|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5264th Meeting (AM)
SECURITY COUNCIL STRESSES NEED FOR BROAD CONFLICT PREVENTION STRATEGY,
UNDERLINES POTENTIAL CONTRIBUTION OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN PROCESS
Presidential Statement Follows Thematic Debate
Recognizing the complex nature of threats to international peace and security, the Security Council today underlined the need for a broad strategy for conflict prevention and pacific settlement of disputes and the potential contributions of a vibrant and diverse civil society in that process.
In a statement read out by Council President, Alberto G. Romulo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, the Council, recognizing the “important supporting role of civil society”, stressed that the essential responsibility for conflict prevention rests with national Governments, and that the United Nations and the international community can play an important role in support of national efforts for conflict prevention and can assist in building national capacity in the field.
Noting that a vigorous and inclusive civil society could provide community leadership, help shape public opinion and contribute to reconciliation between conflicting communities, the Council underscored the role that these actors could play in providing a bridge to dialogue and other confidence-building measures between parties in conflict. In that regard, the Council will strengthen its relationship to civil society, including through the use of Arrias formula meetings and meetings with local civil society organizations during Security Council missions.
Emphasizing the need to fully recognize civil society’s role in conflict prevention, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tuliameni Kalomoh, delivering a message on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, stressed the need for both the United Nations and regional organizations to do more to tap into civil society’s comparative advantages, namely a strong local presence and experience. Often far out in front in identifying new threats and concerns, civil society organizations were indispensable in “people to people” diplomacy, which was integral to successful official diplomacy. They could also complement the United Nations work by offering valuable analysis from the field, by forging partnerships to implement United Nations decisions and by creating networks to advocate for peacebuilding.
Mr. Romulo recalled that his delegation last June had held an extensive discussion on civil society’s contribution to ensuring peace and avoiding a relapse into conflict, opening the doors even wider for civil society to the most delicate affairs of States. In convening today’s debate, his delegation had taken a bolder and more determined step into the realm once reserved for States -- the maintenance of the peace and security of humankind, the Council’s responsibility. Knowing full well the role that civil society could play, it was up to the Council to nurture and encourage a meaningful role for it in preventing conflict and settling disputes, he said.
Presenting his position for civil society participation in conflict prevention, Vasu Gounden, Executive Director of ACCORD, said the multifaceted and complex nature of today’s conflicts increasingly required a comprehensive strategy involving a multiplicity of actors, including civil society. States, civil society and the private sector needed to forge a new partnership, which rejected a distinction based on wealth, power, geographic size and population. The settlement of political disputes between and within States was and should remain the domain of nation States. Civil society should complement the role of States and remain outside the formal structures of the United Nations, since its strength, legitimacy and flexibility derived from its independence, he said.
Stressing that the essential responsibility for conflict prevention and resolution lay with the Governments concerned, China’s representative acknowledged that civil society organizations had played an increasingly active role, but they must follow the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and maintain impartiality and neutrality in the field. They should also proactively assist the Governments concerned and the United Nations, but avoid taking over their primary role or hindering them from carrying it out.
Similarly, the Russian Federation representative said that, while the primary actors remained States, civil society organizations were becoming increasingly involved at a time when the challenges facing the United Nations in the area of security were becoming more complex. Civil society assisted in establishing dialogue between the parties to a conflict, and sometimes pointed to dangerous trends in human rights violations underpinning potential conflict, but their information “might not be free of subjectivity”, he cautioned participants.
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania felt that civil society organizations should generate awareness and spur early political action nationally, regionally and internationally to diffuse and resolve problems that could erupt into violent conflicts. Given their lack of strict political constraints, however, they should remain constructive and responsible, and the international community should not hesitate to take preventive action against sections of civil society that deliberately engaged in inciting and fuelling conflicts.
Statements in the debate were made by: Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark; State Secretary for Global Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania; Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece; Minister for Foreign Affairs of Slovakia; Minister for Foreign Affairs of Peru; and Federal Councillor, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.
Statements were also made by the following additional Council members: the United Kingdom, on behalf of the European Union; Benin; Brazil; Argentina; Japan; France; Algeria; and the United States. Canada’s representative also spoke.
Also addressing the Council were Paul van Tongeren, the Executive Director of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention, in its function as International Secretariat of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and Andrea Bartoli of the Centre for International Conflict Resolution, Columbia University.
The meeting began at 10:55 a.m. and adjourned at 1:33 p.m.
The statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/2005/42, reads as follows:
“Recognizing the complex nature of threats to international peace and security, the Security Council underlined the need for a broad strategy for conflict prevention and pacific settlement of disputes in line with Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations.
“The Security Council stressed that the essential responsibility for conflict prevention rests with national Governments, and that the United Nations and the international community can play an important role in support of national efforts for conflict prevention and can assist in building national capacity in this field and recognized the important supporting role of civil society.
“The Security Council reaffirmed the need for this strategy to be based on engagement with Governments, regional and subregional organizations, as well as civil society organizations, as appropriate, reflecting the widest possible range of opinions.
“The Security Council underlined the potential contributions of a vibrant and diverse civil society in conflict prevention, as well as in the peaceful settlement of disputes. They noted that a well-functioning civil society has the advantage of specialized knowledge, capabilities, experience, links with key constituencies, influence and resources, which can assist parties in conflict to achieve peaceful solution to disputes.
“The Security Council noted that a vigorous and inclusive civil society could provide community leadership, help shape public opinion, and facilitate, as well as contribute to reconciliation between conflicting communities. The Security Council also underscored the role that these actors could play in providing a bridge to dialogue and other confidence-building measures between parties in conflict.
“The Security Council underscored and will strengthen its relationship with civil society, including as appropriate, through, inter alia, the use of ‘Arrias-formula’ meetings and meetings with local civil society organizations during Security Council missions.
“The Security Council agreed to keep this item under review.”
The Security Council met this morning to hold a thematic debate entitled, “The role of civil society in conflict prevention and the pacific settlement of disputes”. The Council last considered the issue on 22 June 2004.
TULIAMENI KALOMOH, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, delivering a message on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN, noted that last week, world leaders had renewed their commitment to promote a culture of prevention of armed conflict as a means of effectively addressing the interconnected security and development challenges of the time. They had also pledged to strengthen the United Nations capacity for the prevention of armed conflict, and had decided to establish a Peacebuilding Commission that would play a key role in preventing the recurrence of armed conflict.
Civil society had made a significant impact on the process leading to the Summit, he said. Last June’s hearing had marked a new and welcome step in the way the United Nations related to civil society, as did the Conference on the Role of Civil Society in Prevention and Peacebuilding, held last July in New York, where some 500 civil society representatives had gathered to adopt an Action Agenda.
He said the Secretary-General’s message today was simple, namely the need to fully recognize civil society’s role in conflict prevention. Both the United Nations and regional organizations needed to do more to tap into civil society’s comparative advantages, namely a strong local presence and experience. Local ownership and participation were essential for the success of peace processes, be it conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding. Dialogue, transparency and accountability must also remain a priority.
Civil society was often far out in front in identifying new threats and concerns, he said. That was one of its most important roles. Civil society organizations were also indispensable in “track-two” and “people to people” diplomacy that were often integral to successful official diplomacy and post-conflict political and reconciliation processes. At times, they could reach parties on the ground that Governments or the United Nations could not reach.
Civil society organizations could also complement the United Nations work by offering valuable analysis originating from the field, by forging partnerships to implement United Nations decisions, by increasing the sustainability of United Nations operations and by creating networks to advocate for peacebuilding. For all those reasons, civil society organizations would have an important role to play in the Peacebuilding Commission’s deliberations.
The 2005 World Summit had led to important, remarkable achievements, he said. For those words to be turned into action, and for prevention and peacebuilding strategies to become more effective, all actors -– civil society, Governments, intergovernmental financial institutions, regional organizations and civil society –- needed to work together as partners. He was committed to doing his part, and he urged the Council to do theirs.
PAUL VAN TONGEREN, Executive Director of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention, in its function as International Secretariat of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, said that the Partnership had been formed in response of one of the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report on the prevention of armed conflict. After three years of consultations and research all over the world, 15 regional action agendas and finally one Global Action Agenda on conflict prevention had been formulated. Those had been presented at the Global Conference on Conflict Prevention, which had taken place at the United Nations Headquarters from 19 to 21 July this year. The Agenda called for a fundamental change in dealing with conflict: a shift from reaction to prevention. Ultimately, prevention saved lives and was both more effective and less expensive than reaction. The vision of human security could lead to a shift from a security paradigm based on the balance of power and military alliances to one based on mutual interdependence and cooperation.
The Global Action Agenda identified a number of areas where the work of the United Nations could be greatly improved, he continued. It proposed that the Organization take up a stronger steering and “catalysing” role in the field of peace and security. Among other measures advocated in the document were better monitoring of regions and countries prone to conflict; development of a peacebuilding infrastructure and reconciliation mechanisms; and support for regional mediation initiatives. United Nations regional offices should be stimulated to implement strategies developed for sensitive border zones, aimed at curbing illicit cross-border activities and strengthen the capacities of civil society groups working to promote cross-border culture of non-violence and peace. Taking prevention seriously would also mean a strengthening of the secretariat’s capacities in that area.
Continuing, he proposed a more in-depth review of the role of the United Nations in the field of conflict prevention and peacebuilding in 2010, by organizing a multi-stakeholder conference on the matter. He also emphasized the role of civil society, saying that it had a broad range of roles from relief and development to local conflict resolution, advocacy and non-violent accompaniment. By mobilizing “people power”, it could put pressure on decision makers to reach a peaceful settlement that would address public needs.
Returning to the Agenda’s recommendations, he said that, among other things, the Security Council should reform its working methods to increase legitimacy, inclusiveness, representativeness and transparency to strengthen its engagement with civil society. It was also necessary to deepen and improve the planning and effectiveness of the Arrias formula meetings by lengthening lead times and covering travel costs to increase the participation of actors from the field. Better integrated early warning and response systems were needed to ensure an effective and timely response to conflict. Those should be based on the Organization’s systematic collaboration with regional and civil society organizations at Headquarters and in the field.
ANDREA BARTOLI, Centre for International Conflict Resolution, Columbia University, Community of Sant’Edigio, said that he wanted to present the perspective of academic centres as part of civil society’s contribution to conflict prevention and pacific settlement of disputes, through the lenses of the organization he had founded in 1997. The first academic contribution to conflict prevention was to offer, sharpen and sustain the language that would allow the human family to understand “the conflicts in which we live, the ones that are coming, the ones we fail to recognize”. Without academia, the international community would not have such words as “development” or “genocide” used the way the people were using them now. Not even the word “prevention” would have been in the vocabulary as it is now. He was grateful to the academics dedicated to the human family, who had given the international community the Convention on genocide, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of the United Nations.
The second contribution of academia was the study of ways in which conflicts had been addressed constructively without resorting to violence, he continued. The role of the academia today, as interpreted by the Centre for International Conflict Resolution, was to keep looking for what was still not apparent, for giving a name to violence and peace in a way that was attentive to the challenges of the moment, intelligent in its approach, rational in its methods and responsible in its prescription. It was a contribution of understanding and experimentation.
Turning to his experience in Mozambique, he said that there, he had discovered that “while all can make war, all can make peace”. That discovery had led to a renewed search “in a spirit of thoughtful experimentalism”. That approach had been welcomed by Columbia University. By educating the elite and frequently being supported by governing forces, the universities had frequently used their autonomy to foster a human search beyond the constraints of institutionalized politics. In that connection, he said that in April 2006, the Prayer for Peace that had been initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1986 would be held in another centre of higher learning, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. At a time when the use of religion by violent forces seemed to be so prevalent, it was indispensable to strengthen the synergy between people of good will and people of learning, believers and seekers, academics and decision makers.
He added that the network of centres of higher learning was now capturing the whole globe from Baghdad to Bombay, from Beijing to Boston. The Security Council was an extraordinarily unique human space, and he hoped that it would keep its openness to academic learning. Since 1998, the Centre had contributed a course on conflict prevention for United Nations officers, diplomats and Columbia University students. “Ingenuity will lead us to try new solutions, new forms of dialogue and interaction”, he said. He also hoped that free and open communication would be maintained among all centres of learning and the United Nations system.
VASU GOUNDEN, Executive Director of ACCORD, said that States, civil society and the private sector needed to forge a new partnership, which must reject a distinction based on wealth and power, on geographic size and population. It must be based on collective wisdom, and each driven by its own comparative advantage, expertise and opportunity. The settlement of political disputes between and within States was and should remain the domain of nation States. Civil society should complement the role of States and remain outside the formal structures of the United Nations, since its strength, legitimacy and flexibility derived from its independence. However, the multifaceted and complex nature of today’s conflicts increasingly required a comprehensive strategy involving a multiplicity of actors, including civil society.
His organization had met and worked with warlords in Somalia, when many States had been unable to meet with them, he continued. It had prepared the rebel groups in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for negotiations and provided assistance to former President Masire, the facilitator in the Inter-Congolese dialogue. Now, almost 30 Department of Peacekeeping Operations officials were being hosted by ACCORD’s institution in Durban, South Africa, for a senior mission leaders’ course. The organization had also submitted the post-conflict reconstruction framework document for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Those were practical examples of cooperation between the civil society and governmental and inter-governmental institutions towards conflict prevention and pacific settlement of disputes.
Turning to the role of the Peacebuilding Commission, he emphasized its importance for countries like Burundi. However, the Commission would be still-born, if it did not mobilize the broadest set of relevant constituencies. It must make itself accessible to all the relevant actors at the local, national, regional and international levels, through all the forums of the United Nations.
In conclusion, he said that, apart from the need for a new partnership, the world needed a shared consensus. All good conflict management practitioners knew that one could not make headway in resolving a conflict without first getting the conflicting parties to have a shared understanding of the problems confronting them. It was necessary to develop a consensus on the causes and manifestations of today’s security threats. With shared understanding, common solutions would follow.
PER STIG MØLLER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, said that the approach to peacebuilding and conflict prevention must be similar. Nurturing and building sustainable peace meant preventing new conflicts from breaking out, or old ones from relapsing into new violence. Consequently, efforts to establish a Peacebuilding Commission were also relevant in a conflict prevention perspective. The establishment of the Commission was an inspiration of hopes for those who suffered from the effects of armed conflict. And, it brought hope to those civil society organizations and individuals who worked tirelessly to raise their societies from the ashes of conflict. As agreed at the Summit, it must be ensured that that new body began its work no later than the end of the year.
He said that the role played by civil society in conflict prevention was not only important, it was indispensable. The sustainable, long-term solution for the protection of human security was to address the root causes of conflict. To tackle those, it was imperative to involve local civil society. Dialogue and cooperation with civil society was key in efforts to reach the overarching goal, namely the continued peaceful development of democratic and pluralistic societies. In Denmark, the pivotal role of non-governmental organizations in conflict prevention had been realized. In Denmark’s Africa Programme for Peace, his country was contributing to the work of civil society to enforce its important role in preventing local conflicts. Danish non-governmental organizations played an active and crucial role in Danish-funded projects throughout the world, and they worked closely with local non-governmental organizations.
A basic prerequisite for conflict prevention was early warning, for which knowledge and information were crucial, he said. Early response demanded early warning, and no one was better placed to spot the early signs of potential conflict than civil society. Those organizations should be heard and action should be taken, when necessary. Civil society also played a crucial role as peace facilitators and local partners for mediation. In societies torn by ethnic, political or religious tension and distrust, the difference between open conflict and reconciliation could be the active involvement of civil society. The activities of non-governmental organizations often had great impact. In northern Uganda, for example, Denmark supported activities by Save the Children, which sought to create an enabling environment for peaceful co-existence and peacebuilding. Those activities included peace clubs in schools, parents’ support groups to promote conflict prevention and dissemination of children’s peace messages in the media.
He stressed, however, that civil society could not play the role of peace facilitators in a vacuum; it needed the support and understanding of national Governments and the international community, including the Security Council. A secure environment should be provided in which civil society representatives could operate. Political encouragement and economic support were equally important. Capacities for prevention and peacebuilding must be strengthened through further information sharing, coordination and mutual assistance between Governments and civil society. The new Peacebuilding Commission would greatly benefit from civil society’s involvement. The Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, but it could not discharge those duties in solitude. As was true for civil society, the Council could not play its vital role in a vacuum. The interdependency and interrelation between the actions of the Council in New York and that of the actors in the field, including civil society, required close dialogue and cooperation.
TEODOR BACONSCHI, State Secretary for Global Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, said that the international community’s approach to conflict prevention and settlement of disputes continued to evolve in response to the changing nature of threats to peace and security. In recent years, the United Nations system had expanded its capabilities for early detection of potentially dangerous situations, for avoiding escalation of tension and helping parties to manage and eventually peacefully settle their disputes. With all the finest display of the analytical and planning capacities of the Organization, realities on the ground revealed a continuous demand to further identify and put together additional resources. Today’s debate, therefore, was more than welcome. Acknowledging and taking stock of the ever growing contribution of civil society meant exploring further avenues and modalities for its deeper involvement.
He said that the added value of non-governmental organizations and civil society in the work of the Organization had been repeatedly emphasized, even in this very room, where it was recognized that civil society was highly instrumental in making a difference at practically all stages of conflict, and in ensuring that, whatever political solutions emerged to end a conflict, they were durable and sustainable. The involvement of those organizations in conflict prevention was an active one, based on a series of assets, such as their first-hand knowledge of the situation on the ground and their unhindered contacts with relevant players. As a result, in certain cases, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations were more effective in sensing emerging crises, thus becoming invaluable resources for a dedicated early warning system for international agencies in the field.
In some cases, such organizations were also able to produce the most accurate assessment of the danger of escalation in a specific dispute, which was always crucial in halting a conflict before it broke out, he said. Compared to international involvement, which was often temporary and fragmented, the continued presence of civil society allowed for long-term relationships. That created a sense of trust among parties to a dispute, and opened up more reliable and sustainable channels for dialogue. The longevity of their presence and their subsequently enhanced credibility provided civil society organizations with a superior capacity to access and influence actors involved in the peaceful settlement of disputes. That also allowed them to explore innovative ways and means to assist in the process. Since most of today’s conflict had at their core ethnic or religious grounds, those neutral actors, such as multi-ethnic or inter-faith-based civil society organizations, were in a privileged position to overcome sectarian divisions and foster better understanding between religious and ethnic components.
He called on the international community to help foster home-grown political processes in which civil society shared with the international community and local governmental actors ownership over prevention processes. Dialogue among civil society actors should be encouraged and facilitated to allow for healthy debate, nurture transformations, build consensus and translate policy into practice. Particularly in countries where communities were distrustful of each other or where conflict had deeply eroded societal structures, there was a great need to explore all effective models for participatory conflict prevention and dispute settlement, including, as appropriate, enhanced cooperation between civil society organizations and the United Nations system, its relevant mechanisms and partners. Highlighting the media’s role, he said it gave voice and visibility to all people and was well placed to help remedy inequalities, corruption, ethnic tensions, and the human rights abuses that formed the root causes of so many conflicts.
YANNIS VALINAKIS, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, said that prevention of conflicts was difficult and complex, and required the involvement of many actors. Today that task lay not only with national Governments and the United Nations, but also with civil society, such as non-governmental organizations, and the private sector and development agencies. Most of today’s internal conflicts were mainly caused by weak governance, absence of democratic institutions, large-scale human rights abuses, lack of socio-economic development, systematic ethnic discrimination, and a previous history of the conflict in its regional context. Civil society could play a crucial role in their prevention by providing independent analysis of a particular situation, addressing the root causes at an early state, by educating people on the horrors of war, and by raising public awareness and mobilizing political will and action.
International and local non-governmental organizations, due to their flexibility, outreach and commitment, could respond rapidly to early signs of societal tensions that had the potential to escalate into violent conflict, he said. They could provide a continuous platform for debate and a tool for action and, hence, secure greater responsiveness and accountability. Civil society and non-governmental organizations complemented United Nations’ efforts in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. In many of today’s multi-functional peacekeeping operations, civilian and military tools were mutually reinforcing and played an important role in promoting lasting peace and development, such as in Kosovo, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Sudan. In the post-conflict phase, civil society was engaged in numerous activities, and it could also provide great assistance in dispute resolution initiatives.
He said that, although civil society and non-governmental organizations could play such vital roles in democratic processes and in consolidating durable peace, their capacities, particularly that of local actors, was weak. Such capacity should be further built and developed, for which closer and better coordination with the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations was needed. The United Nations should also better integrate the views and insights of those important stakeholders into its policy measures on conflict prevention. The Council, in particular, should be aware of those views through the reports it received on potential conflict situations. It should also take into consideration the views of local actors when visiting areas of potential conflict. The Arrias formula meetings were particularly useful tools, since they provided the Council with independent information concerning situations that could potentially destabilize a country. Those meetings also helped mobilize the opinion of Council members on the need for preventive action. He strongly supported their continuation.
ABDULKADER SHAREEF, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that the primary focus of action to prevent conflict in a democratic society should be national parliaments. Citizens and their organizations were the constituencies to whom legislators were accountable. As part of civil society, individuals and community organizations, with the help of the media, were strategically placed to influence the policies and decisions on conflicts and peace and persuade Governments to take action to avert impending conflicts. Such institutions as universities, research centres, the media and human rights groups should be at the forefront of detecting early systemic stresses and strains on society, which could be the root causes of violent conflicts. Civil society organizations should generate awareness and spur early political action nationally, regionally and internationally to diffuse and resolve problems, which could develop into violent conflicts. That required organization, capacity-building and networking among civil society organizations with different mandates.
Civil society had also been instrumental in reducing or resolving conflicts between groups and nations by maintaining informal lines of communication to promote understanding, he continued. They should be encouraged to use their specialized knowledge, experience and resources in assisting conflicting parties to resolve their differences and foster reconciliation. While having the advantage of informality and being “less politically constrained to take action in a critical manner”, civil society organizations should also remain constructive and responsible. At the same time, the international community should not hesitate to take preventive action against sections of civil society that deliberately engaged in inciting and fuelling conflicts. Only last week, action had been taken against incitement of terrorism. Memories were still fresh of the virulent propaganda of Radio Mille Collins, which had spread the ideology of genocide in Rwanda, and the international community was still striving to moderate inflammatory journalism in sections of the media in Côte d’Ivoire to rescue the peace process there.
Turning to the experience of Africa’s Great Lakes region, he said that it showed that proximity mattered when it came to preventive action. Civil society organizations near conflict areas should play a proactive role and seize the initiative to move Governments to take action to prevent and resolve conflicts. Non-governmental organizations “outside the neighbourhood” should play a complementary role. Encouraged by Council resolution 1325 (2000), the role of women’s organizations in conflict resolution in the Great Lakes region had been effective and encouraging. They were currently playing an active role in preparing for the next regional summit in Nairobi later this year.
It was necessary to build an effective partnership between States and civil society organizations that could be the twin pillars of conflict prevention and resolution efforts, he added. It was also necessary to establish a firm collaborative partnership between States, civil society, regional organizations and the United Nations system that could help create a more peaceful world. “Finally, let us create meaningful partnerships between national, regional and international civil society organizations, including with the United Nations at all levels”, he said, “the Security Council will be able to make more and better informed decisions with inputs from the civil society as has been ably demonstrated by the Arrias formula partnership.”
EDUARD KUKAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Slovakia, commended the efforts of the Philippine Presidency for holding today’s debate. It was reasonable and worthwhile that the Council wanted to lend a helping hand for prevention and conflict resolution to the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed conflicts, an integrated, global programme for research, consultation and discussion, as well as to thousands of small activists on the ground at locations of emerging or full conflict. For the same reason, it was necessary to support the conclusions of a number of events jointly by the United Nations Department of Public Information and non-governmental organizations.
In the 1990s, the citizens of Central Europe had felt the strength of civil society, which had offered a peaceful road to the resolution of inter-ethnic issues and acted as a catalyst for change, he said. Slovakia had fresh memories of the time when the country had been overlooked at the corner of international democratic community for certain political reasons. That period was the cradle of cooperation between forces oriented towards democracy and like-minded civil society entities. Today, cooperation between Slovak diplomacy and non-governmental organizations was broadly used in several fields, such as internal and foreign affairs, official development aid and democratization processes in the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Non-governmental organizations’ engagement helped to avoid the risk of blood being spilled and a possible destabilization of the region as a whole.
He noted that, in two weeks, he would be addressing a meeting in Belgrade devoted to the fifth anniversary of the collapse of the Milosevic regime. Some non-governmental organizations that had engaged in a wide democratic coalition were also expected to attend. He was convinced of the need to make use of the talent and commitment of non-governmental organizations in the upcoming difficult negotiations on the final status of Kosovo under the United Nations umbrella. In the last few years, civil society organizations from Central and Eastern Europe had demonstrated their capacities for tolerant and peaceful means of conflict prevention. Facing the threats and challenges of the twenty-first century, the United Nations needed to be able to intervene to avert regional and local conflicts more effectively. For that to happen, constant and effective dialogue with the non-governmental organization sector would be a tremendous benefit. By combining the same goals with different tools, more could be gained for the benefit of all.
OSCAR MAURTUA DE ROMANA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Peru, said that the role of civilians -- socially organized, non-governmental actors, such as non-governmental organizations, unions, business associations, academic groups, and student and religious groups -- was fundamental in the prevention of domestic armed conflicts, as well as in the process of peacekeeping and national reconstruction. The need for civil society to have a primary role in the prevention of armed conflicts was undeniable. Security, development and respect for human rights converged in the prevention of conflicts. It was the precarious standards of living and the exclusion affecting large swaths of population, particularly in countries with the lowest indexes of human development, which often threatened security. It was no coincidence that the majority of those conflicts took place in Africa.
He said he had fully supported the Council’s adoption on 14 September of resolution 1625 (2005), which, among other things, reaffirmed the need to adopt a conflict prevention strategy that took into account the basic causes of conflicts. There were various ways in which civil society could, and must, contribute in preventing conflicts. For example, it had a duty to warn against imminent situations of political violence. It must fight for the preservation of public freedoms, such as the right to speech, and it must help build legitimate, democratic institutions to ensure the preservation of justice and good governance. Civil society should also insist on transparency in the public use of resources, and it must not bend in the face of corruption. It must also be vigilant in denouncing the illegal small arms traffic and organized transnational crime.
Civil society must also take the initiative in generating alternatives for scientific and technological development, in order to optimize natural resources management, he continued. It must also support preventive diplomacy and mediation, when assigned that role. And, it must have an active role in mobilizing the resources of the international community. When civil society did not contribute to conflict prevention, when its abilities were not sought out or when its voice was silenced, it could end up “mixed up” in the dilemma of confrontation and polarization that generated the violence, while the social fabric it represented collapsed. Without a “space” for the actions of civil society, the possible escalation of violence increased exponentially. The United Nations, the Security Council and ECOSOC, therefore, must maintain contact with civil society.
Unfortunately, the focus on conflict prevention in the Summit’s outcome document had been limited, he said. It was necessary now to encourage civil society in that regard. Also requiring the constant attention of civil society and States was environmental degradation, which had increased the destructive potential of natural disasters and, in some cases, had caused them. Another relevant area was that of scarce resources, such as water. Environmental degradation and the destructive effect of natural disasters were a threat to global security. With civil society’s support, the international community must continue to implement a strategic and shared vision of sustainable development, in which its three dimensions -- economic, social and environmental -- were adequately taken into account.
MICHELINE CALMY-REY, Federal Councillor, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, said that as a co-chair of the Group of Friends on conflict prevention, her country was grateful for the opportunity to discuss today’s important topic. Civil societies were well placed to send out early warning signals of emerging crises, offer a situation-based analysis of the roots of conflicts; widen the range of issues to be addressed in a peace agreement; and gain access to militant movements when official actors encountered practical or political difficulties. They could also prevent and resolve disputes at the community level, effectively advocate respect for international human rights and humanitarian standards, and facilitate social and political reconciliation in the aftermath of violence. Peace settlements enjoyed greater legitimacy and sustainability if they were anchored in societies and reflected the needs of different population groups.
The decision to establish a Peacebuilding Commission had provided the international community with a unique opportunity to better involve civil society in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, she said. Switzerland proposed to include in its deliberations representatives of the main United Nations institutions, for instance, the President of the United Nations Group for Development and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Those institutions already had strong links with civil society. It would also be useful to bring on board, whenever needed, experts from civil society, the academic world or the private sector. Instead of creating additional institutional framework for cooperation, it was necessary to endow the Peacebuilding Commission with a comprehensive mandate that would encompass all relevant sectors and actors, including civil society. It was also essential that the Council entered into a real partnership with the Economic and Social Council, which had complementary expertise and privileged linkages with civil society.
At the policy level, the Council had been giving increased attention to reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction in recent years, she continued. It should be encouraged to explore further how civil society could better contribute to those efforts. For example, that could be done by systematically examining the past potential roles of civil society in peace processes when designing peace operations, or applying the principles of Security Council resolution 1325 when assessing peace missions. She also attached the greatest importance to equal participation of women in peace settlement and post-conflict reconstruction. Sustainable peace agreements could only be reached in the entire population had a voice in shaping them. Resolution 1325 represented a milestone in that direction, and it was necessary to continue the efforts to translate it into action, namely by supporting women’s organizations where needed.
She added that already existing partnerships of the United Nations with independent institutions were a useful means to develop civil society participation. Switzerland supported several institutions with a strong link to the United Nations, such as the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining; the Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces; and the Small arms Survey. Her country also actively supported civilian peace promotion, such as the Geneva Initiative that had originated from Israeli and Palestinian civil societies. Switzerland had long experience in cooperating with civil society organizations, and it would continue its efforts to strengthen the participation of civil society in conflict prevention and settlement, as well as peacebuilding.
On behalf of the European Union, EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) said that the Union was grateful for the role civil society had played over the past two decades in contributing to the prevention of violent conflict and peacebuilding across the world, including in the Union’s own neighbourhood. Post-Summit, everyone should be ready to do more to prevent conflict, including the United Nations. He recognized civil society’s contribution to strengthening democracy and promoting human rights, both within individual nations, and also globally. Civil society also played an essential role in all phases of the conflict cycle. To be frank, however, there were differing views among Council members on the legitimacy of some civil society organizations and the role those should be allowed to play in comparison to that played by Governments. Those concerns often arose because of the advocacy and lobbying activities carried out by civil society, and the role that civil society had in holding Governments to account.
He said the Union believed that all Member States should accept the legitimate right of civil society to express views, recommendations, concerns and disagreements with Government, although at times that might be a difficult process. It was through such genuine dialogue that democracy was strengthened and Governments were better able to meet the needs of their people. Governments and civil society must work closely together to reduce the risks of the outbreak of violent conflict. Where it did erupt, they should work together to enhance justice, reconciliation and help to bring sustainable peace to those affected. International and regional organizations must also engage purposefully with civil society if they were to be effective in addressing and managing conflict. With that in mind, the Union strongly supported many of the recommendations of the Cardoso report on United Nations-civil society relations published last year (document A/58/817).
The new Human Rights Council should have clear means for interaction with civil society and the High Commissioner on Human Rights should continue to regularly engage with civil society, he said. Interaction between civil society and the international community was vital to implementing the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as recognized for the first time at last week’s World Summit. Civil society could also help reduce hostility and begin the rebuilding of trust between different groups, which might otherwise resort to fighting. In particular, women’s role in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and in rebuilding peace after conflict, was vital, as Security Council resolution 1325 underlined.
Turning to the many situations to which the Union had given considerable resources to support civil society in its conflict prevention and resolution role, he noted that, in the Sudan, the European Centre for Development Policy Management, supported by the international non-governmental organization Saferworld, had facilitated capacity-building for civil society in political dialogue and development programming. The first Global Conference on the Role of Society in the Prevention of Armed Conflict and Peacebuilding had set out principles for civil society’s engagement in that field, and agreed a wide-ranging agenda for action. He hoped the United Nations and its Member States would make good use of the global network of civil society groups created by the Conference and follow-up the action plan’s proposals. Collaboration between the Security Council and civil society could also be implemented as follows: the Secretary-General could include its views when reporting to the Council on potential conflict situations; the views of civil society should be reflected in reports to the Council by the special envoys; and Security Council missions to regions at risk of conflict should make time for meeting with local civil society.
S.E.M. SIMON IDOHOU ( Benin) said the emergence of civil society at the national and international level as a force of change had resulted from a remarkable awakening on the part of the people, as well as progress in the field of information and communication technologies. The phenomenon was also an essential characteristic of globalization. At no time in human history had civil society asserted itself so ambitiously in all spheres of life. If public power was represented by the State, civil society was an expression of the expectations of the governed. Civil society was a driving force for calling into question all segments of public life. It also contributed to monitoring the action of Governments and giving legitimacy to its actions. When understood on all sides, there could be mutual benefits and opportunities for partnership. Civil society had real potential in developing the public sphere and in the peaceful settlement of disputes. An effective strategy required the active involvement of civil society to make the best use of its comparative advantages.
Civil society, by its preservation of an identity distinct from the State, could also contribute to rapid warning, he said. That function had been developed in recent years, including the collection and analysis of first-hand information, making it possible to identify latent conflicts. The West African Network for peaceful relations had been outstanding in that field. Civil society could encourage well-targeted action to reduce tensions in times of crisis. It could also contribute to mobilizing international and national solidarity to support the self-help efforts of societies. Above all, when there was a scarcity of resources, civil society could ensure mediation between antagonistic groups. Civil society could also assist in giving legitimacy to Governments. The structure of civil society, however, could only be effective when the society concerned so allowed. It was in the interest of Governments throughout the world to be aware of the advantages of promoting a responsible civil society.
The Council was in the forefront of a new awareness of the role of civil society in conflict prevention, he said. In that regard, he stressed his support for the recommendations of the group of eminent persons to assess the relationship between civil society and the United Nations.
HENRIQUE VALLE ( Brazil) said the concept of security for decades had been associated with a military response. That was now being redefined to include the root causes, including quality of life, hunger, poverty, poor health, and lack of education, all of which were powerful factors in catalysing conflict. There was a need for an increased role for civil society in conflict prevention and the pacific settlement of disputes. Citizen-based associations and movements, academic institutions, charities, non-governmental organizations and even corporations now showed a greater understanding of the need to contribute to avoiding conflict and preventing its relapse. Their participation was “more than welcome” and could complement Government initiatives. The high-level panel on the United Nations and civil society relations had concluded that the constructive engagement of civil society must be promoted. According to the panel, civil society’s engagement was not a threat to Governments, but a powerful way to reinvigorate domestic policies.
He said that when peace processes were being implemented, civil society was crucial to promoting ownership and inclusion, and turning public opinion in favour of the peace initiatives. There was also a need to explore synergies among civil society, Governments, regional organizations and the United Nations. The result must be coherent and compatible with the Organization’s legitimacy as the main global actor for maintaining peace and security. Hopefully, the creation of the Peacebuilding Commission would be of much help. Available instruments must also be constantly improved and adapted. And, he pressed for a joint reflection on the role and responsibility of different actors, in order to allow the United Nations to devise increasingly efficient ways to mobilize finances and civilian capabilities on a global basis for populations threatened by conflict.
Prevention and settlement required a wide range of actors to make full use of expertise and the comparative advantages of all sectors of societies, he said. Early warning and preventive diplomacy were sorely needed. In the post-conflict phase, building infrastructure and long-term reconciliation were of comparable importance to the military response. Attention should also be paid to all economic, social and humanitarian dimensions of a conflict. The complexities and sensitivities of the United Nations’ role had multiplied its responsibilities. Its contribution to peace had been, and must continue to be, enriched by civil society’s active participation.
CÉSAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) said societies had evolved since the inception of the United Nations, including, in the last decade, the incorporation of new actors in national decision-making processes. The evolution had been a positive one. By providing a substantive base to decisions, it had contributed to better identifying priorities and addressing resources with a broader social consensus, leading to a greater legitimacy of Government decisions.
A similar evolution was happening at the international level, he said. The participation of civil society at the United Nations in recent years continued to grow, resulting in the greater influence of public opinion in its activities. Civil society’s increasing influence was driving the greater democratization of the international system, which, in turn, was helping to strengthen multilateralism. Civil society’s influence was also growing in parallel with the evolution of new types of threats and conflicts. The United Nations could not remain outside of the process.
The world today was much more interlinked than in the past, as were the conflicts and their solutions, he said. The Security Council had begun to develop new mechanisms to respond to conflicts, including by modifying classic concepts with regard to sanctions and peacekeeping operations. The question remained, what was the role of civil society in conflict prevention? States had the primary responsibility to protect their own population. Conflict prevention, however, went beyond the exclusive framework of the Government and involved all social actors. Different civil society actors had different roles in the process. A successful peace consolidation phase was the best guarantee for preventing the recurrence of conflict.
He said civil society had an unquestionable role in the Council’s work. The preventive role of the Council included the identification of root causes of conflicts. The Council should systematically include the contribution of civil society to the analysis process. There were several useful mechanisms to reach that goal, including consultations. Council members should consult the opinion of civil society not only to listen to their point of view, but also to better evaluate their position. While the consultation process might be formal or informal, it was important that it took place frequently. A useful mechanism was the Arrias formula. Greater use of that mechanism would strengthen the Council’s preventive role. The establishment of more regular and formal cooperative frameworks would serve to strengthen preventive work.
ILYA ROGACHEV ( Russian Federation) said that the fabric of international relations was becoming ever more complex, and the primary actors remained States. At the same time, however, non-governmental organizations and other civil society organizations were becoming increasingly involved at a time when the challenges facing the United Nations in the area of security were becoming more complex. International peace and security were being understood ever more broadly and required an inter-State dimension. He was thinking, in particular, of massive and blatant human rights violations. The comprehensive nature of threats to international peace and security dictated the need for a comprehensive conflict prevention strategy. In addition to the role played by States in that regard, civil society was often an important link between Governments and political groups.
He said that civil society also assisted in establishing dialogue between the parties to a conflict. In many cases, non-governmental organizations served as an indicator, pointing to dangerous trends in human rights violations, which could lead to conflicts. At the same time, he cautioned that their information “might not be free of subjectivity”. At the extremely important initial phases of post-conflict peacebuilding, without the active involvement of civil society, it was not easy to restore normal life and guarantee the irreversibility of the peace process. Civil society also helped in terms of establishing peace institutions and judicial and law enforcement systems. The established practice of interaction between the Security Council and non-governmental organizations was optimal, and in accordance with the Council’s real needs in the area of preventing and settling conflicts.
KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) said all recognized that non-governmental organizations played key roles in development, humanitarian relief, human rights and other activities. World leaders had acknowledged that in their World Summit outcome last week. In today’s world, non-governmental and civil society organizations also played a significant role in conflict prevention and resolution and the pacific settlement of disputes. The cause of many of today’s conflicts were often highly complex, multifaceted and mutually intertwined. Consequently, their prevention and resolution, to be effective, required a comprehensive strategy that addressed not only one aspect, but all related issues. As experience had shown in many situations, efforts at conflict prevention and resolution by Governments and international interlocutors, such as the United Nations, could be made more effective if reinforced by the parallel efforts of civil society organizations.
A variety of civil society organizations and groups had been making their unique contribution, bringing their individual capacities, experience and resources to bear, in preventing, mitigating or addressing causes of conflicts. Traditional organizations could support the peace process by mediating among conflicting parties. In the field of humanitarian assistance and human rights, international and national non-governmental organizations lead the way on the ground. In efforts at poverty eradication and sustainable development, nurturing the private sector must be an important aim, given its key role in pursuing sustainable growth and development.
For those reasons, he continued, it was clear that the dialogue between the Council and civil society would need to be strengthened. In fact, the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations-Civil Society Relations, chaired by former President Cardoso of Brazil, had recommended in its June 2004 report that Council members further strengthen their dialogue with civil society, with the Secretary-General’s support. Japan agreed with that recommendation. For some years, the council had been carrying on a dialogue with civil society groups under the Arrias formula, whose potential should be further exploited. In dealing with country- or region-specific conflicts, it was a good idea that the Council develop a practice of conducting, as necessary, dialogue with local civil society leaders, international humanitarian non-governmental organizations and other groups that represented, or were operational in, the affected countries and region.
Such dialogue between the Council and civil society was important in all phases of addressing conflicts, from prevention to post-conflict peacebuilding, he added. He was pleased to note a number of encouraging activities already in place, including the Council’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa. In the field of United Nations peacekeeping, the support and cooperation of civil society was often critically important for their success. Regarding peacebuilding, civil society again had the potential to play an important role. When the proposed Peacebuilding Commission was established and became operational, it should listen to the voices of civil society in dealing with country-specific issues.
Civil society was also expected to play a key role in promoting “human security”, he said. For the first time in United Nations history, the concept of human security was reflected in the important document adopted at the 2005 World Summit last week. The idea behind “human security” was that threats confronting the world should be dealt with not only from the viewpoint of State security, but also from the human perspective, at individual and community levels. The concept of “human security” called for a comprehensive effort to address various threats that individual persons and local communities faced, and, to that end, civil society’s active engagement was also critically important. The United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security had been established to achieve that objective, namely by supporting projects of relevant United Nations agencies that specifically promoted partnership with civil society groups.
CHENG JINGYE ( China) stressed that the essential responsibility for conflict prevention and resolution lay with the Governments concerned; regional and subregional organizations also had important roles to play. Resolution 1366 (2001) should be adhered to in relevant future endeavours. In recent years, some civil society organizations had played an increasingly active role in conflict prevention. They had undertaken a significant amount of useful worked and played a complementary role in the international community’s peace efforts, as confirmed in resolutions by both the General Assembly and the Security Council.
He said that civil society should follow the purposes and principles of the Charter in conflict prevention and the pacific settlement of disputes, and maintain impartiality and neutrality in the field. Only then could their work achieve positive results. Different civil society groups could put to good use their expertise and experience in various fields, thereby promoting dialogue and reconciliation. They must also proactively cooperate with and assist Governments concerned, and especially the United Nations, and avoid taking over their primary role or hinder them from carrying it out. The United Nations, in turn, should listen to the views and proposals of civil society, as appropriate. Hopefully, civil society organizations would continue to play their roles in conflict prevention and the settlement of disputes in accordance with the Charter and General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE ( France) said civil society had gained an important role in recent years. The recognition of their place in society was in keeping with the Organization’s goal to prevent conflict. Civil society could participate in conflict prevention by, among other things, discussing issues and criticising Government actions. The support provided by the international community to strengthening civil society had become one of the most meaningful elements of in-depth action to prevent conflict. Civil society organizations, however, did not have the same political legitimacy as other groups. That could not happen overnight. The role of women and their organizations to prevent crises needed to be recognized. Indeed, the Council had often highlighted their contribution in the Great Lakes region.
Like political societies, civil society could also have errors, he said. The non-governmental element might be used as a vector of criminal activity. There was a need to be vigilant. The Council was fully committed to the role of civil society in conflict prevention and the settlement of disputes, as was reflected in last week’s decision to establish a Peacebuilding Commission, which recognized that no just, lasting peace could be established with State efforts only. The robustness of any peace agreement entailed the activity of civil society. Their role in reconstruction work, such as demining and the reintegration of child soldiers, also needed to be recognized.
He stressed that France was fully committed to the different institutions that enabled the role of civil society in the Council’s work, such as the Arrias formula and meetings held during Security Council missions. Noting the need to make the Arrias formula more interactive, he said France would participate in brainstorming to that end. In conclusion, he welcomed the fact that the Council had publicly reaffirmed that civil society was an important element of any effort to bring about peace.
LARBI KATTI ( Algeria) said that the extreme complexity of post-cold war conflict had led to a radical reversal in how things tended to be done. There were no textbook cases, but one must recognize the efforts, both conceptual and operational, made by the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, in the search for effective responses to the challenges to peace and security. Sustained attention was now being given to the emergence of civil society in search of sustainable peace. Civil society encompassed religious groups, traditional communities, councils of the wise, trade unions, human rights defence groups, women and youth organizations, and the media and academic worlds. Those segments of society were useful actors in conflict prevention and the search for peace.
He said that the report on the future relations between the United Nations and civil society was an ambitious platform for partnership. The report recommended that the Council improve the planning and effectiveness of the Arrias formula meetings. That could further strengthen the dialogue between the Council and civil society. It was useful for Council members on mission in the field to meet with local civil society leaders, especially in Africa where such leaders were participating in peace initiatives. Considerable work was also being done by civil society in raising awareness, strengthening community dialogue, and consolidating local capacities in the peaceful settlement of disputes through the organization of seminars and workshops, including on human rights.
Crisis prevention required coherent and coordinated action by all actors, both State and non-State, he said. The contribution at the global level of the United Nations and the international financial institutions was also fundamental. The effectiveness and sustainability of measures to tackle the root causes of conflict depended on the continued involvement of all actors, local and international. That would make it possible to strengthen State structures, the rule of law and democracy, and create infrastructure for crisis prevention, among other things. The greater involvement of civil society in conflict prevention, easing social tensions, and so forth, should be encouraged. Compliance by civil society representatives with the law and the Charter remained fundamental.
ANNE WOODS PATTERSON ( United States) welcomed today’s thematic debate and commended the Philippine Presidency for its leadership during last week’s summit-level meeting. To be truly effective in conflict prevention, free societies must be as inclusive as possible and allow for the views of a wide range of actors. While they might vary in influence, non-governmental and civil society organizations had a role to play in civil society. Only when the widest possible range of opinion was reflected could civil society be a force for conflict prevention. The free exchange of ideas was a bulwark against those who used violence and intimidation against those who expressed their views. Efforts to expand freedom were the most effective way to lessen conflict. As the United States Secretary of State told the General Assembly last week, the path to democracy was long, imperfect and different for every nation. The United Nations could support nations by encouraging the development of free institutions.
All free societies had certain things in common, she added. Democratic nations imposed limits on the power of the State, treated women and minorities as free citizens and protected free speech. They also respected and rewarded the gifts of their people.
ALBERTO G. ROMULO, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Philippines, recalled that, last June, his delegation had convened an open debate on the role of civil society in post-conflict peacebuilding. The meeting had been the first extensive discussion by the Council on civil society’s contribution in ensuring that, once peace was achieved, conflict was not allowed to return. The meeting was an historic opportunity for civil society representatives to participate in a Council debate. Thus, that meeting opened the doors even wider for civil society in the most delicate affairs of States –- the maintenance of the peace and security of humankind, the Council’s primary responsibility. Knowing full well the role that civil society could play, it was up to the Council to nurture and encourage a meaningful role for it in preventing conflict and settling disputes.
In convening today’s debate, he said his delegation had taken a bolder and more determined step into the realm once reserved for States -- the prevention of conflict and the pacific settlement of disputes. The complex nature of threats to international peace and security had received much-deserved attention, not only last week, but for much of the year, starting with the issuance of the High-Level Panel’s report in the Fall of 2004. It was now recognized that the need for a comprehensive strategy for conflict prevention and the peaceful settlement of disputes was both “vast and urgent”. Governments had real and serious limitations to be fully responsive to the need of effectively meeting those complex threats.
After four years of violence, the Philippines was one step away from successfully concluding its search for peace in the southern Philippines, he said. It had been able to achieve that dramatic progress in peace talks with secessionists because of the key role its partners for peace had played, namely Malaysia, Brunei and Libya, a well as the Organization for the Islamic Conference. But, the search for peace would not have gone as far were it not for the active role played by civil society. Civil society helped both sides to understand difficult issues, study best practices and appreciate the value of peace. Religious civil society groups were also primary movers in building understanding and tolerance by encouraging interfaith dialogue and cooperation. The role of civil society in promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation had been highlighted, once again, in last week’s historic Interfaith Summit.
He said that communities, donor agencies, and civil society must be integrated in any approach to a comprehensive peace strategy. All sectors involved, including Governments, must coordinate efforts based on their respective strengths to support each other in achieving the goal of preventing and resolving disputes. The goal must be holistic, and not merely involve the limited objective of stopping conflicts. Overall development, resulting in social stability, would deflect discontented elements in society from resorting to violence again. Often, internal conflict taxed the ability of Governments. Civil society had shown a more agile and specialized role in that regard. Non-governmental organizations often served as communication links between governmental and opposition forces, even as the former groups carried out their humanitarian and development roles.
In his region, civil society actually helped broker peace, he said. In 2003, the Philippines sent peace monitors to Aceh as part of a peace settlement and ceasefire-monitoring regime, which had been crafted largely by a civil society member. The seeds of peace were planted then. Civil society should continue to evolve new and future-looking ideas as players in interdicting the conflict cycle. By positively directing their attention towards community growth and societal welfare, their voice would grow even stronger. Involvement in settling internal conflicts was the most dramatic example of civil society’s potential in preventing conflict and settling disputes. But, civil society had also shown a great capacity in helping to prevent regional conflict. In his region, several possible conflicts had been peacefully managed, thanks to the help of civil society.
GILBERT LAURIN ( Canada) said the discussion came at a critical time, just as the international community began to chart the course ahead in the wake of last week’s Summit. It had been 15 years since the Secretary-General had issued his first report on the prevention of armed conflict. Across the spectrum of conflict prevention roles, civil society organizations played an important one. Canada welcomed the recent adoption of resolution 1625 and its declaration to strengthen the effectiveness of its work in the prevention of armed conflict. That resolution clearly identified the need to strengthen civil society capacity. Civil society organizations filled widely varying functions, from advocacy to long-term reporting. They could also play an instrumental role across thematic lines. In his country’s experience, civil society partners were invaluable for mobilizing public opinion, such as in the campaign to ban landmines.
The Council had already begun to acquire expertise and knowledge from civil society, he said. While he welcomed that, he also encouraged the Council to step up that trend, including by holding more informal meetings with civil society, not only to garner information, but also to enable them to raise the alert with respect to emerging conflicts. Such an approach could help the Council properly discuss the issues and take more effective action. At a time when the international community was preparing to implement the outcome of last week’s Summit, there was a need to ensure that the mandates given to the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council gave them access to up-to-date and relevant information, including that provided by organizations in the field. Civil society was not only the eyes and ears of the international community, but also its collective conscience.
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