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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

New York, 25 September 2013 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at Ministerial Breakfast Meeting "100 Years Peace Palace : How to Build Concrete Peace for the Future" [as prepared for delivery]

I would like to thank the Kingdom of the Netherlands for organizing this important meeting on the peaceful settlement of disputes.

I followed the centennial of the Peace Palace celebrations in The Hague last month with great interest.  People had reason to do so in many places torn apart by war, such as the Balkans and Sierra Leone.  And there was also cause for celebration in places where conflict was prevented thanks to work done at the Peace Palace.

But developments, not least in Syria, reminded us all of the deeper significance of the Peace Palace and what it represents.

The very first Article of the Charter defines one of the UN’s core purposes as:  peacefully settling disputes in conformity with the principles of justice and international law.  The framers of the Charter were visionary in dedicating an entire chapter – Chapter VI – to the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Under Chapter VI, the parties to any dispute that threatens international peace and security shall, first of all, seek a solution through peaceful means.  This is richly spelled out in the crucial article 33, a cornerstone and inspiration for the practice of diplomacy.  Chapter VI deliberately precedes the enforcement measures in Chapter VII, and Chapter VIII on regional arrangements.

The entire foundation of the UN architecture rests on the primacy of diplomacy over force.  Only if and when diplomacy fails are we to consider enforcement measures.

This gathering is an important opportunity to build on the momentum of the 100th anniversary celebrations last month.

Today I will speak about mediation.  I have spent  a great part of my professional life on this issue.  And as you know, the Secretary-General has made conflict prevention and mediation a priority.  Member States have also focused increasingly on these issues. 

Two years in a row – in 2011 and 2012 – the General Assembly adopted important resolutions on mediation.  They expanded the normative framework for mediation and raised awareness about its value.

There are many inherent challenges in mediation.  Mediators and their teams have to navigate a complex web of competing objectives. They often deal with many different actors.                 And they have to tackle a broad range of substantive issues.  A credible and professional approach to mediation requires adequate expertise and resources.  Political support from parties with influence is also essential to success.

In today’s world, we should also acknowledge the need for mediation processes to be inclusive of the broader society.  Security Council resolution 1325 opens a larger role for women in peace-making and peace-building.  And civil society can often play a role in so-called “track II” diplomacy. 

The United Nations has come a long way in strengthening our mediation capacity, adapting it to contemporary challenges.  With the support of Member States, we have strengthened our operational ability, our technical expertise and our partnerships with others engaged in mediation, especially regional organizations.

We have bolstered our capacity to implement and support multiple mediation processes simultaneously and to deploy mediation support staff very rapidly, not least through a Standby Team of Mediation Experts that has now been in operation for five years, and deployed more than 100 times in the past year to support dozens of peace processes worldwide. 

We have also strengthened our understanding of what constitutes good mediation practice.  We now have a better appreciation of the potential as well as the limits of mediation.

A year ago, at the invitation of Turkey and Finland, I moderated a panel of eminent mediators at the high-level launch of the United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation.  This Guidance was developed at the request of the General Assembly.  It is now a key resource for mediators and a key reference for all interested in the peaceful settlement of disputes.  The Guidance sets the standard to which the United Nations aspires in all its mediation efforts.

Ultimately, mediation as well as arbitration, judicial settlement and other conflict resolution tools rely on the political will of the conflicting parties.  Still, the international community should better utilize Chapter VI of the UN Charter.  There is great potential in preventive diplomacy, mediation and the power of dialogue, for us to develop and to translate into political solutions of conflicts as early as possible.


Statements on 25 September 2013