societies did not currently perceive as open to their advice and involvement. The expectations that the Council conveyed to the leaders of the missions it mandated, and the extent to which it remained alert to civil society involvement, were crucial in promoting the effectiveness of the alliance between the United Nations and civil society and, thus, the effectiveness of peace-building itself.
JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said that the engagement of civil society organizations in post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction was growing steadily, as was the quality and depth of their commitment. From a deep distrust, a better understanding of civil society was emerging and, in many countries, they had become a niche where people could put in place various ideas for the common well-being. The establishment of a climate of respect for different views was the cornerstone of civil society participation in social processes.
He said that the studies produced by civil society organizations were of great value in dealing with most crises and complex situations. They provided information on extremely grave situations that would otherwise have passed unnoticed. Their role in the international campaign to ban landmines was a landmark example. In Angola, they were playing an ever-increasing role in peace-building and post-conflict reconciliation. In partnership with the government, they were important for consolidating peace, fostering national reconciliation, fighting poverty and demining. The partnership had become vital in overcoming the wounds of war.
MICHEL DUCLOS (France) paid tribute to the global non-governmental organizations, which had become persistent interlocutors, and to all non-governmental organizations, large and small, which had become indispensable to progress. He especially appreciated the French non-governmental organizations. The Council, fortunately, had informal working arrangements with the major non-governmental organizations represented in New York. Those relations were useful, because many such organizations were committed in the field and, thus, had first-hand information. Sometimes they were the only ones to remain in certain situations, such as in Liberia and Uganda and some parts of Côte d’Ivoire. In the field, those organizations played a valuable role in providing early warning, as had been the case recently in Darfur, where they, along with the Secretary-General, had sounded the first alarm. The legitimacy that flowed from their commitment in the field frequently made it possible for them to raise consciousness about a situation.
He said that relations with non-governmental organizations could certainly be improved, perhaps through the practice of holding Aria formula meetings. But, excessively formalizing the procedures should be avoided, as that would be more of an impediment, than a benefit. Today’s discussion was an opportunity to think together about that important subject. One conclusion was that, in the post-conflict period the intervention of external protagonists and models had not been sufficient. Mr. Martin had clearly explained how delicate balances must be found, insofar as justice during the transition was concerned. The rule of law, for example, was neither technical nor political, but a social problem. One must respect the independence of civil society organizations themselves and give “pride of place” to the case-by-case approach. Thus, it was difficult to lay down any general rules. Also, the Security Council was merely one actor. Clearly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) could provide a particularly useful forum. He was awaiting with interest its discussion of the transition from the humanitarian to the development phase.
Turning to recommendations, he said the points upon which peace-building must necessarily build when mobilizing civil society should be specifically identified. Communication should be strengthened in both directions, between civil society representatives in the field and the United Nations. Also, civil society representatives should be included earlier in the policies laid down by the Organization. It might be a good idea, on an experimental basis, to have reports assessing civil society in some countries. Such a report should not be prepared by governments or institutions, but could be the outcome of collaboration between the major global non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations in the areas concerned.
ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said civil society organizations played a key role at the international level by holding governments and international organizations accountable. They had helped to develop new policy and legal frameworks, as well as to better define best practices.
Their involvement at the regional level was also important, he said. As the African Union developed its conflict-resolution and peace-building capacity, civil society organizations would be needed to provide grass-roots information and early warning of potential crises. At the national and local levels, local people and the groups representing them had a vital role to play in the reconciliation and rehabilitation processes. Underlying all those issues was the need to build new relationships between government service providers and local communities.
Referring to the panel report, he said sustained communication and coordination at the field level was important in monitoring and evaluating what worked, what did not work and what could be improved. For example, the Security Council mission currently in West Africa was trying to cover eight countries in just five days. That time was too limited to meet a sufficient number of civil society organizations, and such missions should be smaller so that they could be more frequent.
ALEXANDER KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that the Council’s consideration in conflict situations and the experience of the United Nations in peacekeeping had demonstrated that achieving genuine settlements and restoring peace was only possible through a comprehensive approach. An integral part of that was the participation of civil society. Active participation of civil society was an important precondition for achieving true national reconciliation. That encompassed a broad area, from organizing dialogues to participating in national unity governments. Civil society was an important connecting link between government and various political groups and often emerged as a factor promoting peace talks and overcoming obstacles on the road to reconciliation.
He said that, unfortunately, however, not all civil society groups took an unbiased position across the board, free from political influence. The outbreak of violence in March in Kosovo and the repeated crisis in Haiti was persuasive evidence of the importance of establishing a mature civil society for post-conflict consolidation. In peace-building, the greatest effect could be achieved through a viable link between government and civil society. An important role could also be played by regional organizations and global non-governmental organizations. The United Nations could help pool the efforts of all participants and channel them constructively. The work of civil society was also closely interwoven with defending human rights.
In addition, he said, civil society groups could also serve as a barometer, detecting dangerous, destabilizing trends. Thus, they could be a key element in conflict prevention at an early stage. Information coming from non-governmental organizations, however, could also contain subjective elements. Nevertheless, civil society formed an inextricable link between the establishment of peace and full-fledged socio-economic restoration. Today’s discussion also focused on the important interaction in that regard between the Security Council and the ECOSOC. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had a full array of mechanisms. Another very effective instrument for coordination was the Inter-Agency Standing Committee.
The role of civil society in post-conflict situations was not confined, however, to the thorny economic and humanitarian problems in the restoration process. They must also be a major engine in State-building, providing criminal justice and rule of law systems. Without its active participation, it was impossible, in the long term, to work for the return to normal civilian life.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the panel report had corroborated the role of civil society as a full-fledged and unavoidable international actor, but noted, nevertheless, that there was an imbalance between civil society organizations of the North and those of the South. The establishment of a fund to strengthen the capacity of organizations in the South could help correct that imbalance. Organizations operating in places where the United Nations was often absent were providing a critical service.
He said the Security Council should embark on a complete overhaul of its approach to peace-building, including by finding ways to strengthen and broaden the involvement of non-governmental organizations. A mutually beneficial relationship had already been established between the Council and civil society and the experience and expertise thus developed could be extremely useful to a Council confronted with increasingly complex situations and lacking its own experience and expertise.
He said there was a need to rethink and redefine the relationship between governmental organizations and civil society, which had direct contact with citizens as well as the ability to win their trust. The fragility of peace processes was often due to the fact that civil society organizations were often weak or marginalized. Armed factions often targeted them because they saw civil society as a competitor at best, and a nuisance at worst. Resolutions on Côte d’Ivoire and Burundi made no mention of civil society, while the one on Liberia mentioned it only obliquely.
STUART W. HOLLIDAY (United States) said that in the United States civil society played a vital role in complementing the efforts of the Government, or even taking the lead, particularly at the local level. It was up to governments to tap into that power. Those organizations could flourish in societies where good governance and the rule of law were applied, and where civil institutions were strong and civil and political rights were recognized. They also flourished where the electoral process was guaranteed, and human rights and freedom of expression were accepted. It was important for the United Nations to support the growth of civil society organizations, particularly in post-conflict situations, as a source of information, but also as a check on power abuses and as a guarantor of democratic institutions.
Underlining the involvement of civil society groups in the recent preparations for the Council’s West Africa mission, he looked forward to a back-and-forth with those organizations, not just when they were needed on a particular issue, but over a regular time period. It was very valuable to listen to the views of those on the ground when shaping positions and opinions. In addition to the Aria-style meetings, the Council would benefit from the contributions of civil society groups in informing future deliberations and ensuring familiarity with a full range of voices in the countries concerned.
In its deliberations two weeks ago, the Council had focused on civilians in armed conflict and had underlined that finding homes for displaced persons posed a unique challenge. Finding homes play a role in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, in which civil society played an integral role. Civil society groups on the ground had also provided early warning signals in Darfur. The situation there had rightly been called the greatest humanitarian disaster of the day. Civil society groups continued to play a vital role there, ending violence, saving lives and helping to rebuild that shattered society.
HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said that contemporary conflicts were increasingly of an intra-State nature, which had changed the way they must be dealt with. Peacekeeping was now multidisciplinary and multidimensional in approach, with a growing role for civil society. The participation of civil society organization was no longer an option, but a necessity, as stated in the report of the panel. Civil society had been playing important roles in conflict prevention and many were active in protecting human rights and international humanitarian law. They had been instrumental in doing away with impunity when there had been massive and gross violations of human rights and had positive experiences in promoting impartial mediation, providing early warning about imminent humanitarian crises and raising public awareness.
He said civil society could also contribute in getting the private sector involved in peace-building beyond their usual role of generating wealth and pursuing profit. Private enterprises could work with local partners to mobilize support for peace-building and employ former combatants in post-conflict situations in order to prevent the recurrence of conflict. They could also provide matching funds for rebuilding, contributing the same amount as that contributed by a donor to facilitate demining, demobilization or any other project. It was important to know how many companies would be prepared to help in Haiti; aiding in rebuilding, while earning money in a country that was located close to important markets and skilled labour.
JUAN ANTONIO YANEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain) said that the panel’s report would have a great impact on future thinking. Today, more than ever, the international community needed cooperation from organized civil society to help attain the principles and objectives of the United Nations. Civil society also played an important role in developing effective multilateralism. He supported the establishment of close and sound relations between all actors in the peace-building process. In addition, he encouraged civil society groups to provide moral support to the population and local structures.
He said it was vital to further develop machinery to govern the interaction with representatives of civil society organizations, which was more necessary today than ever before. Such efforts were effective only if all forces in the international arena were brought together, including transnational civil society, which had an increasingly far reach and more decisive impact than States, at times.
He said that civil society must be present in the political processes relating to international peace and security. Since the 1990s, the Council had been faced with many local conflicts, which were of regional importance and were both persistent and recurrent. They did not disappear with the mere cessation of hostilities. Their effects persisted over time, with serious consequences to civil society and the stability of States. The cohesive action of the international community over long periods could avoid the recurrence of conflict. At the same time, external actors, States and international organizations could lose interest in complex situations, particularly those in remote, isolated areas. Civil society could respond to those challenges, going where others did not, or could not, go.
Together, he said, concepts must be found for use in cases where international organizations and States were abandoning the field. Areas must be defined where civil society could become involved in peace-building. When properly organized, civil society could go further and make room for more open dialogue at local levels than States and other international actors. Thus, respect for their activities was of vital importance. At the same time, the principle of the non-interference of States in domestic affairs must also be respected. Dialogue with civil society organizations and governments and international organizations must be promoted, if initiatives to build peace were to take hold in the affected countries. Civil society played a crucial function in both conflict prevention and resolution, and that role must be strengthened.
MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said there was an ever-increasing need for a comprehensive, integrated and coherent response to modern conflicts. Over the last decade, international peacekeeping operations in post-conflict situations had increased dramatically to include multidimensional and multidisciplinary missions. While States needed to address the structural causes of conflicts, civil society could work with United Nations agencies on the ground to facilitate the safe return of displaced populations, and provide solutions for economic and social problems and re-establish the rule of law.
He said it was necessary to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations by providing access to financing and such legal entities like cooperatives, which could serve as an effective bridge between local authorities and the international community. However, the proactive involvement of civil society beyond humanitarian assistance could be counter-productive. The whole process should be domestically owned and driven rather than imposed from outside. Furthermore, post-conflict peace-building would inevitably have to be based on providing hope for a better tomorrow. The United Nations had a vital role to play in generating equitable socio-economic development to foster sustainable peace-building.
WANG GUANGYA (China) said that today’s debate was significant, particularly because of the role played by civil society in the international arena. The recent publication of the panel’s report had been timely. In recent years, many civil society organizations had actively participated in the settlement of conflicts and post-conflict peace-building, and they deserved recognition for their work in Africa and Afghanistan, and for calling for the resolution of the Middle East conflict. He encouraged civil society organizations to continue their constructive role in post-conflict reconstruction. Their involvement should be guided by the Charter principles. They should be strictly followed, not only by governments and international organizations, but also by civil society organizations. Only then would they be able to maintain their correct orientation when engaging in international activities.
Also, he said, local cultures and religious traditions should be fully respected and principles of objectivity and neutrality should be upheld. Then, civil society efforts would get twice the results with half the effort. Those groups should also actively complement international efforts in helping post-conflict countries and regions in seeking sustainable peace. The main responsibility for conflict reconstruction, however, should be borne by the United Nations and other international and regional organizations, and the governments concerned. Civil society organizations should support the central role of the United Nations and enhance coordination and cooperation with its various agencies.
He called for the United Nations to strengthen its communication with civil society and heed its opinions and suggestions, including through Aria formula meetings. The panel’s report had made several recommendations to strengthen that relationship, which deserved careful study. The international community should also pay more attention to civil society in developing countries and encourage their more active participation, including through the provision of support. The focus should be on assisting economic reconstruction and sustainable development.
Civil society had advantages in terms of resources, expertise and skills, he said. Not only did it have a role to play in providing humanitarian relief and advocating national reconciliation, but it could contribute to the eradication of poverty, restoration of infrastructure, increasing employment, and so forth. Conflicts today were complicated and varied. Under such circumstances, integrated and systematic strategies should be adopted.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that by providing humanitarian assistance and helping to alleviate poverty, civil society organizations could help defuse tensions that could potentially revive conflict. Furthermore, the work of civil society organizations was cost-effective. In order to take the best advantage of their presence, it was necessary to consolidate the working dialogue between the Council and civil society, providing a two-way flow of information.
He said that representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations should have more opportunities to brief the Council and receive information from Council members. The Council could benefit from the knowledge of their assessment of situations on the ground. Assessment by independent actors closer to the situation could provide crucial information. Local civil society leadership with close ties to the community could detect tensions long before Council members and, given the need for exit strategies, could provide information that would help avoid premature and damaging withdrawals. The panel saw the opening up of the United Nations not as a threat, but as a chance to strengthen the intergovernmental process. Dialogue was a cornerstone of empowerment and civil society should be empowered to become an even more active partner in peace-building.
MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) noted that civil society was instrumental in all processes linked to consolidating peace after conflict. They often had first-hand understanding of conflicts –- always vital in conflict management -– and their presence on the ground gave them opportunities to build long-term relationships, which created a sense of trust among opposing political groups. In addition, through their contacts with conflicting parties, civil society actors were able to spot emerging crises, becoming invaluable resources in an early warning system for preventive work. Since most conflicts today had ethnic or religious grounds at their core, it was the neutral actors, such as multi-ethnic- or multi-faith-based civil society groups that were able to gain the trust of opposing parties and mobilize ethnic and religious dialogue.
Improved collaboration between the United Nations system and civil society should be promoted to make peace-building activities more productive, sustainable and cost effective, he said. The Organization should foster home-grown political processes, in which civil society shared with the international community and local governmental actors the ownership of the reconstruction processes. Further, dialogue among civil society actors must be encouraged to allow for discussions, nurture transformations, build consensus and translate policy into practice. The United Nations must explore all effective models for collaboration between civil society and the Organization in peace-building, especially in countries where communities distrusted each other or where conflict had eroded societal structures.
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) saluted the Secretary-General for pushing for enhanced and meaningful interaction between the United Nations and civil society. He supported any action that would bring that critical relationship more in line with today’s global challenges. Experiences with numerous post-conflict situations since the end of the cold war had shown that post-conflict peace-building processes that did not sufficiently involve the local actors were doomed to failure. That had applied to the work of United Nations peacekeeping missions, the wider United Nations development and stabilization efforts, as well as to national governance. Germany was a strong promoter of a culture of conflict prevention and dialogue and, thus, the Federal Government was implementing an action plan on civil crisis prevention, resolution and post-conflict peace building. Civil society, in that concept, formed the cornerstone of that strategy.
He said that civil society provided invaluable information that formed part of an early warning system on emerging conflicts. In order to preserve the strength of those contributions, it was important to respect civil society’s independence from government. Civil society’s role was “as indispensable as it was distinct” from governments and the military. He paid tribute to the instrumental role played by non-governmental organizations in bringing about three major breakthroughs –- the Ottawa Treaty on landmines, the international small arms action programme, and the International Criminal Court. Those three would not have been possible without civil society’s help. At the same time, final decisions and responsibility had to remain with governments. Even the most ingenious and creative civil society sector would not succeed in bringing about peace and stability if the decision-making mechanism of an effective State were missing. Somalia was a case in point.
The Council’s recent record on interaction with civil society was, by and large, a good one. The panel seemed to share that assessment. His initial impression of the report’s recommendations had been very positive, especially on making better use of the Aria formula meetings and field visits. His experience of contacts with non-governmental organizations throughout the Council’s trip to Afghanistan had been extremely positive in dealing with that complex situation on the ground. He was ready to explore creative ways of enhancing that cooperation.
He recalled the recommendations made at a related seminar in Istanbul, which had his support. Those included: systematic consultation with civil society members through assessment teams preparing new peace operations; regular consultations with civil society and the highest United Nations representatives; establishment of a non-governmental organization coordinator at the senior level of the United Nations field presence; and instruction of incoming United Nations mission leaders and personnel by local civil society leaders on norms and cultural traditions.
OUSSOU EDOUARD AHO-GLELE (Benin) said that joint efforts in post-conflict peace-building required a division of labour, cooperation and synergy. Civil society was a very important interlocutor in achieving peace and establishing peace processes. Civil society organizations could exert pressure to achieve non-violence in society, as well as to ensure good governance and the wise use of resources. That was in addition to their role in helping to reintegrate refugees, displaced persons and former combatants.
He said civil society organizations could also provide relief to international partners on the ground. The Security Council could stipulate expressly in its peacekeeping mandates the need for civil society organizations to play a role that was up to their potential and to receive the assistance that would make them real and effective partners. That was particularly true of African civil society organizations, which were particularly resource-weak.
Civil society should also ensure it was in the forefront in the consolidation of peace, particularly in truth and reconciliation commissions, he said. Reconciliation required an atmosphere in which people could be brought together and persuaded of the importance of justice. They could help convince the population that victims must be helped and compensated for whatever they had lost during the conflict.
DELIA DOMINGO ALBERT, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, speaking in her national capacity, stressed that civil society must be compassionate, but resolute, helping suffering peoples to let go of negative ill-feelings, grasp the value of reconciliation, concentrate on reintegration and reconstruction, and rehabilitate society through hard work and dedication. With the help of civil society, governments and the United Nations should aim to strengthen the national self-confidence and social fabric of traumatized peoples, to encourage and help them to overcome enormous human security challenges.
She said that, in the peace-building phase, civil society could assist in: providing relief, health, education and other public services; boosting economic revival and social recovery; promoting human rights, ethics, and the rule of law; and catalyzing total human development. In post-conflict peace-building, civil society could assist the United Nations in identifying, understanding and addressing the root causes of conflict in helping to formulate reconstruction strategies, and perhaps even in resolving the conflict itself. Owing to civil society’s grass-roots charisma, its mere presence could be therapeutic, evoking a deeper realization of life’s worth after the havoc of war.
The United Nations, she emphasized, must have a clearer view of its relations with a civil society that had grown in size and numbers. Birgitta Dahl, a member of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations, had reported on the Panel’s endorsement of four normative paradigms: first, the United Nations’ role to convene, facilitate and lead partnerships of all stakeholders; second, country-level focus in analysis and implementation; third, encouragement of greater parliamentary and national standing committee participation; and fourth, a shift from an omni-governmental bias to a multilateral society mobilizing the cooperation of coalitions of the willing, following the highest common principles.
When the debate resumed after a lunch-hour suspension, Council President Delia Domingo Albert, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, read out a statement condemning in the strongest terms the beheading of a citizen of the Republic of Korea, who had been held hostage in Iraq. On behalf of the Council, she expressed deep condolences to the victim’s family and to the Government of the Republic of Korea. The world must stand united against the scourge of international terrorism that continued to plague the global community, she added.
Resuming the debate, RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that, while government efforts were vital in post-conflict peace-building, they were not always sufficient, in and of themselves, in addressing the myriad of challenges arising. While governments may have a comparative advantage over civil society organizations, in certain areas the latter could play a pivotal role, particularly where functioning government institutions were ineffective or absent.
Noting that post-conflict societies were often polarized, he said it was crucial that bridges of communication be rebuilt between social groups. Post-conflict peace-building must seek to foster the re-emergence of civil society. Civil society organizations were often uniquely well-placed to furnish vital grass-roots early warning facilities, such as where a particular peace-building measure being pursued might inadvertently cause a disturbance or impact in some other unintended negative way.
He said that in Angola, the European Union Centre for Common Ground had helped, over a period of 12 months, to promote the liberalization of the media through the training of journalists in human rights principles and common ground reporting and programming, the creation of appropriate radio and television programmes and by engaging civil society actors in radio discussion sessions. In Mozambique, it had a project intended to strengthen the capacity of grass-roots civil society in the human rights field and democratic action in ZambeziaProvince supporting the Forum for the Zambezian Non-Governmental Organization (FONGZA) through specific capacity-building activities, reinforcement of information collection skills and training of civic educators.
He said that one project in Sierra Leone took a broad approach to the subject of capacity-building for civil society organizations, with the focus on putting non-governmental organizations on a new footing with government, so as to help promote and protect human rights in a post-conflict environment. A special focus was given to women and children. In Georgia, the European Union had a confidence-building project in place to promote an environment conducive to a political resolution of the conflict there. Its purpose was to contribute to the ongoing capacity-building among both wider and more focused networks of committed peace-building non-governmental organizations and other civil society structures.
He emphasized the extensive cooperation between the European Union and certain non-governmental organizations in promoting fuller participation in, and the effective functioning of, the International Criminal Court. Impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes posed a serious obstacle in the way of lasting restoration of peace. In tackling impunity for crimes of that nature where governments were unwilling or unable to do so, the Court could play a key supportive and supplementary role in future peace-building operations.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that civil society’s role in post-conflict peace-building was gaining in importance in the context of the United Nations’ work. Those organizations conducted their activities in the social, humanitarian and economic spheres, which included daily interaction with governments, United Nations personnel and the local populations. The role of civil society in peace-building must be clarified, at a time when it was increasingly relied upon as a source of information. Those organizations had a moral and legal responsibility to be extremely objective and impartial.
He said that the objectivity of those organizations was a real test of their credibility as qualifying partners in the work of the United Nations and the international community helping populations overcome the negative effects of conflict. Success in their endeavours was linked to access to groups of affected persons, through effective cooperation and coordination with the local authorities or traditional leadership. Civil society groups should also integrate the relevant values and principles of the societies in which they operated. Also imperative was the need for them to address the root causes of conflict and to spread a culture of tolerance.
Civil society had also become a necessary complement to efforts aimed at national reconciliation and the rehabilitation and reintegration of refugees, displaced persons and former combatants. Civil society had also become a serious accessory to enhancing peace-building and reconstruction. The achievement of a durable peace required a comprehensive strategy of political security with economic, social and human dimensions. He was convinced of civil society’s importance in that regard, and both its limits and contributions should be defined from the outset.
JOE R. PEMAGBI (Sierra Leone) said that the consequences of armed conflict did not discriminate between governments and civil society. That was one reason why he shared the view that civil society should be given an opportunity to participate as observers in peace talks. In Sierra Leone, civil society went beyond that. A provision in the 1999 Lomé Peace Agreement for the establishment of a Commission for the Consolidation of Peace required that 40 per cent of the seats be assigned to civil society members. Three such representatives also held seats on the Commission for the Management of Strategic Resources, to promote national reconstruction and development.
He said that the possibility of disputes over the interpretation and implementation of peace agreements could impede the process of consolidating peace. In Sierra Leone, therefore, it had been necessary to create appropriate non-governmental mechanisms for dealing with such disputes. A provision was included in the Peace Agreement for a Council of Elders and Religious Leaders to mediate any conflicting differences of interpretation. It was imperative to mobilize all resources and institutions within and across States, including those of civil society, in the concurrent processes of building peace and preventing further conflict.
The role of civil society in the reintegration of former combatants could not be overemphasized, he said. Reintegration involved, first and foremost, the willingness of the former fighters to resume civilian life. Also important were community arms-collection programmes, whose success also depended on the active support of civil society. He emphasized the need to ensure that civil society was equipped to meet the challenges of peace-building. The proliferation of armed conflicts, especially in Africa, and the complexity of the problems they created, required new strategies for meeting those challenges.
OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru) said that civil society had a vital role to play in seeking truth, reparations and justice, in order to bring about national reconciliation, as well as nation-building. Local and global non-governmental organizations could help mobilize resources for the reparation of victims, rehabilitation of affected areas, and reintegration of ex-combatants. As for justice, they could help guard against impunity, human rights violations, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Civil society was also important in nation-building -- in creating conditions for governing and constructing democracies, and developing situations favouring dialogue and consensus in post-conflict societies. Because national non-governmental organizations were part of the same traumatized society, they were the best entities to collaborate with the complex United Nations peacekeeping operations in restoring social and political tissue.
The Security Council could not maintain peace, resolve a conflict or reconstruct collapsed States without having contact with civil society, he stressed. Those contacts should be with prestigious global non-governmental organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, CARE International or Amnesty International, as well as with non-governmental organizations from the afflicted society. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General or the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) could report and transmit the opinion of civil society and local non-governmental organizations about the current peace processes. He recommended that the Council obtain information from local civil groups on current peacekeeping operations through private consultations, special reports of the special representatives of the Secretary-General, or other means.
KIM SAM-HOON (Republic of Korea) strongly condemned the beheading today of a civilian from his country by terrorists in Iraq.
Turning to the today’s debate, he then endorsed the recommendation in the report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations that Council members should strengthen their dialogue with civil society. As the report noted, today’s conflicts were complex situations needing on-the-ground knowledge, new tools and skills in cultural analysis, and the active involvement of communities and their leaders. Civil society groups were often uniquely positioned to fill those roles, and deepening the Council’s engagement with civil society in peace-building would benefit all actors and the peace processes.
He supported the measures mentioned in the Panel’s report to reach that outcome, which included increased meetings between Council field missions and local non-governmental organizations; convening independent commissions of inquiry, with civil society participation, after Council-mandated operations; and holding an experimental series of Council seminars attended by civil society. He added, however, that women’s full and equal participation and integration of the gender perspective should be incorporated into efforts in peace-building at the governmental, inter-governmental, and non-governmental levels to ensure the success of efforts in conflict prevention and resolution, and in peace processes and post-conflict peace-building.
KOICHI HARAGUCHI (Japan) said it was unrealistic to expect governments and international organizations to be able to fully and effectively respond to the myriad requirements of post-conflict peace-building, particularly repatriation and resettlement of refugees, restoration of public security, economic reconstruction, community rehabilitation and national reconciliation, among others.
Civil society organizations, therefore, were not only valuable as additional assistance forces, he said. Since such groups were generally very familiar with such things and had strong ties to many local-level actors with first-hand knowledge that could help cement peace, they had a very important and complementary role to play in the post-conflict peace-building process. Cooperative interaction between civil society groups and United Nations resident coordinators would make it easier to achieve the wider international community’s shared goal: to create an environment where the people in a post-conflict country could have hope for a better future.
He went on to say that civic groups could also serve as educational forums for the citizens of the world, to not only learn about the work of the United Nations but also broaden their understanding of the wider international community and their connection to it. Here he highlighted a home-grown initiative launched in 1999 –- the Japan Platform –- under which a non-governmental organization collective, realizing that it did not have the manpower or financial resources to provide adequate assistance to refugees in Kosovo, sought a joint partnership with the Japanese Government.
Through that partnership, which made use of not only government expertise, but that of business, private foundations and academia, a plan for fast, effective emergency relief was devised. He also stressed the importance of local-level civic engagement in post-conflict peace-building, noting that fostering a sense of ownership was essential for the empowerment of individuals and communities and, in turn, for the promotion of human security.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) noted that the United Nations Charter envisaged the role of non-governmental organizations in the Organization’s work, yet little progress had been made in creating institutional mechanisms for making their voice heard in the United Nations and its principal bodies. Member States must translate rhetoric into concrete action and develop permanent mechanisms to foster the United Nations-civil society partnership.
The Economic and Social Council should be the lead institution in involving civil society organizations in peace-building policy recommendations, he said. The field experience of non-governmental organizations involved in the operational delivery of the rule of law, human rights, justice and humanitarian services, as well as the social rehabilitation of ex-combatants and child soldiers, must be incorporated into the integrated planning process for new peacekeeping missions.
He emphasized the importance of developing a bond of mutual trust and confidence among the non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, the United Nations system, intergovernmental and governmental processes for an effective collective partnership and a consensual approach to peace-building. However, there was a need to improve the significantly low representation of non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations from developing countries enjoying consultative status with the Economic and Social Council or association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said his country had encouraged civil society’s crucial role in post-conflict situations through peace-building efforts in Timor-Leste, Bougainville and the Solomon Islands. Through its development assistance programme, Australia had provided support to local organizations in Timor-Leste to build their capacity to deliver essential services. It had also helped develop civil society advocacy and “watchdog” groups through the key civil society coordination body set up after the crisis -– the NGO Forum.
Australia also strongly supported both the Bougainville peace process and the role that civil society had played in successful peace-building there. By encouraging and supporting the Peace Monitoring Group and the Bougainville Transition Team, representatives of civil society were able to promote peace and reconciliation at the grass-roots level. Members of the Bougainville Constitutional Commission -– a broad-based body that included representatives of women’s groups, churches, traditional leaders and youth -- were among those responsible for developing a draft constitution for the autonomous government.
In the Solomon Islands, Australia had been engaged with civil society through its involvement in the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, he continued. The Solomon Islands had a broad range of civic groups, involving churches, women and youth, with which the assistance mission regularly consulted. A striking example was its relationship with the National Peace Council, an important indigenous organization striving for peace and reconciliation for all Solomon Islanders.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA (Uganda) said that when he had visited southern Sudan as a member of the Mediation Team in the peace talks between the Government of the Sudan and that country’s People’s Liberation Movement, limited services had been provided to the population by a non-governmental organization –- World Vision. In the absence of government services in a desolate situation, officials of that organization had risked their lives because of their call to serve humanity. That example illustrated the important role played by civil society in conflict areas.
The United Nations and, indeed, the Security Council had recognized that role in post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction, he continued. They provided humanitarian assistance and relief and built social infrastructure, such as schools, dispensaries and sanitation. However, to be successful in post-conflict situations, they must be partners with governments. Instead of engaging in activities that would undermine their impartiality and make them look, in some quarters, as spies or organizations siding with subversive elements, they should engage in activities that would promote reconciliation, peace and stability.
The proliferation of civil society organizations should be avoided, however, he said. In some cases, post-conflict peace-building had become an industry, and all manner of civil societies had sprung up, some with dubious credentials. To achieve coherence and relevance, concerned countries needed to put in place a regulatory framework, providing for harmonization and effectiveness of efforts. Non-governmental organizations should not behave as if they were governments unto themselves. Civil society could play a vital role in providing useful information and advice to governments in fashioning effective post-conflict policies, and for that purpose a forum was needed, where governments and civil society organizations could exchange ideas. Civil society organizations also needed to work closely with United Nations agencies in the field. For instance, it would be useful to have a dialogue with relevant civil society organizations before peacekeeping missions were sent into the field.
In conclusion, he thanked the civil society organizations that had provided humanitarian assistance to displaced people of northern Uganda. In that connection, he called on the international community to reign in Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, so that their crimes would not go unpunished. His Government had provided substantial resources for post-conflict reconstruction in northern Uganda, as it closed on Kony and his bandits.
ALLAN ROCK (Canada) expressed horror and condemnation for the killing of the Republic of Korea national in Iraq.
Returning to the debate, he said civil society organizations often possessed in-depth knowledge of the situation on the ground and were able to substantively contribute to programmes that best reflected local needs and realities. Their grasp of evolving problems –- of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes gone awry, or an imminent influx of illicit weapons -- should be taken with utmost seriousness. Failing to act on such critical information could needlessly exacerbate an unstable post-conflict environment. Systematized partnerships with civil groups on such small arms issues could help consolidate gains and prevent the collapse of a fragile peace.
Civil society also played a key role in furthering international commitments on specific issues critical to long-term peace-building, he said. For example, they drew the world’s attention to the global humanitarian crisis caused by anti-personnel landmines, and had been instrumental in drawing international attention to such issues as the situation of children in armed conflict, women in peace and security, and the proliferation and misuse of illicit small arms and light weapons. When appropriate, civil society groups should be invited to participate as observers in international processes, whether as accredited non-governmental organizations or State-sponsored members of national delegations, to ensure that their voices were heard and their invaluable expertise shared throughout negotiations.
He also highlighted the crucial role that women played in conflict prevention, humanitarian action and peace-building processes. Understanding and addressing gender differences and inequalities was a prerequisite for both building sustainable peace and identifying appropriate and effective responses.
PAUL BADJI (Senegal) said that, despite laudable efforts by the international community and the strong involvement of the United Nations in conflict resolution, the volatile situation in the field had often promoted a resurgence of conflict. That was why there was an urgent need to harmonize the efforts of all key players in the crucial phase of post-conflict peace-building. Owing to their base in the field, proximity to the players and familiarity with the political, economic and social reality, civil society groups could play a decisive role in periods linked to peace-building.
He said that inviting civil society organizations to participate fully in their deliberations even before the conclusion of peace missions would allow them to provide first-hand information regarding the milieu in which the missions were operating and to spell out their preferred course of action. The contribution of civil society groups could be even more decisive in the active phase of peace-building, since they were better positioned to respond to situations arising in the field.
Regarding the African continent, he said the civil society organizations in the field were already better placed to play their role during the active phase of peace-building. Providing them with the necessary resources would enable them to take an active part in serving those in need, rather than watching helplessly from the sidelines. The Security Council would be well-advised to lay the normative framework to create such a partnership structure.
MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said that for quite some time civil society organizations had been an important partner in efforts to promote peace and development globally. They had rallied against wars and weapons, provided early warnings of gathering storms by exposing gross human rights violations and injustices, and helped the international community understand conflicts through their perspective. Many times, those organizations had been able to coax the conflicting parties to the negotiating table, worked as objective arbiters, and actively delivered humanitarian assistance to war victims.
He said that civil society actors clearly stood out in their contributions to post-conflict peace-building. They reached out to the most difficult areas and the most deprived people and made a palpable impact with limited resources through social mobilization. They encouraged healing and fostered social harmony, and they helped to build capacity and empowered people to rebuild their shattered lives. Civil society did its job with the utmost efficiency, agility and effectiveness. No doubt, the United Nations must tap into that positive potential for consolidating peace. Civil society could be further involved in planning, implementing and monitoring peace-building activities in war-ravaged societies.
Also, civil society could monitor implementation of peace agreements, build confidence, promote reconciliation, and make the parties accountable for their actions. It could also be part of the United Nations’ exit strategy. Unfortunately, however, not all post-conflict situations received the deserved attention of the international community, leaving both civil society and the country high and dry. Civil society was forced to follow the tide and go where it found the action and resources to make a difference. He stressed the need for a seamless transition from peacekeeping to peace-building and increased investment in economic and social transformation and the efforts of all stakeholders, including civil society.
Taking the floor again to respond to the debate, Mr. CAILLAUX of CARE International said he had heard three central points. The first concerned the focus on the local level and the importance of the healing potential of civil society in the peace-building process. For an organization, such as the one he represented, that was the call of its mandate -- to facilitate the emergence of local civil society and then gently recede into the background.
The second point raised by some speakers had concerned the need for civil society organizations to work hard at its own accountability and particularly at its accountability to its beneficiaries, he said. That certainly was a process that civil society groups were getting into with seriousness and dedication. He had initiated early this year, with some like-minded organizations, an accountability partnership. That was a healthy and fundamental process if civil society was to genuinely be part of the role discussed today.
He was reassured that Council members and Member States generally would be firm in setting and enforcing the rule of law, thereby creating a secure environment and ensuring the civilians enough protection so that their energies and skill could really flourish in the building of peace.
Mr. MARTIN, of the InternationalCenter for Transitional Justice, thought that any representative of a civil society organization would feel very gratified by the strength of the consensus expressed around the table regarding the important role of civil society in post-conflict peace-building. It was striking to have heard Member States voice support for a very considerable range of initiatives that the Council itself could take or encourage others to take, all of which were in the spirit of the Panel’s recommendations, which had informed the debate. Those had included an enhanced use of the Aria formula and the holding of seminars between the Council and civil society.
He noted that many speakers had stressed the importance of more open contacts in the field, as well as the engagement of civil society in peace settlements, mission planning and needs assessment, among others, in the mandates and resolutions of the Council. Also emphasized had been the need for communication back to the Council on the civil society perspective of ongoing peacekeeping operations. A number of his local partners would warmly welcome moves in all of those directions. Particularly welcome had been the spirit of the debate and the desire for openness and cooperation between the Council and civil society. He thanked the Government of the Philippines for setting the tone of today’s discussion.
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