High-Level Meeting on Pursuit of Peace through Nationally-Owned Mechanisms

– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, High-Level Meeting on Pursuit of Peace through Nationally-Owned Mechanisms


Distinguished Ministers, Excellencies, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thanks to Sierra Leone and Timor Leste, as well as the g7 Plus Secretariat and Foundation, for organizing this event. And thank you all – our participants – for giving up your lunchtime to be here. At least I hope that you’ll be satisfied with the food for thought you’ll receive instead.

In particular, I want to acknowledge the presence of Mr. Xanana Gusmão, who serves as g7 Plus Eminent Person and Chief Negotiator for the Limitation of Maritime Boundaries and for Timor Leste. It is an honor to be here with you today, and to benefit from your vast experience and knowledge in this area.

We are here to talk about how peace can be achieved through nationally-owned mechanisms. We can’t do that without first addressing the need for such mechanisms, and our role in supporting them. I also want to emphasize the important link between national ownership and conflict prevention.

I’ll start by stressing that we cannot underestimate the challenges facing countries which are dealing with conflict.

They are enormous. People are killed, displaced and stripped of basic human rights. Vital social and economic infrastructures are destroyed. Institutions collapse. Food and water supplies are disrupted.
When guns fall silent, these problems change – but do not end. The process to rebuild infrastructures and institutions begins. Basic services are slowly restored. But a society at conflict is a divided society.

And these divisions do not disappear the moment a peace deal is signed. The need for national reconciliation and peacebuilding are not as easy to see as destroyed buildings. But re-building peace should be as important as re-building towns.

However, I should not be the one talking about these challenges. They have, unfortunately, been experienced firsthand by many of the members of the g7 Plus, as well as other countries around the world. We need to listen to their experiences, and their needs.

This brings me to my second point. We must, of course, do more than listen. The international community has a major role to play. But this should come in the form of support – not direction.

We need to do better at preventing conflicts from erupting in the first place.


President of the UN General Assembly

The landmark Sustaining Peace resolutions, adopted by the General Assembly and Security Council last year, deliver a clear message. They confirm that efforts to build and sustain peace must be nationally-driven if they are to succeed.

Unfortunately, we haven’t always done a very good job. The review of the UN’s peace operations in 2015 confirmed this. It noted that many of the areas which g7 Plus countries have identified as priorities for support – for example justice and economic foundations – did not receive the most international funding. Sometimes, in fact, they received the least. This means that international finances are not being matched up with national priorities.

If we continue down this path, we run the risk of template-based peacebuilding. We do need to listen to lessons learned, and share best practices. And we will get a valuable opportunity to do so today. But just because something worked in Timor Leste, or Sierra Leone, or Rwanda, doesn’t mean we can simply copy and paste it into a new context. We need regional, national and local actors to tell us which aspects will work – and which won’t. If support comes at the wrong time – or in the wrong format – it can do more harm than good.

The Sustaining Peace resolutions give us a clear formula to strengthen our support to nationally-led peace efforts. The main challenge now lies in ensuring their implementation.

All of this, then, brings me full circle to what I see as the most important issue: conflict prevention.
We need to do better at preventing conflicts from erupting in the first place. And we need to do more to stop them from emerging, once again, when a fragile peace crumbles. As we have tragically seen, far more countries relapse into conflict than remain peaceful.

We need to give support to mediation programs designed by national actors now. Otherwise we will have to send in missions designed by the Security Council later. And if we do end up sending in such Missions, we cannot simply withdraw at the first sign of peace. We need to ensure that the international presence remains, to work with national and local actors in mending divisions and building peace. We’ve seen that the UN system is currently working on ensuring this happens in Liberia.

And here, I must also make the link between nationally-driven Sustainable Development, and conflict prevention and peace. The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is a direct and tangible way to support national mechanisms to preserve or build peace. Goal 16 will be instrumental. If people can access justice; if they feel represented by strong and accountable institutions – they will turn less easily to violence.

But, as I said in the beginning, I am not the one who should be telling you this. We need to listen from our colleagues and counterparts who have firsthand experience. They have seen the role played by nationally-owned mechanisms in pursuing peace. And they are best placed to guide us as we look ahead.

I am confident that today’s discussion will be very interesting, and I regret that my schedule does not allow me to stay and listen to all of it. Thank you again.