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United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Statements

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

New York, 26 September 2013 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at Fourth Ministerial Breakfast of the Group of Friends of Mediation [as prepared for delivery]

Since its establishment in 2010, the Friends of Mediation have become key advocates for more effective mediation of the world’s peace and security crises.  I thank the Friends of Mediation, and in particular Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and Ahmet Davutoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, for their leadership and support and for chairing today’s meeting.

Thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Mediation, the General Assembly has adopted two successive resolutions that have contributed to understanding mediation as a tool to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts.  They have also drawn attention to the need for a more professional approach to mediation.

 A year ago, in this very room, I had the pleasure of chairing a panel of eminent mediators at the launch of the United Nations Guidance for Effective Mediation. 

The Guidance is not – and cannot be – a step-by-step guide for mediators. But it does provide time-tested, practical and normative directions for a professional approach to mediation. The fundamentals contained in the Guidance are the standards to which we aspire in our mediation efforts. The Friends of Mediation are well placed to continue urging all mediators to live up to these high standards.

The peaceful settlement of disputes is a major part of the raison-d’être of the United Nations.

Under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, the parties to any dispute that threatens international peace and security shall, first of all, seek a solution through peaceful means.  The crucial article 33, a cornerstone and inspiration for the practice of diplomacy, specifically mentions mediation as one of these peaceful means. 

Mediation is at the very heart of what the United Nations does.  In my own professional life, I have seen its potential as well as its limits. Today, the dreadful violence in Syria is a gloomy reminder that mediation is not a panacea.  And that only when parties see the mutual interest in a negotiated solution, can mediation realize its great potential for peaceful settlement of conflict.

In a high-intensity conflict, mediation requires a conducive environment – both internally and externally – to succeed.  Lack of unity in the Security Council or among major regional powers is a major obstacle to progress in mediation.  Syria is a serious case in point.

Some current peace processes provide more cause for optimism. In Yemen, a national dialogue process is functioning as a key mechanism for peaceful political transition.

In Mali, the Interim Ouagadougou Agreement has offered a vital framework for a process that will hopefully address the underlying factors that first precipitated the crisis.

Earlier this year in Guinea Conakry, our Regional Office for Western Africa engaged in preventive diplomacy to ease tensions that had arisen among national actors after the announcement of early elections.

Progress in Colombia also illustrates how a carefully designed peace process can help a country move from decades of violent conflict towards a more promising future.

In my time as Deputy Secretary-General, I have been able to see for myself how far the Organization has come in strengthening its mediation capacity. We have bolstered our capacity to implement and support multiple mediation processes at the same time. As the focal point for preventive diplomacy and peacemaking, the Department of Political Affairs is now able to deploy mediation support staff rapidly, as well as to provide sustained assistance to peace processes. 

Still, I believe we are not yet realizing the full potential of mediation and of Chapter VI of the Charter. I therefore commend this Group’s efforts to advocate for enhanced support to mediation activities.

A key challenge to effective mediation continues to be the need for coordination, coherence and complementarity. Mediation can never succeed as a solo act.  We need to utilize our comparative advantages and learn to work better together. 

In this regard, I am pleased that we have developed mediation partnerships within the Organization as well as with external actors. And we have made some gains in recent years in ensuring the inclusion of women in mediation processes, as political actors and as mediators. 

I know that there is discussion within this Group about the possibility of a new General Assembly Resolution. Let me limit myself to saying that I believe the proposed theme – the role of regional and sub-regional organizations in mediation -- is more than timely.

 And here I would once again draw your attention to Article 33 of the Charter, which mentions “resort to regional agencies or arrangements” as one of the means of pacific settlement of disputes.

Regional and sub-regional organizations are pivotal actors for peace. Their capacity for professional mediation and strengthened coordination between the United Nations and these organizations are, and will remain, key elements in addressing conflicts today and tomorrow.

Finally, I wish to thank this Group for its collective and individual assistance to the United Nations in mobilizing funding for our work in preventive diplomacy and mediation. 

Statements on 26 September 2013